Consumers most value online banking features that address communication and personalisation, according to recent surveys by Gartner. However, financial institutions could be failing to capitalise on online banking by not providing the features that consumers really want.
"As consumer adoption of online banking increases, banks are searching for ways to differentiate their services while maximising the cost-effectiveness of self-service channels," says Stessa Cohen, research director at Gartner. "Online banking represents a key opportunity to achieve these objectives if banks can provide the features that consumers prize most highly."
In December 2008 and January 2009, Gartner surveyed of 3 988 consumers 18 years or older in the US and UK, and it examined the attitudes and behaviours related to retail payments, banking and investments services.
The survey found that UK and US consumers are heavy users of online banking and have many online banking choices. More than half the consumers in the survey said that they used only one online banking site, but more than 40% use two or more online banking sites (41% in the US and 48% in the UK), meaning that they are in a position to compare online banking features on a regular basis. As a consequence, banks that fail to provide similar features and capabilities will be at risk of losing their online banking customers.
When asked to indicate the importance of 18 different online banking features, both US and UK consumers ranked security the top feature, followed by single sign-on as their second most important feature for online banking.
They also ranked highly the ability to deposit cheques online from home and the ability to set up a separate account to save up for a specific goal. Other top ranking features included the ability to set up alerts for account and credit card balances and the ability to analyse spending and cash flow.
Gartner found that younger online banking consumers value features that enable customisation of their online banking experience, while older customers seek tools that let them use current services more effectively or communicate better. Further analysis indicated that older consumers want features that make the online banking channel itself easier to use, while younger consumers are looking for additional financial planning tools to help them manage their money more effectively.
"The survey showed that banks and customers want very different things on a bank's website," says Cohen. "Customers want to personalise their experiences, analyse their transaction and payment data, so they can better manage their money, pay bills and transfer funds.
"Banks want to sell customers more products. Banks that neglect personalisation trends now will sacrifice online ‹ and possibly mobile ‹ banking customers later."
Gartner advises banks to measure their ability to meet current customer requirements by analysing the features ranked most highly by consumers in the survey against the capabilities of their own current online banking site. Based on these findings, they should then plan a path to increased personalisation, including features ranked lower in the survey in order to enable the bank to differentiate in the future and meet emerging consumer online banking requirements.
Once new online banking features are available, banks also need to ensure that customers are aware of them ‹ high percentages of consumers surveyed report that they were not aware that the features that they consider very important were available from their bank.