The Co-operative Bank has topped a review of how well UK retail financial services Web sites sell services and products, with Yorkshire Bank bottom of the pile.
The report, from research house Forrester, ranks the Web sites of the ten largest UK retail banking brands based on the results of a benchmark using a test persona to research and apply for a particular product, taking in 25 content and functionality criteria.
Out of a possible 100, the Co-op scores 64 points, with its site doing "well in supporting the user both in researching and in applying for a current account online".
The site excels in attracting customers with effective campaigns and provides well structured and complete product information and educational content. It also earns a high score in post-application support by providing detailed information on the next steps, both online and via e-mail.
Natwest claims second spot with a score of 59, followed by Santander on 57, Barclays 53, Lloyds TSB 51, Halifax 50, first direct 47, HSBC 43, Nationwide 36 and Yorkshire Bank on a lowly 15.
No Web site is good across the board, says Forrester, with banks that provide excellent content and functionality in some areas fail to meet the standards in other aspects.
First direct, for example, does well at attracting users and providing product information but "is surprisingly weak for a direct bank in supporting product applications". Santander's site is good in the attraction phase and also does well in supporting the application for a current account "but fails to provide clear and well-structured product information, comparisons, or selection tools".
There is a clear incentive for banks to improve their sites because, says Forrester, almost 60% of British Net users have researched a financial product online in the past 12 months, more than in any other European country. In addition, 40% have applied for a financial product online in the past year, double the European average.
Vanessa Niemeyer, report author, says: "Although UK customers are among the most likely anywhere in the world to research and buy financial products online, the nation's retail banks have been oddly slow to develop world-class Web sites. The Co-operative Bank tops our review because it supports users who want to research and buy a current account in all phases of the customer journey."