Picture of Allie Aitken Written by Allie Aitken
on May 04, 2021

A strong User Experience (UX)—how a user interacts with and experiences your financial institution, its products, and services—is essential to maintaining customer commitment and earning referrals.

In this post, we review three key pillars that financial marketers can strengthen for a positive UX: user interface, consistency, and personalization.


The importance of relationship building

It’s easy to get swept up in all the deliverables that go into your marketing strategy. Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture and what we’re trying to achieve: a meaningful relationship with your customers and potential customers. 

And because the level of trust a customer needs to have in their bank or credit union is second to none—maybe except for healthcare—we look to industry-specific thought leaders on the topic of relationships-building.

As Ron Shevlin, Managing Director of Fintech Research at Cornerstone Advisors so aptly puts it, “conceptually, a customer relationship infrastructure boils down to two things: engagement and trust.”

  • Engagement occurs whenever your financial institution interacts with your customers online or in-person, whether it’s via social media content, marketing emails, surveys, chatbots, customer service calls, or in-branch. It’s essential for engagement to be frequent, but also meaningful. In other words, it should be done in ways that help users make informed financial decisions. It’s not enough to constantly be in contact with your customers online. You must also provide value.
  • The result of meaningful, regular engagement is an improved level of trust. When your customers see your financial institution as a partner in their financial decisions, trust is formed. You want your customers to believe that their bank or credit union is looking out for their best interests and that you have the tools they need to reach their financial goals.

How UX impacts your financial institution’s relationship with customers

When your customers feel a meaningful relationship with your bank or credit union, they stick around—and they tell others about your services and products. 

User experience is a big piece of the relationship-building puzzle. It encompasses all of a user’s emotions, beliefs, perceptions, and responses that occur before, during, or after touchpoints with your financial institutions’ digital and non-digital channels such as your website, online banking, mobile app, telephone banking, in-branch appointments, and more. 

Today, with more people than ever interacting with their bank or credit union online, that engagement and trust rely more heavily on digital channels. So, to build a strong UX between your customers and your bank or credit union, you must strengthen three key pillars.



Pillar one: the user interface (UI)

One element of UX that primarily relates to the digital channels is User Interface (UI) design. This refers to the look and feel of an application—such as the colors and graphics used, the copy written, placement of buttons, etc. All of this can help build an emotional reaction.

As Jim Marous, co-publisher of the Financial Brand explains, “57% of customers won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website or mobile app. And if a website isn’t mobile-friendly, 50% of customers will stop visiting it, even if they like the business.”

With countless options available to customers at the press of a button, a poor user interface has the power to dwindle relationships with customers very quickly. Because, while people historically banked with one institution for everything, now there are myriad options.

Today’s customers are more open to doing day-to-day checking with a brick-and-mortar institution, and investing or long-term savings with an online bank. Contactless payment options like PayPal and Venmo have also soared in popularity, reducing the usage of traditional checking accounts. In order to stand out among all these options and retain users, a strong UI is critical. 

  • Simplicity is key - Simplicity is essential when it comes to UI. Digitally, this means the design and copy across your app and website. If these things are unclear, messy or distracting, users will easily become lost or frustrated, which can lead to their journey being cut short. Each element must be thoughtfully placed. If you can integrate placeholders or templates with help from providers specific to the financial industry, you’ll be miles ahead. This way, your bank or credit union can take some of the guesswork out of optimizing design and displaying the right messages in prime real estate areas on your website, OLB, or mobile app.
  • Prioritize speed - Likewise, speed is crucial in UI. Not only do slow website load times hurt your search engine ranking, poor speed on digital platforms can be a large deciding factor for potential new customers—or for current customers considering whether they should recommend their bank to others or not. A Google study found that most customers won’t wait longer than a few seconds for a website to load. In fact, for page load time of 1-6 seconds, bounce rates increase by 106%.
  • Differentiate yourself - A unique brand voice, visual design, or high-tech features may resonate with your target demographics and stand out in a sea of stuffy financial institutions. That said, you shouldn’t try to totally reinvent the wheel, especially when it comes to your UI. According to Alex Kreger of UX Design Agency, it’s a misconception that design must be totally innovative. He stresses that if you try to do things too differently, users are likely to become frustrated by unusual functionality. 



