Financial Industry/

5 digital trends today’s e-banking borrows from e-commerce

Banks increasingly seek inspiration from successful e-commerce enterprises. At e-point, we focus precisely on these two areas: finance and e-commerce. Every day we observe how these currents come closer together in the digital world.

Here are the 5 most significant trends which started to spread from one sector to the other. I discussed them in broader terms at the Digital Banking & Payments Summit conference which took place on 7-8 February in Warsaw.

Website sales

There has been a change in how banks perceive their websites. Once, bank websites were used for branding and informative purposes, and above all complemented traditional channels. Nowadays, the sales objective has been coming to the forefront. A banking website today serves sales and that is why many banks have moved the responsibility for the portal from the marketing to the digital departments, which report specific KPIs concerning achievement of business objectives.

As a result, banks have started presenting their offers in a similar way to e-shops. They use microinteractions and pro-sales mechanisms from the area of e-commerce, e.g. offer meters or short-term special offers for selected products.

Comparison engines for banking products

With the change in understanding of its function, a site becomes a product catalogue. That is why some banks draw from the experience of e-commerce and introduce, for instance, product comparison engines. Such a solution must, however, bring added value to the customers.

If a bank offers two credit cards, one of them giving 52 days to clear the balance without interest, and the other 54 days, then from the consumer’s point of view it does not constitute a difference worth particular attention. What may be important, however, is the waiting time for a new card, for example, if a customer is going abroad and urgently needs a spare card.

One must also take into account that banking products are much harder to compare than refrigerators or telephones. Without conducting at least a preliminary calculation and risk assessment, it is virtually impossible to present the customer with a binding offer and an amount of loan instalment - and, after all, this is the most important parameter for banking products.

Product search engine on a home page

Many e-commerce platforms make browsing through their resources easier by placing a product search engine in a central place of their home page. Such solutions have been adopted by some banks – such as Alior or Idea Bank.

This mechanism presents two big advantages: firstly, the user with specific expectations can quickly find what he or she is looking for (e.g. a short-term deposit). Secondly, the bank can analyse the queries from the search engine’s window and thus obtain valuable knowledge about its users and what they are looking for as well as how they formulate their needs.

A search engine also has certain drawbacks. Bank’s customers rarely look for products on a web site - more often they want to find useful information, e.g. on blocking a stolen card. That is why, if we leave the initiative concerning queries in the customers’ hands, the web site will not serve its intended pro-sales purpose. Moreover, customers often do not have precise expectations as to banking products, which is why it is better to begin with suggesting a specific option - as a starting point for further search. In fact, this is what Alior and Idea Bank do, which I mentioned above.

Exact copying of presentation methods known from e-commerce (catalogues, search engines, product comparison engines) is rarely a good idea. First of all, a bank usually has much fewer products than an average e-shop and the products are less exciting. It is hard to expect that a user will spend hours browsing through different types of debit cards, like one would do with watches. The process is accompanied by different emotions, and consumers’ needs are also different, as they expect above all a sense of security.

Omnichannel in banking

Internet shops have long realised that nowadays a customer’s shopping journey is non-linear. Consumers rarely buy on first contact - rather they start with research, read opinions, think it through, and look for a cheaper option. Internet shops quickly adjusted to these new models of buying, investing in tools for omnichannel such as retargeting, push notifications, personalised e-mails, and a whole arsenal of marketing automation.

Banks understand that their customers also behave in this way. They often start a process online, and then want to continue it in a discussion with a consultant on a helpline or in a branch. Thus, it is important for a customer service employee to know what actions the online user took and continue from where he or she stopped. After receiving feedback from the consultant, the user can go back to the online process - on a computer or mobile device.

Digital sales processes for Raiffeisen Polbank

See Case Study

It is equally important for the content of the offer to be the same in every access channel – web, mobile, branch, contact-centre, or cash machine. That is why the structure and planning of an offer is of key importance. The customer should be able to easily browse as well as search for useful information on a web page, when visiting the bank’s web site anonymously or after logging in to the internet banking system.

Banks’ e-commerce platforms

The biggest banks in the world in terms of assets – Industrial and Commercial Bank in China as well as China Construction Bank – opened their own e-commerce platforms, where their customers can purchase products from other industries.

Similar services are also offered by Kaspi Bank from Kazakhstan or the Ukrainian Privat Bank; the trend is spreading across the world.

The B2B auction platform, prepared by ING Bank Śląski for its customers, was a pioneer of such solutions, which were. It allows registered companies to make purchases and offer their products, compare offers, and conduct negotiations. The website succeeded thanks to its focus on the buyer’s perspective. Of course one of the most important motives is placing a bank’s products in an e-commerce platform so that the customer can obtain easy financing of transactions and the bank can gain new customers.

Where is e-commerce going?

As banks are looking closely at e-shops’ operations and adapt selected solutions to their needs, it is worth asking about the future of this industry and its development possibilities.

First of all, one should note that commerce is moving online and omnichannel is becoming a given. Soon we will not be talking about e-commerce or mobile commerce (m-commerce) as some separate, individual phenomena. Various buyers’ journeys and channels will merge, because for consumers they function as one process and one phenomenon. Moreover – the less visible the transitions between particular channels and devices, the better the shopping experience.

In the last two years one can observe a very strong impulse and emphasis on Digital Transformation in the commerce sector. It probably is clear to all of us that the race will be won only by players who will bet on digitalisation as their primary objective.

I expect it will be similar in the case of banks.