Digital Transformation in Banking Is About Experience

By Doug Wilber

Digital banking is here to stay. In one 2021 survey, 84 percent of banking customers polled said they plan to maintain the same level of digital banking services even after the pandemic subsides. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for traditional banks.

Though many bank leaders have likely eagerly awaited a strong return to the in-person branch model, the time has come to accept and adapt to the digital future of banking. The good news is that the key differentiating factor for traditional banks remains the same: human relationships with customers.

The challenge is that maintaining strong relationships in a digital environment can be difficult for traditional banks. And without strong anchoring relationships, banks miss out on valuable cross-selling opportunities and lose customers to competitors that offer better digital services. Customer defection can be costly, as it’s five to 25 times more expensive to acquire than retain customers—but increasing customer retention rates by a mere 5 percent can boost profits by 25 to 95 percent.

Banks that turn their focus toward strengthening digital customer experience can solidify relationships for the long term, secure more business with new and existing customers, and thrive well into the future.

How to create exceptional digital customer experience for the long haul

A recent study of the pandemic and ensuing digital acceleration in banking revealed two primary challenges for banks in delivering high-quality digital experiences: First, traditional banks tend to struggle to design meaningful and emotional experiences in digital ways. Second, they struggle to deliver those experiences impactfully due to internal and external digital transformation hurdles.

With these two challenges in mind, bank marketers can lead their organizations to success by first focusing on their teams’ willingness to evolve and openness to the larger concepts of digital transformation. Without widespread buy-in, even a million of the fanciest bells and whistles on the market won’t help a bank evolve to meet and exceed consumers’ digital expectations.

Marketers must ensure an overall understanding of these four digital transformation initiatives and how they can help improve digital customer experiences and strengthen human relationships:

1. Continual tool improvement and refinement. Most financial institutions likely accelerated the pace of their digital transformations when they could no longer meet with customers face-to-face. As in-person opportunities return, however, your team shouldn’t lose digital momentum. In fact, the primary goal behind digital transformation for 79 percent of respondents in one 2019 survey was to improve customer experience. You can’t improve experiences without continuous transformation efforts.

Gather data to show how customers are using your digital tools and continually evaluate how to improve your tools to create better and better experiences. Seeking strong and strategic partnerships with fintech vendors is an excellent way to stay on top of the latest innovations in technology and continue providing the best digital services.

2. Optimal onboarding. Your team and fintech partners might put a lot of time, money, and effort into building new and impressive digital widgets—but if your customers don’t know how to use them, they won’t bring any value. That’s why part of any bank’s digital transformation strategy should involve onboarding customers to ensure the adoption and use of new digital services.

If new account openers don’t engage within the first month of opening an account, they likely never will. Encourage frequent and continued engagement by clearly demonstrating the value customers can find in your digital services and tools. Provide convenient and accessible customer support to keep the value stream flowing without interruption.

3. Transferring relationships to digital. Preserving human connections in the virtual world can be a challenge for banks accustomed to old ways, but with the right approach, digitization can actually help banks build and maintain stronger relationships. That’s why, even before the pandemic, 72 percent of business leaders who responded to Harvard Business Review Analytics Services researchers said they expected the digital shift to create closer relationships with customers.

Take social media as one example. With an active social media presence, loan officers can keep up with past customers and even get new prospects’ attention. And with the right social media management tools, marketers can help loan officers pull off social selling campaigns at scale. Ensure that customers also have a direct line to access employees who can facilitate customer service so that they always have a resource to answer questions and guide them along the digital journey without a hitch.

4. Constant value with content and data. The more value a financial institution can offer, the less likely customer defection will be. Provide useful information to customers through frequent social media content, blog posts, landing pages and more. Use targeting strategies such as paid social media advertising and create personalized content based on data. The more relevant the information is to your customers’ specific needs, the more valuable it will be. Personalize landing pages and gate information behind contact submission forms. When visitors exchange their contact information for the content they need, you can reach out directly to primed leads to continue the conversation with human-to-human touchpoints.

No matter the state of the pandemic or brick-and-mortar banks, strong customer sentiment around digital banking is unlikely to wane. In fact, consumers are likely to expect better and better digital experiences from financial institutions as technology becomes an even bigger part of everyday life. Traditional banks that focus on creating exceptional digital customer experience based on human connection will thrive.

Doug Wilber is the CEO of Denim Social, a social media management software company that provides tools to empower marketers in regulated industries to manage organic social media content and paid social media advertising on one platform.