April 30th, 2015 | 8 MIN READ

Financial Services: CX as a Strategic Priority

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

When it comes to digital strategy, customer experience is top-of-mind in the Financial Services and Insurance (FSI) industry.

Research by Econsultancy and Adobe reports 33% of FSI marketers believe customer experience is the single biggest opportunity for 2015, with only 12% citing personalization, and 8% mobile.

Forrester’s Q3 2014 Global Financial Services Architecture Online Survey found 78% rated CX as a "major area of innovation," beating out real-time and predictive analytics, rated by 58% of respondents.

For financial services, the key requirements for great customer experience are not unlike those retailers, B2Bs and telecoms: omnichannel access (with special focus on mobile), the contextual view of the customer, leveraging and integration of data, and personalization (including predictive analytics).

Omnichannel banking

Like online shopping, online banking isn't new. But as with retail, mobile is changing the game again -- and rapidly. Approximately half of US bank customers use mobile banking, and mobile banking app use has doubled in the UK over the past year. Customers are "increasingly likely to favor mobile and online for basic transactions, using physical branches more in an advisory capacity." (Source: Adobe/Econsultancy)

Digital CX innovators are tasked with developing mobile experiences that are "seamless," and capture the best of both desktop and in-branch experiences, as well as explore ways to enhance the in-branch experience with mobile, and continue to transform manual, offline processes into efficient digital ones.

There's also opportunity and demand to move offline processes to digital. These innovations may be internal, such as natural language processing of initial email requests to automate responses, or customer facing, such as live chat and video through mobile with in-branch representatives.

Digital in-branch

Beacons and digital kiosks can enhance customer experience, with over 40% of Adobe/Econsultancy's survey respondents already experimenting with digital in-branch. Beacons can work 2-ways, pushing content, offers and service alerts to the customers, or pull context about the customer's account. These services may pair with digital kiosks, or with special apps for service representatives or account managers.

The mobile website UX challenge for financial services

30% of those surveyed by Adobe/Econsultancy disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement "we understand the nuances of how our customers use tablets and smartphones differently." Only 6% strongly agreed. And only 57% agree or strongly agree to "we understand how mobile fits into the customer journey."

Delivering a solid mobile experience requires a deep understanding of why customers are choosing a certain touchpoint at what time, and what tasks are most important.

A challenge that financial services shares with many enterprise B2B sites is the complexity of online content, most often spanning numerous microsites for various consumer and business services. Mega-menus and scannable home page links and images work on desktop, but typically don't shrink down usably for the "small screen."


While scaling down to mobile menus is possible, there's room for mobile website experiences to become more contextually relevant, adapting home page content based on incoming search terms (paid search), referring source/campaign, or repeat visitor recognition.


UX designers shouldn't be afraid to rethink information architecture (IA) for mobile, and even reimagine the best way to support navigation. A seamless mobile experience doesn't have to mean a smaller version of the desktop site. With mobile, this may involve voice search or guided product/service finders that are app-like and mobile friendly.

Mobile apps

For existing customers, mobile apps can make the mobile experience far more efficient and enjoyable than poring through the website - they don't require all the content and links of the corporate domain, and offer more flexibility in design and features that a customer can quickly and intuitively learn.

Large, tappable action buttons are clear and intuitive

App interfaces and features can be customized to mobile, and do not have to mirror the desktop/website experience

Contextual customer view

The financial services industry is mature in its adoption of the single view of the customer, with a long-standing ability to track a customer's account use and use this information to cross-sell, upsell, predict customer churn and more.

A robust, contextual customer view should include not only profile information and past behavior, but tie up cross-channel touches, marketing interactions (email, affiliate, paid search, SMS, paper mail, social media), and third-party data.

Off-site activity and signals of intent are also part of the picture. Facebook's ad products tap into third-party data sources that track activities off-Facebook that detect when a customer is in the market for a new car or home, or is graduating from college or starting a family. Third-party intelligence is highly valuable to financial services marketers on both the retail and commercial side.

However, financial services marketers report they still face challenges identifying customers across channels and touchpoints, marketing beyond the public website and sharing data and managing the customer experience across channels, products and touchpoints.


47% of FSI marketers (NA and Europe combined) cited “inability to share data and manage the customer experience across channels” as a key challenge.

