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Digital Divide in Finance: Bridging the Gap

February 14th, 2020
Digital Divide in Finance: Bridging the Gap

In general, the idea of a digital divide isn’t new. Even before the turn of the century, computer science experts were bracing for an existing gap to grow wider as technology progressed. While the term initially referred to those who didn’t have access to tech, the digital divide now includes those who have access but don’t make the most of the technological resources available, and the banking and finance industry remains perilously close to the edge of the abyss. With two decades into the 21st Century under our belts, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. The reality of success for financial institutions now and moving forward centers on not just accepting digital solutions and adding a few to the list of services and perks, but also taking the initiative to develop cutting edge technology.

A Good Start

More and more, consumers are embracing tech solutions that make life easier. In fact, Statista numbers show that the U.S. has over 57 million mobile banking users. And that’s obviously not just the youngest adult generation. While the majority of millennials (97 percent) report using mobile banking, 79 percent of baby boomers and 91 percent of Gen Xers say they take advantage of banking tech, too.

It’s true that mobile banking improves the customer experience but it’s not enough to offer an app and call it good. Financial institutions not only need to digitize, but also ensure customers have a smooth and consistent experience across the board. Ideally, all services, including deposits, transfers, loan applications, credit and debit card services, certificates of deposit, statements and reports, and bookkeeping software integration, to name a few, should be available online and on apps as well as at the brick-and-mortar branch.

Additionally, when systems play well with each other, it makes a huge impact on customer satisfaction . For example, a customer might be able to apply for a loan in the app as easily as at the branch or on the website. if questions come up, the system could save the information so the process can be picked up where it was left off and, if it’s necessary to complete things in person, the branch would be able to access all the info, saving the customer the trouble of doing additional paperwork. The bottom line is that customers at some of your competitors are be able to move through the system, from one area to another, easily, and seamlessly.

Also, the way to engage existing and potential clients is digital these days, too. Advertising has always been about getting your message in front of people where they are and, today, existing and potential customers can be found in many places other than reading traditional newspapers or watching network TV. Social media is a smart bet in the digital era, and having a presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are a necessity, but those are only a few of the places where financial institutions can get their message out.

Staying Ahead of the Pack

Most financial institutions have gotten on board with mobile banking and are offering basic services. However, institutions that want to remain successful and in the running will be the ambitious ones that develop proprietary apps and software instead of implementing a version of what others are already doing. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have an in-house tech development department, however. Implementing a turn-key solution can be just as effective as building your own program provided that, a) the software or app adds value for the customer, b) your brand is represented consistently in the application design and overall customer experience and, c) the new program plays nicely with your other legacy programs so the experience isn’t disjointed from one channel to the next.

A Citizens Community Bank Case Study offers a case in point. The bank was seeing high drop-off rates when it came to student loan applications. The lengthy process and multiple steps that included numerous phone calls and emails was a turn-off, so CCB implemented a messaging solution that works similar to a social media feed that keeps applicants connected and in the loop on the status of their loan application. The result was an increase of 10 percent in completed loans and the time to complete an application was reduced by an amazing 40 percent. Financial institutions that have the capability to identify weak links in their services and processes as well as the means to develop a solution are the ones that will attract customers and stay ahead of the competition.

Using Available Resources

Most financial institutions offer some form of mobile banking and most have cultivated a social media presence but we’re seeing that customer expectations are being driven by the extraordinary personalization offered by non-banking companies such as Google and Amazon. In order to provide the experience your target customer base demands—especially millennial and Gen Y customers—best in class banks and credit unions will be quicker to embrace new technology to bridge the digital divide, providing timely, valuable services and reaching out to target audiences where they are now, as well as anticipate where they’ll be tomorrow.

That might sound like a tall order, but it all starts with understanding who your customer is, what they need, and where they are. Fortunately, Avannis can help you find that information. Our comprehensive customer surveys gather the data you need and our extensive collection of online tools and expertise create a precise profile of your ideal client, what they need, and how and where to reach them. Armed with that info, you’ll be able to provide an experience that will increase your customer base along with satisfaction and loyalty. Contact us today to get a head start on the competition.