The largest appeal of many community banks is that they have all the capabilities of national financial institutions without all the bureaucracy that gets in the way of customer service. But that means you have to keep up with everything a bigger bank has to offer, and their latest competitive advantage is the virtual branch. However, once your community bank implements a solid virtual branch, you’ll have the competitive advantage of feeling like a bigger bank while your brick and mortar is right around the corner.
Utilize a Bank-Specific Website Platform
Many community banks choose a simple website platform with limited functionality because that’s the easiest for their team to update. Unfortunately, that comes with the sacrifice of fluid user experience because the website will often need to link out to third-party vendors for functions like online banking.
We recommend choosing a website development team that has banking-specific solutions. This creates a better user experience by being more cohesive and it’s also easier for you. When you work with one vendor for all your online solutions, it’s much simpler to manage the project while balancing your everyday responsibilities at the bank.
Adjust Your Navigation for User Experience
All too often we see banks who want to replicate a website that they like, without considering how a first-time user is going to navigate the site. Even though you probably have your website memorized at this point and you’re ready to get fancy for the sake of switching things up, take a moment to think about how easy it’ll be for a customer to execute the action you want them to take. If the goal is to open more checking accounts, don’t bury the Checking page under several categories in the main navigation menu. Or if the goal is to generate more home loan applications, let someone find the application on the home loan page. Don’t make them click to another page and then click again before they can start the application, they’re likely to abandon the process altogether before they get there.
A few tips for good website navigation:
- Keep the naming conventions basic
- Order pages from left to right by your business goals
- Place personal banking before the about us page because personal banking is going to generate more revenue
- Make the main menu simple by limiting the categories featured to the most important ones
- Try to organize the site structure so that every page is only one or two clicks away from the home page
Make It a Comprehensive Online Experience
A best practice for the virtual branch is to keep every part of the process online and eliminate as much of the paper trail and in-person visits as possible. If someone needs to open an account or apply for a loan by filling out a paper form, it’s not really a virtual branch experience anymore. Think about all the steps from start to finish and try to implement as many online processes as you can.
These are the online processes we implement the most for banks looking to go digital:
- Account opening
- Loan applications
- Appointment scheduling
Engage Your Community
Lastly, make sure everyone knows about the virtual services offered on your website. Make it fun by engaging your community online with social posts and highlight customers in your newsletter. When your community is involved, word will spread that your bank is just as convenient as a national brand.
FGM Forbin is a WBA Bronze Associate Member.