From transacting to engaging

The shift in digital banking.
Image: Supplied

It is run of the mill these days to use electronic fund transfers, tap, transfer, SnapScan and send Instant Money without a second thought. Phones have become digital payment tools and forgetting your card at home is no longer the crisis it was in the past.

In the banking world transacting digitally is no longer questioned and very rarely eyed with suspicion.

However, more and more banking apps and digital tools are transcending mere transacting to become a place where customers engage with their financial services provider and explore their options towards financial inclusion and wealth.

“Being able to transact digitally is now the bare basics of what is required. You need to offer so much more,” says Andrew van der Hoven, head of digital and ecommerce consumer and high-net-worth at Standard Bank Group.

Not the pandemic alone

Standard Bank recently released its engagement statistics for its mobile banking app, which show that it has had 1.2 million unique customers using the explore and help centres since September 2020. This amounts to two million views and more than 5 600 visitors a day.

While Covid-19 and the accompanying restrictions definitely play a role in customers’ reluctance to visit bank branches, Van der Hoven does not believe the increase in numbers is only due to the pandemic.

“Covid might have accelerated the trend, but we have definitely been seeing this change since before it arrived. People are using the app differently: they want to learn, engage and explore. They are not just using it to get their transactions done,” he says.

The Standard Bank App’s ‘help centre’ is an interactive knowledge and self-help platform available to customers.

The data shows that 157 000 customers used the centre’s help cards, which contain 95 how-to guides, 15 videos and 400 FAQs. In total there were 66 000 searches for a topic under the help options, to learn about a feature of a service.

Van der Hoven says the bank is working towards including even more financial literacy and empowerment content in the centre, to further improve the guidance that is available for people to improve their financial lives.

Goal: Unique and customised experience

Apart from the help and explore centres, Standard Bank has also launched an add-on store on its app that is driving engagement. On its website the bank says the goal of this store, which went live in January and has been downloaded 1.6 million times since, is to provide next-level personalisation.

“Personalisation plays a big part in simplifying our lives – think Netflix and Showmax suggestions,” it says.

The store lives and functions within the banking app where customers can then choose different widgets to enhance their app experience. It currently offers eight options, including the bank’s popular Shyft forex app, and a future-payment add-on that factors in a customer’s previous pattern of recurring payments to remind them of predicted upcoming payments in order to manage cash flow.

“The discovery of available add-ons currently uses some basic personalisation such as review scores, but as we improve and add more options – including third-party products and services – this will also get more advanced,” says Van der Hoven.

Who wants to go to the branch?

“The nature of interactions is changing. In the past, banking was a very physical experience and, while transactions and basic banking has moved online, more personal interactions typically remained very much in a branch or voice environment. What we are now seeing is a move towards searching digitally for products and services, reaching out to communities to check reviews, and then buying online in many cases,” Van der Hoven says.

As an example, he points out that over 55% of new lending products are applied for and taken up using digital platforms.

Van der Hoven admits there is still some work to be done, specifically when offering lending products in the digital environment as some customers still prefer an expert in the room when considering incurring debt.

“We need to see what we can do to improve that engagement further beyond sliders on repayment calculations etc. Perhaps through click-to-chat or ‘recommended for you’ tools,” he says.

According to Van der Hoven, a lot of the engagement is coming from South Africa, but as the app is used across 12 different countries, some encouraging growth in engagement is also coming from Ghana, Namibia and Uganda.

Brought to you by Standard Bank.

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