The average Net Promoter Score for financial brand website shopping experiences is four out of ten, according to an analysis of over 1,200 different digital secret shopping experiences.

This isn’t just bad; it’s “bottom of the barrel” bad. A study from Financial Brand found banking websites actually score the lowest across all industries for usability and conversions (where the consumer completes a desired action, like starting a loan application). 

From our research at the Digital Growth Institute, we’ve found that 87 percent of bank shopping journeys start online, so the poor usability of financial brand websites is a major problem—but also a significant opportunity. If you can create a more effective digital presence, you can differentiate yourself digitally and give yourself a leg up on your competition.

Your website is often the first impression consumers have of you, so it’s key to get this piece right. Financial brands clearly struggle with creating consumer-friendly websites, so in this article, I will share eight specific ways you can create a better experience for users, helping you achieve digital differentiation and leading to more leads and conversions.

#1: Build Trust

Digital differentiation starts with building trust, which you can do in a couple ways.

First, simplicity. Financial services can be complex, and our job is to simplify them as much as possible for the consumer. Instead of long text paragraphs, use clear headlines, pictures, and iconography. When you simplify, it’s clear you’re not trying to pull one over on consumers and trick them into something they don’t need.

Next, empathy. Traditionally, we’ve positioned our products and services through a very narcissistic lens. It’s all about us. In truth, it’s all about the consumer. When you focus on solving their problems and filling their needs, instead of selling your products and services, the consumer is more likely to trust you.

With simplicity and empathy, you show consumers that you’re not trying to sell them things they don’t need, which helps them trust you, and consumers spend their money at the places they trust.

#2: Help First, Sell Second

Money is confusing, and people are looking for someone they can trust to help them. Helpful content is the fuel of digital growth, and it’s what empowers a financial brand to rise above the commoditized promotion of great rates and amazing service.

Therefore, make a cultural and organizational commitment to the mantra “Help first, sell second.” Helping first and selling second means educating, and in order to do that, you have to build up content assets and content libraries. 

Committing to produce and promote content that helps first and sells second is very different than the direct marketing financial brands have traditionally relied upon—for example, running a direct product offer around auto loans or running a rate promotion for mortgages.

When you help first and sell second, you build a relationship with your consumers, and you differentiate yourself from your competitors, ultimately leading to more sales in the long run.

#3: Reduce Choice

In one of our studies, we looked at close to 100 bank and credit union websites and found the average financial brand website had 28 different calls to action on their homepage. That’s like 28 different doors a consumer could walk through to enter your physical branch location!

Too many choices will overwhelm consumers, so when you read a stat like that, is it any surprise people dislike financial brand websites so much? They’re drowning in a sea of information, none of which answers their question or points them in the right direction.

When you reduce the number of choices, you can reduce customer anxiety. We saw this in our research into neobanks and fintechs, which had about six different calls to actions on average on their homepages. A test we did confirmed what we knew: consumers browsing these websites found them easier to navigate, which meant a higher conversion rate. 

#4: Guided Selling

Financial institutions no longer have the luxury of talking to someone face-to-face through their buying journey. Between 70 and 80 percent of buying decisions for financial products are now made long before a consumer walks into a physical branch (if they walk into a branch at all) or calls someone in the call center. But that doesn’t mean consumers don’t want guidance.

Simply mapping out the steps of what a particular pathway or process looks like for a consumer—the home-buying process, the car-buying process, getting a checking account, getting a credit card—is very helpful.

For effective guided selling, provide clear answers to these three questions: 

  • Where do you want the consumer to go? 
  • What do you want the consumer to do? 
  • Then, how can you help the consumer get there?

With the answers to these questions, you can design a clear path for the consumer to follow, eliminating confusion and guiding them through the process.

#5: Product Comparison

In our Digital Secret Shopping Studies, we ask consumers to review the product comparison tools on financial brand websites. Time and time again, we find the visual execution for these tools often leave consumers feeling confused as they struggle to distinguish different types of products.

To address this, we recommend adding a guided selling product recommendation quiz that provides a personalized solution based on a consumer’s unique situation.

We also recommend that you benchmark and position your financial brand’s products on your website directly against your competitors’ products in the marketplace. You can’t stop consumers from comparison shopping, but anchoring your products against your competitors gives you some influence over the narrative.

#6: Limited Time Offers

Running “flash sales” for a particular product is an easy way to get immediate results. This has been proven repeatedly in our Digital Secret Shopping Studies.

Limited time offers really move the needle. It’s simple supply and demand: when it comes to product scarcity, limited supply in a virtual shopping environment can increase demand and as a result, drive conversions.

Though limited time offers are effective, don’t overuse them. Otherwise, they will lose their impact, and you will undercut the perceived value of your product. Consumers will begin to think of the flash sales as the “true” price of the product.

#7: Social Proof

The vast majority of consumers say reading reviews is important before making a banking decision—they want social proof that your products and services are worth it. 

When I talk about reviews here, I’m mostly talking about venues like Facebook and Google Places. But another kind of simple win is to get third-party reviews and validation from other industry websites like GOBankingRates, Kiplinger, and NerdWallet.

The most advanced implementation of social proof is to actually integrate a platform on your financial brand’s website to capture Amazon-like reviews where users can click on the number of stars and leave a comment.

#8: Value Packaging

Consumers love bundles. For instance, Cornerstone Advisors conducted a study and found if Amazon were to bring a checking account to the marketplace and bundled in value adds (e.g., cell phone protection, ID theft protection, and roadside assistance), more consumers would be open to paying a small fee for the account versus an unbundled free checking account. Let that sink in: more people were interested in the bundle than the free checking account! 

It comes down to value. When you bundle multiple products or services together, consumers feel like they’re getting a better value.

As for financial services, the biggest untapped value packaging opportunity, as I see it, is financial coaching, both in person as well as remote. People want guidance when it comes to managing their finances, so consider bundling financial coaching with your other services.

Your Digital Toolbox

Think of these eight digital differentiation strategies as tools in your digital toolbox. You don’t have to use every single one. Simply pull out whichever tool you need to get the job done. And these tools aren’t limited to your website—you can use many of them in your emails and digital ads as well.

If you commit to applying just a few of these tools, you will digitally differentiate your financial brand’s products and begin to generate even more leads for loans and deposits almost immediately. 

Digital is the future for financial brands, so get started on your digital differentiation today.