In a post-pandemic world, where the digital experience will be a primary area of differentiation and competition for financial institutions, banks will need to move away from purely transactional digital apps by offering digital experiences that connect with the consumer on an emotional level. Thus, a deeper customer intimacy and engagement will become the new normal of digital banking.
The benefits could be significant. Emotionally connected customers exhibit less price sensitivity, purchase more products, and recommend a given brand more compared to customers who are only highly satisfied. According to the Harvard Business Review, after a major bank introduced a credit card that was designed to inspire emotional connections with holders, its use increased by 70%. Another study showed that emotional connections can increase customer lifetime value up to 800% for financial services firms.
Here are three examples of how banks can build emotional connections via digital banking:
Adding features that “wow” their customers
By introducing unexpected, different or “cool” features into online and mobile banking apps, banks can build emotional connections with their customers. A worthy proponent of this approach is Tesla, which adds unique capabilities to its cars such as dancing door wings that help create emotionally connected brand enthusiasts. Adding a touch of humor in digital banking can also trigger positive emotions from the user. A ubiquitous example of this is the Google Doodle – a witty, interesting, and often-interactive alteration of Google’s logo that changes daily and is designed to induce positive emotions from users.
Connecting with the customer’s lifestyle
By offering digital banking journeys that connect with the customer’s everyday needs, values, and aspirations, banks can elicit a more intimate and emotional engagement with the customer. A great example of this is Flowe, an environmentally friendly challenger bank launched in Italy in 2020. Targeting a younger demographic, Flowe helps customers build a more sustainable future via a range of initiatives, including a debit card made of recycled wood. Flowe’s digital banking app likewise helps the consumer to be more eco-friendly by offering personalized advice and gentle nudges based on the CO2 impact of the user’s transactional behavior. By connecting with the customer’s values and aspirations the way Flowe does, banks can develop a more meaningful and emotional relationship with their customers.
Adding a human touch
Despite the proliferation of mobile devices in today’s digital world, studies have shown that even the most digitally native consumer segments need human interactions and, in many cases, prefer face-to-face communication. Bringing more humanity to the digital banking experience can help banks build stronger emotional connections with customers. According to Deloitte, the merging of digital and real-life experiences is a key component in achieving an excellent overall customer experience. Adding a human touch to the digital experience is achievable by seamlessly enabling access to real-life interactions and communication via audio/video chat or screen sharing and offering easy access to human interactions in digital banking journeys whenever the customer needs it. All of these techniques can significantly improve the overall customer experience while building stronger emotional bonds with customers.
In the future, we might also see the proliferation of digital banking applications that gauge the user’s emotional state. This can be accomplished by integrating emotional AI technology into digital banking. Emotional AI technology measures reactions in real time by analyzing the user’s interaction with a digital app and device—e.g., by tracking mouse cursor movement patterns. This approach can help banks measure the emotions triggered by a digital banking application and optimize the user experience to achieve the desired emotions. We might also one day see emotionally intelligent digital banking applications that can automatically, and in real time, adapt the user experience and digital marketing based on the individual user’s emotional state and reactions measured using emotional AI technology.
As competition in retail banking continues to intensify, differentiation in digital banking is going to be less about features and functional breadth and more about the intimacy and emotional bonds that digital banking applications create with the user. To successfully engineer digital experiences that enable positive emotional bonds, banks will need to adopt a mindset that focuses on emotional engagement and customer intimacy as much as functional superiority. Such prioritization can help banks shift more of their consumers away from transactional relationships to those in which digital experiences create meaningful connections that drive deeper loyalty and more profitable customers.