Everybody knows that improving product usability and making sure it lives up to the needs of the customers helps to significantly increase demand and sky-rocket referrals. But not many are aware that these amazing results cover only a small part of the true power that UX design can bring to any company.
A shorter version of this article was originally published on Forbes.com
We often hear about new Fintechs skyrocketing their customer base. They work hard on product usability, ensuring it delivers the best banking experience (UX). But, this covers only a small part of the true power that financial UX design brings to Fintech challengers and digitally advanced banks.
I have compiled the top 10 ways, based on my experience as a UX strategist and the CEO of UXDA, that demonstrate how Fintechs and progressively thinking financial brands uncover amazing possibilities by implementing the power of UX not only into app development but also into a company's DNA.
1. View design as a methodology, not a package
Digital-First thinking: design is a customer-centered business approach
Industrial Age thinking: design is a package
There's an outdated belief in the financial industry that design is an eye-catching marketing tool to trick customers into buying. Things have changed in the digital age; now design ensures the success of the financial brands through a customer-centered business approach.
Fintechs and progressive banks put the customer at the center of all business processes, starting from production to the way the team thinks and acts, thus creating benefit to customers and making the world a better place.
To realize their full potential, Fintechs and progressive banks know that design is not a tool, it is a process that involves the whole team of the company in seeking and executing innovative ideas on how to solve customer problems. It's an approach for creating demanded digital products that would live up to the customer’s needs and expectations.
- Business model that puts the processes of user-centricity first;
- Team of UX experts who are qualified to execute the business idea and make sure it will truly bring value to the customers;
- Right actions executed by the UX experts who are able to impact in-depth processes of the financial company;
- Correct criteria to evaluate the results the team is producing - whether the focus is on the packaging or delivering exceptional experience;
- The materialization of the unique Value the financial app will provide to the customers, turning the brand into a success story.
2. Increase the scope of UX design influence
Digital-First thinking: designers are UX facilitators, empowering business processes
Industrial Age thinking: designers create only the top coat of the product
The skills and expertise of the world's best UX designers and experts would be worthless if their influence is limited to visual appearance. To empower the design potential of Financial companies, UX experts become design facilitators, implementing user-centered thinking into every process of the company, coaching employees to become customer advocates.
Fintechs and progressive banks empower the design potential through outsourced design competence like experienced financial design consultants, agencies and coaches.
This helps them to create great products from the user perspective but also provide an opportunity to enhance the financial brand's culture and expand internal expertise.
Design Thinking in banking
3. Challenge the legacy
Digital-First thinking: agile, flexible and quickly adapting to future rules
Industrial Age thinking: relying on past success
The new age requires the ability to adapt quickly. The recent COVID-19 crisis was a clear example of it. Those who reacted bravely managed to keep their clients, while others that were stuck in protecting their legacy failed.
The explosive growth of the Fintech customer base depends on their ability to remove obsolete practices and adopt a new, user-centered approach to doing business by adjusting to growing customer needs and digital tendencies.
Incumbents are often focused on protecting their legacy and maintaining the corporate image. That's why any new changes may come slowly and painfully. It is self-evident that this legacy is holding them back. That's the reason why even implementing new technologies doesn't save incumbents from losing clients.
Meanwhile, successful financial brands challenge legacies and encourage their teams to step out of the box.
The design approach guides their teams through the necessary methods and tools. This way, the company's employees aren't wasting their energy on protecting the market share of an unsuccessful product but, rather, focus on designing a financial product that exceeds user expectations, guarantees customer loyalty and leads to an organic increase in popularity without spending enormous marketing budgets.
Fintechs and progressive banks are completely immersed in the customer’s problem to find the best solution. They are aware of the complexity of the task and fears that naturally go with it, but these companies know that legacy holds them back, that's why they gather all of their courage to step over it.
4. Switch from fragmentation to ecosystem
Digital-First thinking: developing a holistic ecosystem
Industrial Age thinking: developing products separately
A mistake that many incumbents make is that they try to digitize their products separately. Having different departments each working on their own product creates fragmentation. This leads to a broken customer experience as users perceive the experience of banking services as a holistic flow, not separate elements.
To avoid this, the employees of progressive financial brands work side-by-side to improve the customer experience that connects all of their products into a united, user-friendly ecosystem.
Successful financial brands ensure a victorious digital transformation by creating and developing a united digital banking ecosystem that ensures a smooth, connected flow of a delightful experience that the customers expect.
A practical way to make this happen is to create a complete UX/UI design system . It ensures that everyone working on the ecosystem products are on the same page and can easily develop consistent digital solutions in their specific field of responsibility. Most importantly, in this way the customer will be able to enjoy the end result as all banking products will have the same intuitive and user-friendly principles of functioning.
