UK banks' online sales efforts fall flat

UK banks' online sales efforts fall flat

While financial services firms encourage consumers to apply for products via the Web, none of the UK's top six banks and building societies provide site visitors with strong content and functionality for researching and applying for credit cards, according to a new report by Forrester Research.

Tim van Tongeren, associate analyst at Forrester Research, says over the past 12 months, four million UK consumers have researched credit card offers on the Web, and a third of total credit applications - two million - have been made online.

But a survey of Web sites belonging to Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, NatWest, and the UK's largest building society Nationwide found that each failed to provide enough information and functionality to enable customers to apply for cards online.

"As consumers visit multiple Web sites, it is vitally important for UK banks to create a compelling user experience at their sites and get their credit card offering right," says van Tongeren. "They need to anticipate the user's goals, make essential content available to make product decisions, ensure that users can contact them online or offline for reassurance, highlight company benefits and service advantages, and, most importantly, the application process has to be quick, easy, and result in an instant decision."

For the study, Web sites belonging to the selected banks were assessed against 21 criteria across five categories - presentation, navigation, contact methods, research functionality and content.

Each institution was given a score out of 100, with 50 being the minimum level Forrester believes each should provide. Out off all the banks, only the Lloyds TSB site scored more than 50. But Forrester says best practices within the five main categories were discovered - for example, NatWest received 90 out of 100 for its contact methods.

Overall Lloyds TSB's site was found to be the leader, scoring 58 points - eight higher than Forrester's minimum requirement. The site stood out in two main categories - Web site presentation and contact methods.

Barclays came in second with 49 points, but failed to meet the minimum requirement score of 50 as its online application functionality and navigation let it down. Users also have to survive a confusing switch from the main Barclays Bank site to credit card subsidiary Barclaycard to continue their journey.

HSBC comes in last with 38 points - failing to meet the requirements in all five categories, especially in presenting essential content and functionality.

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