The challenge of legacy systems and silos

As with large, omnichannel retailers, FSI legacy systems, sometimes decades old, can be difficult or impossible to integrate with newer platforms and data sources. Legacy systems require a lot of costly custom development to stitch together short-term solutions, and inevitably will need to be replaced to keep pace with disruption and innovation in the industry. Postponing investments in more nimble systems carries the cost of slow, painful development for incomplete solutions, and the opportunity cost of falling behind competitors and disruptive start-ups.

A siloed organization with siloed technology and siloed data will need to make major changes to move towards an omnichannel customer experience, which may include standardizing technologies and processes across divisions, geographies, channels and products.

Personalization and predictive analytics

There's no digital experience that personalization isn't influencing, from search engines to email inboxes, ecommerce to social feeds. And as mentioned, more than half of Forrester's financial services survey respondents are banking on real-time, predictive analytics' role in innovation. Combined with a universal view of the customer (or pre-customer), FSI leaders know that personalized experiences increase opportunities for customer acquisition, satisfaction, cross-sell and upsell conversion, and churn prevention.

Omnichannel touches like call center and email contacts, knowledge base searches, offers clicked in email messages and abandoned funnels and forms all contribute context to personalization and predictive systems.

For mobile particularly, where screen size and attention spans are smaller, targeting the most relevant content and offers -- even at a pinpointed time through push notifications and smartwatch pairings -- is a competitive advantage.

But personalization and predictive engines make as good decisions as the data they're fed, so complete, holistic, contextual data improves their effectiveness. It's easy to add point-solutions in the short-term, but taking care of legacy systems and siloed data, and improving data integration ideally comes first.

Innovators vs. fast followers

Comparable to all sectors, only 19% of financial services marketers consider themselves 'leaders' when it comes to digital disruption. Nearly half consider themselves "fast followers," closely watching leaders and adopting what proves successful.


While fast followers take advantage that most innovations can be copied and even leapfrogged by competitors, they also take the risk losing customers to the competition. Switching costs are lower than ever, and winning a customer back may be harder once lost.

Like virtually every industry facing disruption, those that lead need to embrace lean processes and use technologies that are nimble enough to support rapid testing and iteration, and "fast failure." But fast followers also need to ensure their technology is flexible and capable of keeping pace, or risk falling too far behind.

Innovations opportunities in financial services

Both consumer and commercial / industrial banking can benefit from APIs, integrated marketing and mobile app innovations. For example:

Mobile apps

Apps are poised to become the primary way clients prefer to interact with banking services. Bringing in-branch experiences to mobile through live chat, co-browsing and video calling, as well as digitizing offline processes through document scanning, electronic signatures, biometric security features and the like are areas of opportunity.

Extending mobile apps to wearables and the Internet of Things is another (including smart cars and smart TV). Key Bank this week launched its Apple Watch integration feature that connects a credit or debit card to Apple Pay, facilitating pay-by-wrist.



Banks need to look outside their own technologies for opportunities to pair with disruptive payment methods and other lifestyle and utility apps.


APIs play an important role in data and systems integration, and allow developers to build new and useful applications to power new features and experiences (like Key Bank's above).

Wealthfront uses APIs to completely automate account onboarding, funding, securities trading and account reconciliation with other institutions. Personal Capital uses APIs to develop a 360-degree view of customers' financial lives to provide personalized advice.

FSIs can also use APIs to build applications for affiliates or other development partners like accounting and payroll software.

Integrated marketing

20% of Adobe/Econsultancy respondents say incompatible digital marketing point solutions are the biggest barrier to delivering a personalized experience. It's one thing to build a robust, single customer view empowers a marketer, and another to be able to execute on tactics. It requires integrated marketing technology to drive real-time, personalized and effective cross-channel communications, and to collect response data that can feed back into the customer profile.

To achieve amazing omnichannel CX, marketing needs to span mobile and social touchpoints, tying together mobile friendly email, search ads and display, push notices in apps and wearables, and Mobile search ads, push notifications in apps and more.

Whether you're a financial services marketer or a banking customer, it's exciting to see what the near future holds for digital in this industry.

If you're a mid-sized to large enterprise generating more than $20M in digital revenue annually, request access to the 2015 Advanced Commerce Maturity Scale assessment kit from Elastic Path. The Advanced Commerce Maturity Scale is a new way to measure the ability of your company to deliver omnichannel, experience-driven transactions across touchpoints, highlights areas of the business that constrain your ability to succeed, providing both descriptive and visual results to help you fully understand your level of commerce maturity relative to the current standard of excellence.

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