The website, as bankers know it, is going away. It is likely you think of a website as a static set of electronic pages that reside on a server somewhere just waiting to be viewed. Given the rise of data, personalization and machine learning, that idea is getting quickly dated and a new “cognitive website” is now being tested. Here at CenterState, as we lay plans to update our site, we are starting to recognize that a cognitive site takes two to three years of planning. In this article, we discuss the concept of a cognitive site (to include mobile) and what bankers need to do to start down the path, so they do not end up behind the competition.
The Cognitive Site Concept
While a personalized website is nothing new, a website that is 80%+ customized for a particular person or a particular type of person is. Cognitive websites mean that there is no static set of pages waiting to for viewers, but an infinite set of pages composed of a variety of snapped together pieces of content, products, and design. Like a good banker, the website anticipates a customer’s needs and displays only those pieces that have the highest probability of adding value. Background data is pulled from a bank’s core system, customer relationship management (CRM) system and other repositories of information and then analyzed against current trends to include events, time of day/month/year, geography and other information. The data is then processed and a message is instantly set on how to construct the website.
This is a radically different concept as currently a bank’s website is constructed based on the bank’s needs NOT the customer’s. A cognitive website is optimized to maximize engagement.
Stripping It Down
Cognitive websites excel not for what they show you but what they don’t show you. We can create a much cleaner and much more easily understood bank if it is relevant to you and not to the masses. Why wade through information about the variety of our branches when we already know which branch you bank at and what products you use? If you come to the website, we should be serving you contact information from your “client action team” that is composed of those bankers that are relevant to you.
Beyond just content, the page is relevant to the customer in that not only is the information customized but so is the design including navigation. If the customer has only business accounts, then retail products and services will not show until the relevant time. The same goes for data such as pricing. Gone is the long list of pricing for products and services, as the cognitive website serves up pricing customized for the geography, time, usage and elasticities.
The Hurricane Experience Example
After Hurricane Irma, our website got hit by both customers and non-customers with very specific intent. We tracked this in real-time and saw as people used search engines and navigated our website looking for particular content. Those from the Keys, Naples and Tampa areas wanted information on personal credit product first and then wanted information on payment extensions second and then insurance claims processing. Those in other Florida counties were primarily focused on if certain branches were open, accessing our online banking and sending payments. Meanwhile, those outside of Florida were looking at our investor information (stock information) and any hurricane updates we were posting.
The difference between the intent of the users is not insignificant. Consider the graphic above that shows a 25% increase in interest from normal in customers looking for information about “credit.” That is thousands of people per day that could have had a better experience. Having a cognitive website would have also taken the burden off our branches and call centers freeing those employees up to concentrate on other things instead of the pure dissemination of information.
Beyond hurricanes, year-end tax planning, fourth quarter commercial loans, first quarter savings accounts, cash management, health savings accounts and a variety of other products experience material swings in traffic depending on the time of year, type of customer and metro area.
Serving Relevant Information
Instead of having to post limited information days after a trigger event manually, it would have been better to serve the relevant information up in real-time when customers, and potential customers, need it. Modules, such as videos, checklists and other forms of information, can be ready to go for the next hurricane, event or season and then disappear when less relevant.
What ends up occurring is engagement increases anywhere from 50% (our research) to more than 750% (Experian). In tests by Optimizely, new account openings more than doubled when viewers were served dynamic content that was relevant.
Putting This Into Action
Your web and mobile site is your bank’s most valuable piece of real estate you own. It can cover more businesses and households, more effectively and more efficiently than any other channel the bank has. Banks spend $1 million per year on building a branch and another $1 million per year servicing a branch but balk at a $75,000 investment in new website technology. Personalization and the dynamic serving of relevant content are trends that will accelerate into the future.
While personalized websites are starting to become more pervasive at banks, cognitive websites are now on the horizon. Banks should take steps to head down this path and first understand how powerful a dynamic website can be. This means taking time to understand better what your good customers look like in each product. Then banks need to bring together the relevant customer data from third-party sources, from the bank’s core system and marketing channels such as Google Analytics. This information either needs to be in a central data repository such as a data warehouse or a CRM system.
Once the bank has a plan and the data, then it is a function of either manually creating the “triggers” of what information gets served to who and when or banks can use some of the third-party systems that employ artificial intelligence that will allow the machine to optimize the website’s content.
Cognitive websites can become the best sales channel that a bank has, but this application cannot occur overnight. For this strategic planning session, banks should consider adding a cognitive website to one of their long-term initiatives and create a pathway on how to achieve that goal.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on October 03, 2017