The fintech market, which still lacks a clear definition even within the industry, has hit major numbers in 2019–over 3,5 billion users have around 4,8 trillion euros to spend across approximately 13,000 technology-powered financial companies.
As the market keeps increasing, fintech companies’ need to respond by continually investing significant effort in order to keep their customer number counter growing.
Are traditional banks on shaky ground?
Different types of payment systems have been in place forever. From bartering in the first version of an organized economy, through physical money that we’re most familiar with, we’ve reached a third state today. There are two sides of the modern-day payment system coin: traditional banking institutions and fintech companies.
An apparent advantage traditional banks hold over fintechs are extensive customer bases and big budgets which they can use to make data- and experience-driven decisions.
In comparison to traditional banks, the ability for quick changes, a fresh point of view, and a strong background in technology is the wind in the back of fintechs.
Companies and payment solutions like Stripe, Revolut, N26, Adyen, Xero, Klarna, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay and similar take up a growing market share year in, year out.
Traditional banks are trying to keep up the pace with fintechs by investing ever larger amounts in their digital sector. At the same time, the PSD2 regulation gives fintech companies and tech giants the key for opening the large old steel doors and letting in new customers.
Regardless of what happens in the background, the main objective remains the same for all financial institutions: How to keep the existing and acquire new users?
From the users’ point of view
When it comes to users, their main objective when interacting with payment systems remains unchanged. Whether they are dealing with a fintech, a tech giant or a traditional bank, they expect to send and receive payments in the simplest way possible.
The users of today are more tech-savvy than before and use apps and websites on a daily basis. Bank’s public websites, internet banking, mobile banking app–you name it.
Communication only via digital channels with no human interaction can pose a challenge to making users feel safe in a digital environment. After all, we’re talking money!
As innovations usually go, they need some time to take roots and be accepted. People also didn’t trust cars back when horse-drawn carriages were the principal means of transport.
Is it possible to really win users’ trust in a digital environment? Based on my experience working with banks, here are the suggestions for establishing a trustworthy relationship with users:
- Talk like a human
- Help users achieve their (financial) goals
- Adjust features based on their needs
- Most important features must work flawlessly
- Provide a great omnichannel experience
In the following paragraphs, we’ll dig deeper into each one of these five.
1. Talk like a human
Sentences like "What on Earth does this mean?!" and "Great, I need a dictionary for this" should raise the flag, meaning the language your product speaks is not properly adjusted to users.
One of the most important aspects of interacting with users is the copy (designers call it the tone of voice). However, oftentimes it gets unrightfully neglected. Big companies like Dropbox, Airbnb, Facebook etc. are raising awareness about the importance of better user communication.
Furthermore, the majority of banking users don't understand technical banking terminology.
It’s never a good sign when a user has to read things slowly two times to figure out the meaning, and still needs an additional explanation.
By providing understandable copy and a thorough onboarding you reduce cognitive effort and help users make a connection with your brand, as well as feel safe and confident within your digital ecosystem.
2. Help users achieve their (financial) goals
“They only want my money! Every time I ask for help, I get a generic answer.”
Ask people who their real friends are, and they will recall a time when they felt vulnerable and think of someone who made that situation easier. That’s why customer support of some kind, like FAQ, chat, email, or a phone line is essential. Furthermore, the digital age enables you to help users faster and more efficiently.
One way banks can help users achieve their goals is by teaching them good financial habits.
This way, banks earn users' trust, and users spread the word about it. Technology-wise, this can be done using gamification, which is making a process look like a game by pursuing challenges and awarding success.
For example, let users define big financial goals (buying a car or house) and then give them small rewards if they make small investments and follow their plan. If they go off course, guide them back on track.
3. Adjust features based on their needs
"This thing is always here, and I never use it. Can you make it go away? I don’t even know what it is."
Just like when a customer comes to the coffee shop and the employee asks them if they want "the usual", it’s a great feeling when any service provider remembers your preferences. Why would using an app have to be different?
By taking advantage of tracking user habits and analyzing various data parameters, banks could offer a more tailored service to their customers, i.e. learn what the users actually use and adjust their offer based on this. With every investment in the app, users expects to do fewer investments later for doing the same thing.
A very simple example of such a scenario is if a user is paying the same bill at a similar time of the month, the app could offer to create a recurring payment with pre-filled data, and ask them to verify the payment as extra confirmation.
4. Most important features must work flawlessly
"I pay for this mobile service and it’s not working half the time."
When developing their mobile apps, banks often have limited budgets spread out on too many features. But in reality, only some of those features are important to the majority of users. How to define which ones?
One possible way is by using analytics, interviews, Kano Model Analysis or other tools to perform a smart reduction method. This is the part where you should actually bring end-users to the table. The final goal is pretty simple–to improve the features most users identify as the most important, while adding new ones wisely.
It’s better to focus and improve three features used 80% of the time, than to add 10 new features that will be used 20% of the time.
Users will not leave a product over 1-2 small mistakes, but they will leave if important features are not working.
There are some features users in banking or fintech apps expect to be working perfectly, such as:
- Payment processing
- Viewing account balance
- Checking credit cards & loans
- Checking savings
- Other, e.g. tracking expenses
Adding a new feature or making some changes will require cognitive effort from your users, but a smooth transition in small iterations probably won’t even be noticed (Facebook is a real pro in this one). That’s why you should always be striving for improvements.
5. Provide a great omnichannel experience
"When I want to assign a new service I can do it online, but when I need to disconnect it I need to come to the physical branch."
While senior users still significantly trust branches, the younger population prefers online transactions. Also, smaller amounts of money will definitely be handled online, while larger still offline. However, users are getting more comfortable handling larger amounts digitally.
After all, so much can be done on the mobile phone in other industries, so users expect the same when using digital banking.
Users expect to carry out transactions online beginning-to-end. What can banks do about it?
First of all, they can onboard users by letting them know what can be done online and making the online process as easy as possible.
These are other actions you can take to provide a great user experience:
- Users should always be aware where is the end of the flow
- They should only have to focus on one thing at the time
- Provide users with a recap screen and a distinctive confirmation button
- Make the help option available and accessible at any time
If users expect to do everything online—they should be able to do it. Over time, banks will make users feel safe by doing low-cost actions in the app. After trust is earned, the doors for more worthy transactions are wide open.
Strive to create personalized experiences
Cashless countries are no longer fictional terms from futuristic movies. The high quality of user experience in other digital industries sets high expectations for a seamless experience in the finance sector.
Following the suggestions mentioned in this article, banks can show their users that there are options at their disposal, that their bank is taking care of them, and that it understands their needs.
Furthermore, banks should strive to create personalized experiences. By learning user behavior, adjusting the product according to user needs, and reducing the unnecessary clutter, banks can help users perform actions faster and ultimately form a habit of using a product. Once they form a habit, they will be less likely to switch to another product.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the McKinsey report:
“The CEO of one of the world’s largest banks spends a day a month with the bank’s clients and encourages all members of the C-suite to do the same...”
Designer Marijana Šimag cashed out this cover illustration.