Whilst digital technologies can bring convenience and more control to banking services, it's also arguable that the advent of online financial services has distanced the customer's relationship with the bank. Gone are the days of knowing your banking manager in your local branch who guides you through the big finance decisions throughout your life and in comes the age of impersonal apps and chatbots.
However, NatWest Group, a major UK retail and commercial bank, is looking to reverse this trend and is using data and tools from Adobe to personalise content, deliver relevant messages at the right time, and deepen the one-to-one relationships between the bank and customer online.
NatWest Group has close to 8 million personal customers, nearly 1 million small business accounts and has revenues of close to £15 billion.
Fergus McIntosh, head of digital sales and services at NatWest Group, was speaking at Adobe's Experience Makers Live virtual event this month, where he spoke to the importance of working on that all important customer relationship. He said:
It might be a bit odd for a banker to be talking about relationships that last forever, as we are not particularly famed for being well liked. However, an interesting stat that I always find quite surprising is that you're more likely to change your marriage than you are your bank account. I think the average marriage in the UK lasts about 11 years and the average current account relationship lasts over 14.
Banking really does have an important part to play in long term relationships. The real risk there though being a data led business now, is you lose the depth of that one-to-one relationship. And that's what my team is here to protect against really, which is to establish great customer relationships using data and content at the points when customers most need it.
McIntosh said that this isn't easy and that NatWest is operating in a crowded digital space. For context, he said, the average human processes approximately 34 gigabytes of data per day, which equates to about 100,000 words. Of those 100,000 words NatWest needs to deliver a 20 or 30 word message that will be remembered or acted upon, amongst the rest of the noise. McIntosh said that this comes down to two key ideas.
The answer is probably in a combination of things, but broadly two themes: the quality of your data to determine the right person and time to execute the message. And just as important, or more importantly perhaps, the quality for the message or the UX. How compelling is your nudge to change the customer behaviour? And is it out of the blue or part of an ongoing conversation?
So we've been on a digital journey for a number of years now. And it's helped us make some really big shifts in key areas. We've gone from static content rarely updated, at which point we moved into our Adobe relationship, allowing for a huge increase in content quality and quantity, to beginning to design for the majority, executing multivariante tests with a great degree of success. And during these stages, we've had a really big and fundamental shift against our business model.
We took our digital sales percentage from the low 30% at the start of this journey to now into the mid to high 50% of our sales done digitally. And for a traditional face-to-face bank, we're very pleased with that transition. And it's very much led by our focus on the experience and the way in which we use content to determine an outcome.
NatWest admits that it hasn't yet achieved the idea of ‘one to one experiences' at scale online, but is in the midst of a process of exploring how it can use data from on and offline channels to replace, with the same effective, old face to face relationships.
For example, the bank is using data across all of its digital customer journeys - where it has about 120 million customer interactions on its online sites and services each day. This could be customers logging into a secure environment, making a payment, checking a balance, or just coming to the NatWest website. McIntosh said:
It gives us a huge amount of data and we use that into the Adobe stack to allow us to just tailor content based on what you've done that day or when you revisit the site, we can alter the content respectively.
One example of how this data is being used within Adobe is the personalisation of NatWest home pages and logout pages. So the first page a customer visits on the site, or the last page they visit on the site, will be targeted with changing content using logged in data. McIntosh said that this is contributing to approximately 37,000 needs being met per month, which is in the region of 10-15% of overall customer sales.
In addition to this, NatWest sends in the region of 250,000 emails per month out of Adobe Campaign. These are trigger based emails, which are sent out when a customer gets stuck during a journey or doesn't quite complete a journey. NatWest follows up with these customers, in context, in near enough real-time. It allows the customer to come back where they left off and contributes to approximately 1,000 sales per month.
However, McIntosh states that these things are essentially the bare minimum of what a digital business should be doing. The more complex achievements NatWest has made include dynamic landing pages and its use of artificial intelligence. On the former, he explained:
Using dynamic landing pages, our tests have shown that doing this well has led on average to 120% improvement in our conversion. What we mean by that is if our customers are using things like aggregators or affiliates, we can take the information that they have used on that site and bring that forward onto the website. And similarly we do that in our secure environment.
We surface data that we have about you in our online banking or mobile banking experiences to give you a lending decision before you've applied. Taking the worry or the speculation out of applying for products with us and trying to be far more proactive. This is a really powerful tool for us, surfacing the data that the customer is nervous about. We are trying to flip the relationship and proactively tell them what they will get.
In addition, NatWest is making use of Adobe's Sensei Brain AI tool to understand how presenting content in different ways and formats can have an impact on customer decision making. McIntosh explained:
We are really early on in the journey here and you almost feel a little sheepish talking about it because it sounds so simple. What we're doing here is reordering existing content, so it displays in a slightly different way: in a row or a table. So that you might see one bit of content earlier than the other. It's so simple, but we are adding on average here across our savings and loans estates, about 125 extra loans completed and about 450 additional savings per month. It's very complicated in the back end, but that's what we let Sensei do the job for.