Banks can no longer afford to be “just banks”: to keep up with their users’ needs, they have to transform into full-scale IT companies, adopt design thinking, become friendlier, and focus on customer education. Here are the top-5 features any retail bank has to implement to move with the times.
1. Provide everything: super app approach
For a long time, banks have been adapting traditional offline products, services, and business models for digital channels. Now, the time has come for digitally native scenarios and development through the prism of full-cycle platforms and ecosystems.
Creating a “digital universe” and becoming a single entry point where all user’s needs are met – this might be the next idée fixe of the banking industry leaders. Online platforms and smartphones are the starting point in this journey.
An average person has 80 different apps installed on their phone, using only 9 of them daily. The overflow of new tools and applications is just as tiring as the lack of them, which leaves users longing for a unified solution.
The concept of Super Apps that cater to basic financial and everyday domestic needs has been thriving in Asia: WeChat has been a go-to solution for the Chinese to exchange texts, pay in a cafe, order food, book flights, and more for a long time. While we haven’t seen the analogue of the Western world, the prospects are intriguing for many financial industry players. Most neobanks are already aiming at the lifestyle “feel” and experience on the communication level.
So in the next few years, instead of 2-5 banking applications on your smartphone, you might have a choice of 2-5 super applications, which in one way or another will duplicate all the remaining 20-30 apps.
2. Suit down: social networking and messenger patterns
The paying generation changes, and so do the banks that serve it: financial applications actively integrate best practices from social networks and messaging interfaces & communication principles.
International bank Wells Fargo has integrated itself with Facebook and uses its messengers in conjunction with the chatbot, providing info on the location of the nearest ATMs, account balance, and so on.
Sberbank (one of the biggest banks in Russia and Europe) posts daily stories within its app, mixing curated informational content with product updates, and animates in-app money transfers with lively characters and voices.
Simple language, chats, stickers, familiar interfaces of social networks: banks make up for the conservatism of their industry with the informal communication
3. Teach: improving financial literacy
Financial literacy has been on top of the international agenda for a while now. Only lately, banks have started to implement more and more native tools to show clients that saving and keeping records is neither scary nor painful. Many introduce such tools as transferring “change” to separate accounts, robotized investment tools, and incentivization of conscious financial behavior.
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South African Discovery Bank went even further, calling itself the world’s first behavioural bank as it promises to “heal” their clients’ finances. The Vitality Money program integrated into application pushes the client to make the right financial decision. The user can track spending and receive awards for success in the form of discounts on banking products.
4. Talk to your users: chatbots and voice assistants
Clients are not okay with a digital bank per se anymore. As the level of service and expectations rises, customers want personal support from a real person and faster service. Bots and assistants strengthen personal banking: they reduce waiting time and document flow, solve problems quickly, at any time, and in a convenient format.
This trend can be traced to as far back as 2015: Ally Bank was one of the first to introduce a virtual assistant that can interact with users via speech to make payments, money transfers, P2P transactions, and deposits.
As banks are forced to interact with their users in a fully digital manner, there is no doubt that mobile banks will offer new formats of communication more actively and migrate from graphical interfaces to voice.
5. Invisible banking
A plastic card is no longer a bank’s main product: the boundaries between a card, a mobile phone, and even a smartwatch are blurred. To gain and retain users, banks and fintechs are learning to be invisibly present on any device, in all aspects of customer life – even outside of banking.
For example, the aforementioned Sberbank invested in food-tech startup FoodPlex to launch SberFood – a mobile app that enables users to make restaurant reservations, order food, pay the check, and leave tips without face-to-face interaction.
QR codes are also very useful for “invisible” banking: “Russian Standard” (leading bank on Russia’s lending market) collaborated with e-commerce giant Wildberries to enable users to purchase goods by simply scanning a QR code; another example is “Tinkoff” (a popular independent digital bank) enabling its clients to pay for gas on British Petroleum gas stations in Moscow without leaving their car.
Kirill Paraska is a co-founder and CEO of ANGRY UX; a research-based UX/UI design studio focused on banks and fintechs.