Pillar two: consistency

Once you have a functional, consistent user interface, you have to ensure users receive consistent messaging across channels.

If users receive one message on their bank/credit union app and an entirely different one on the website or in-branch, they’re unlikely to feel a strong sense of connection with your financial institution. This can lead to confusion or irritation, or it can simply halt the buyer’s journey. When they receive consistent messaging, it feels as though the bank or credit union understands them and really knows what they need. 

  • Ensure a consistent omnichannel experience - To combat this, it’s important to choose a marketing automation platform that is omnichannel by default. An omnichannel strategy puts the customer at the center of the experience and seamlessly links multiple channels, both digital and traditional. Instead of the channels working in parallel, they act as extensions of one another. Omnichannel marketing platforms, like Prisma Campaigns, ensure you can provide consistent messaging to all of your customers, wherever they interact with your financial institution. For example, instead of creating multiple campaigns, one for each channel,  you create one single campaign (let’s say, a campaign around a home equity loan). Then, you tell the platform through which channels you want to deploy the campaigns. You’ll define specifics for each channel, if appropriate, and how an interaction on one channel (say a click), will impact what is seen on the other channels.
  • Consider each channel and platform’s unique context - With this in mind, it’s still important to consider the environments of different channels. Email, SMS, Instagram, your app, and your branch all are very different places. So consumers interact with each in a different headspace and your marketing should take this into account. Consider what groups of people are hanging out on each platform and what they are willing to consume on there. For example, you may use SMS to send short-and-sweet messages that communicate announcements, confirmations, notifications, alerts, or reminders. But you may use email newsletters or Instagram content to provide educational resources or tips that help your customers.



Pillar three: personalization

Across the board, customers are quickly realizing the benefits of individualized, tailored experiences and offerings. What’s more, they’re coming to expect it. 

The key to bringing this personalization to life is data (of which banks and credit unions have an abundance). In order to leverage their existing data to provide a greater level of insight and personalized experience, financial Institutions must learn how to act like Amazon.

  • Provide highly tailored messagingBy analyzing the correct data and leveraging it in the right places, banks and credit unions can provide highly tailored messaging. And this means much more than integrating a customer’s first name into a message. Their journey should be tailored to their needs, goals, and desires. FIs must remember that, on the receiving end of all of the technology they leverage is a complex individual. The same old Persona A, Persona B, Persona C doesn’t hold up anymore. So the digital experience of the customer must take into account the information that customer has provided via data points so they receive relevant, personalized messages and offers. While this is certainly challenging, maps like Ron Shevlin's roadmap to personalization in banking are of of great help.
  • Integrate a human connectionAmongst all the data analysis, you don’t want to lose out on that human touch. To go even deeper, touchpoints with an actual human contact are especially crucial in helping build trust around complicated financial products. When customers know (or feel like) an actual person is helping them make a large financial decision, the relationship with that financial institution is bound to be greatly improved. A human connection can be integrated in a variety of ways, including actual human-to-human connections like training with staff (either in-person or virtually), in-branch interactions, or with very advanced chatbots, ITMs, and virtual greeters. 

Once data is collected, cleansed, and analyzed in order to segment and profile customers, FIs can run tailored campaigns to clients via a 1:1 model of communication. Each customer should feel special and like their FI is anticipating their needs and delivering the best-fit offer. This model of personalization shows them that their FI knows them and is going to help them achieve their unique financial goals. This can increase the likelihood of retaining a customer (or expanding their services) or signing a new one.

With the help of automation and AI, the results of those campaigns can be further analyzed so FIs can continue to learn user behavior and preferences, define goals, and iterate new campaigns to be delivered on the optimal communication channels.


The importance of UX for banks and credit unions

When each of these three pillars are addressed, your FI is left with a strong foundation for a user experience that fosters trust and engagement by combining technology and human touchpoints across all channels. The pillars are interwoven so, if one crumbles, the rest are likely to as well. 

Banking is a very personal experience. It requires trust for someone to decide they want to put their finances in the hands of a specific institution. And, while the service offerings and products must align with an individual’s needs, a seamless user experience is a big part of getting a customer to commit to your bank or credit union, stick with you, and recommend you to others. 

If you'd like to learn more about personalization, omnichannel marketing, and marketing automation, here are some additional resources:


Image credit: Adobe Stock