Banking UX/UI design system
5. Put UX research first
Digital-First thinking: the main focus is on the users
Industrial Age thinking: the main focus is on products
Successful financial companies know that mobile banking apps created without proper user research often fail, because it's not possible to address market needs if there's no knowledge about the user problems.
Fintechs and progressive banks invest a lot of time and money in research, data analysis, information architecture and product improvement.
They always start with user research and user experience engineering before building the product. They constantly explore users' feedback thus finding a lot about the pain points of their customers and are constantly improving those. The executives and employees regularly discuss customer reviews and actively ask their opinion to gain insights about customer needs and pains, and seek ways how the product can solve them.
Successful financial brands know that great digital products are created through a deep understanding of the end customers, attention to their needs and a well-organized design process.
6. Provide a unique value proposition
Digital-First thinking: creates an authentic value
Industrial Age thinking: believes that one size fits all
What is the “WHY” behind financial services? A lot of incumbents make a profit that doesn't address the customer's needs.
To save their business from the highly competitive “red ocean,” Fintechs and progressive financial brands are authentic. They define the weak points of their competitors and address customers’ pains in a way that enriches their daily lives.
The marketing thinking “one size fits all” is long gone. Unique solutions create emotions. And emotions drive the value of the product and the loyalty of the clients, resulting in conversion.
Successful financial brands are always looking for their own way to excel amongst competitors, to deliver a uniquely delightful experience.
This is possible by carefully empathizing with the users and analyzing the competitor’s mistakes and successes.
7. Drop the obsession with functionality
Digital-First thinking: aims for fewer functions that better match the users’ needs
Industrial Age thinking: thinks that the more functions, the better
For many incumbents, featuring sometimes feels like an obsession. They believe the more features, the greater the probability of product success. Actually, it's the opposite.
Digital-first financial brands know that too many options confuse the customer and cause decision paralysis. They don't make customers think, providing them with a solution instead.
They strive for a simple to use product and avoid over featurizing because that confuses users. These kind of company's carefully evaluate all the features and get rid of those that have no value for the user.
Users don't come to the financial brand because of the hundreds of options it offers. They have a specific goal in mind that the product or service helps to achieve.
Here it's important to carefully evaluate all the features and eliminate those that have no value for the user.
8. Measure result by quality not quantity
Digital-First thinking: measures results by the value that design brings to the customers
Industrial Age thinking: counts design deliverables
Success depends on how it's measured. Some incumbents often focus on the number of interface screens designed per day.
Fintechs and progressive banks focus on intuitive banking experiences and think carefully about every element on each screen.
The product quality of incumbents might be sacrificed for speed and quantity. This might seem like a win in the short term, but, in the long term, the support team starts receiving thousands of calls about similar struggles.
Fintechs and progressive banks are ready to sacrifice delivery speed to gain best quality. Their service designers and architects think through every tiny detail, even if it slows the overall design process.
Successful financial brands know that the correct outcome criteria define the level of value a product is able to provide for the users. It's not the number of screens that is important, it is the quality of the screens.
Often, a clever and user-centered architecture of a digital product can significantly reduce the number of screens, while increasing user satisfaction.
Only the compliance of the financial product design with the key user scenarios can make it more understandable and enjoyable for the customers. Naturally, it requires the investment of more time and resources into analysis, research and UX architecture. Therefore, it is very important that this process is carried out by experienced specialists.
9. Focus on emotions instead of information
Digital-First thinking: ensure an emotional connection with customers
Industrial Age thinking: focus on advertising and information
Emotions make customers loyal to the financial brands they choose. To connect with customers on an emotional level, digital-first financial companies provide personalized attitude and a delightful experience, demonstrating that they care about their customers.
Users forget information but remember experiences, and experiences are created from emotions. That's why Fintechs and progressive banks integrate information into a context of usage, so it becomes an organic part of the banking user experience.
To achieve this, they focus on emotions that the brand itself and the product delivers, using intuitive information architecture and a delightful UX design to manage it. They use customer experience design methodology to explore their users and connect with them emotionally.
10. Invest more in customer experience than in marketing
Digital-First thinking: focus on how to serve customers
Industrial Age thinking: focus on how to make more profit
There are two strategies to attract digital customers. Incumbents tend to focus all efforts on marketing and large-scale advertising campaigns.
Progressive banks and Fintechs create a value-based community around an outstanding brand experience.
“Win-win” scenarios in which the main aim is to help customers, instead of manipulating them, will pay off with customer loyalty and referrals.
Making human-centricity a cornerstone of the financial company values and culture, makes the service a magnet that attracts customers and ensures the financial brand's success.
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