One of the biggest myths in digital account opening is that digital sales will automatically result.

Our experience at Bottomline suggests financial institutions can have varying success – independent of asset size – based on the strategies they use in their account-opening process. Based on our work with hundreds of financial institutions, we’ve developed a best practices checklist of ten strategies that have proven successful. These strategies fall into three main categories:

1. Filling The Sales Funnel

2. Creating an Amazing Experience

3. Removing Friction

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Are you doing everything you can to fill your digital sales funnel with high-quality prospects?

1. Conduct targeted marketing campaigns

While designing marketing campaigns, financial institutions should clearly define the target market, how those customers buy, and where they go for information. Digital marketing should be used where these customers go for information to drive traffic to the bank website. If the top of the sales funnel includes more desirable customers, it will increase the number of qualified applicants and maximize conversion rates (the percentage of applicants who complete the application once they start).

2. Make it easy to take the next step

It should be easy for website visitors to find what they need quickly or they will lose interest and look elsewhere. The Gutenberg diagram is a well-documented theory that describes how individuals read information – not surprisingly, content at the top of the page receives the most attention.

To increase the number of new account applicants, financial institutions should create a highly visible “Open an Account” button at the top of the page so that visitors find it quickly and act. They also need to make the most important content on the page LOOK important – using large font and colors that will make the call to action stand out.

Banks must invest in digital channels but they cannot continue to innovate at the same pace. New Platform-as-a-Service technology allows banks to combine the economic benefits of SaaS applications without sacrificing the ability to differentiate themselves through configuration and self-service innovation tools.

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3. Don't limit digital account-opening technology to digital channels

Institutions can use digital technology in a variety of places to generate new sales. In the hands of sales reps in the branch or out in the community, digital technology can modernize the customer experience. Many institutions we work with are looking to leverage digital technology in traditional channels such as branches and call centers. One institution shared in a recent financial institution forum that the digital application process was actually being used by their call center customer support team when cross-selling to existing customers because it is faster and easier.

4. Make it mobile

To be successful with mobile applicants, institutions should ensure their website for account opening is properly designed. A mobile responsive site will automatically resize to fit any device and increase the rate of completed applications.

5. Don't make your customers go to the branch

One of the worst things financial institutions can do is force an online account opening applicant to go into the branch to complete the process. Instead, they need to consider these best practices:

Applicants should see a list of required documents BEFORE they begin, and should be able to save their application in case they are interrupted or need more time.

Institutions should perform identity verification and qualification in real-time. They should use easy document uploads, mobile photo capture, and e-signatures to avoid the need for physical paper to be brought to the branch.

Fully integrate the account-opening process with the core banking system allowing the account to be opened and funded immediately.

6. Cross-sell at the point of purchase

While customers are already shopping, banks and credit unions need to make it easy for customers and prospects to say YES to complementary product offers. While cross-sell in banking should become an ongoing part of the institution’s DNA, it is much easier to cross-sell at the point of purchase.

7. Avoid unnecessary steps

While institutions SHOULD take the time to cross-sell additional products, they should NOT ask for any “nice to have” information that is not really needed. This just slows down the process and increases the risk that applicants won’t finish.

8. Re-think your identity verification and qualification process

One of the most common areas where applicants get stuck is with identity verification – sometimes applicants haven’t had time to build up a long credit history, for example.

In a recent webinar with BankNews, TCF Bank cited that using identity verification information from multiple sources helped them do a better job with students and other good applicants with shorter credit histories. Says TCF “It was one of the biggest drivers of improvement in our conversion rates.”

9. Make account funding easy

Another area that sometimes creates problems for financial institutions and applicants alike is how to easily fund the new account. Electronic methods such as ACH or Cards can be leveraged to make it simple and fast for your new customers to fund their accounts.

70% Of the 1,000,000 applications Bottomline enables each year, at least 70% of new checking accounts are funded with debit or credit cards.

To minimize risk, banks can also use instant account verification to confirm – in real-time - that the applicant owns the account from which they are moving funds.

10. Use analytics to benchmark your process

Unfortunately, not every applicant who starts an application becomes a new customer. Sometimes this is for good reasons because the applicant doesn’t qualify or isn’t who they say they are. Sometimes, however, applicants stop the process because it is not fast or easy. Financial institutions can use detailed analytics and dashboards that show the overall health of the process. This data can show where applicants are dropping and why, and allow the bank or credit union to adjust their process and get better results.

Why it Matters

At least 40% of digital applicants are done on a mobile device, based on Bottomline’s experience with hundreds of institutions

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