As coronavirus sweeps the world, banks and credit unions are compelled to level up their websites—and quickly. Digital banking has become more critical than ever, with branches scaling back in-person services or closing altogether. Most people around the country are now going digital to manage their money. According to SilverCloud, use of digital banking services has increased 5-8% per day since social distancing took effect. Even the most resistant customers and members have embraced online banking, for lack of an alternative.
Banks and credit unions must adapt to survive. Financial institutions everywhere are redoubling their digital efforts, and for good reason—in many cases, it’s now the only way to bank. But what happens after social distancing measures are lifted and this new normal changes once again? How will users interact with your website when it’s no longer the only solution?
How the Pandemic Catalyzed Digital Banking
While user experience should always be important, it becomes paramount when your website is the primary way to bank. Many people who are used to visiting a branch and relying on the expertise of bankers and tellers are now going digital for the first time. Even those who are accustomed to online banking may be leveraging new digital services. There’s bound to be a learning curve, so user experience should be as seamless as possible. With many support centers understaffed or overwhelmed, your website must work even harder to make consumers’ lives easier.
For banks and credit unions, the key to success is the ability to instill trust. People need help navigating these uncertain financial waters, and that’s where your website comes into play. Find ways to infuse humanity into your digital solutions and create guided experiences that help users feel taken care of. Build effective support content, make it easy to find, and ensure next steps are clear and actionable.
New features and functionalities should be accompanied by clear messages explaining what they do, how to use them, and what visitors can expect. Setting clear expectations, like timelines for money transfers, will help ensure a positive experience and preempt any anxieties or frustrations.
Consider your primary demographics and their general familiarity with digital banking. Ensure the experiences you’re creating are usable for everyone, regardless of technical background or savviness. The goal is to make everything simple. This encourages visitors to use your new capabilities again and get comfortable with them. If the response is positive, expect people to continue relying on your digital solutions, even after the pandemic ends.
The Role of Your Website in a World After COVID
The scramble to go digital leaves more questions than answers around the future of banking after COVID. Will branches go back to the way they were, or will digital banking be more popular than ever? Either way, it’s certain the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way people interact with their financial institutions. Two scenarios could play out.
- Relieved to once again have face-to-face support, people could rush back to their home branches.
- Alternatively, digital may become the preferred channel for many, now that the perceived barrier to entry is gone.
While banks and credit unions should be prepared for either outcome, expect digital solutions to be more heavily utilized, even when in-person services resume.
Your customers and members will have formed new habits, and provided that your user experience is a good one, they’re likely to appreciate the speed and convenience of digital banking. “Once the consumer adjusts to digital channels, they won’t go back,” NewGround President and CEO Kevin Blair predicted in an interview with The Financial Brand.
This new comfort zone, paired with the possibility that people may be slow or unable to venture outside their homes, could make it tough for branches to thrive after opening their doors. “Long term, it will be more difficult for many branches to be profitable, forcing community banks and credit unions to make decisions they have been avoiding relative to bricks and mortar,” Market Insights CEO Joe Sullivan told The Financial Brand, adding that “in-branch teller transactions will never recover.”
This means branches and websites must evolve in different directions — both now and in the future. Expect your digital space to become the go-to destination for basic transactions, along with any services that don’t require expert guidance or consultation. Branches may take on a more strategic role, while websites do the heavy lifting. Your digital solutions are invaluable because they will outlast the pandemic.
Key Features for a Successful Post-COVID Website
Now is the time to inventory your website’s existing features and what it needs to thrive. Consider these essentials when planning the evolution of your current site or expediting an upcoming redesign.
The future has always been digital. Coronavirus just accelerated a shift that was already coming. Financial institutions that invest in their websites now will see a payoff in the long run.
The experts at ZAG can help you to create digital solutions with staying power. Get in touch to learn how we can work together to level up your bank or credit union’s website.
Sources: Silvercloud, The Financial Brand, American Banker