5 Key Takeaways for Building Successful User-Centered Financial Experiences

person paying with a credit card

Posted by AnswerLab Research on May 16, 2024

“Digital wallets, mobile app solutions, and digital budgeting tools are more popular than ever, driving competition amongst traditional and neo-banks alike. But it’s important to strike a balance between investing in new ideas and perfecting the basics.” - Michelle Teaford Wojcik, UX Researcher

Last week, AnswerLab hosted an in-person panel event featuring experts from our Financial Services team. Speaking to a room of industry leaders, our panelists shared original research insights on mobile consumer banking, talked about the benefits of mixed methods research, and discussed trends and patterns we’re seeing across the financial services industry.

Additionally, attendees shared perspectives and asked questions of their own: How do we keep doing more with less? How do you balance various prioritization needs? How do we pitch benchmarking and when should we bring in other methods to round out our research? Read on for our top 5 takeaways in case you missed out. 

Don’t Overlook the Fundamentals for the Sake of Innovation

Before investing in new ideas, it’s important to perfect the basics. Ensuring fundamental tasks—recurring transfers, bill pay, automatic payments, and notification alerts—are not only seamless but also exceed users' expectations is the key to building a positive and lasting relationship with customers. 

Get the table stakes right first and prioritize ongoing testing, as users care about the core functionality above all, especially as they look for one-stop-shop experiences. Just because we want to do it all, doesn’t mean we should do it at the expense of the user experience. Finding this balance is particularly tricky, but intentional research can help you prioritize what kinds of innovation and new features will truly make a difference for users.

“Users aren’t expecting for their banks to be consumed with innovation, but they are expecting innovative solutions. When it comes to business banking, we see a juxtaposition of extremes. They want hands-on personal treatment just as much as they want AI-supported self-service.”
- Joseph Friedman, Research Manager

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Doing More with Less - How Research Repositories Can Help

With the need to do more with less in a challenging economic landscape, research repositories can help you prioritize your highest ROI research by committing to new research that really matters.

Starting your repository may seem like a daunting task, but try utilizing a tool you already use, like Confluence or Airtable, to keep track of the project information—when it was conducted, topics, who worked on it—and link to any reports. 

Next, designate someone to own it and figure out ways to automate the process of updating it. This could be a great option for a more junior researcher or associate—you don’t have to be a research expert to be an expert in the research. Then, utilize automation where you can. For example, when a project is finished, set up an automatic Slack message with a project wrap-up list and a task to add it to the repository. 

>> Building a Research Repository? Here’s What You Need to Know

Bridging the Gap Between Research Insights and Product Prioritization

When conducting UX research, it’s a good idea to understand the roles involved and aim to be as collaborative as possible. The UX Researcher wants to make the product as useful as possible, but the Project Manager may need to make the product as successful as possible. While these goals are often symbiotic, they don’t always align so clearly.

The more understanding the UX researcher has of the product roadmap and technical limitations, the better they’ll be able to hone in on actionable recommendations. Teams can work together and pivot when necessary to ensure they’re making realistic and impactful recommendations based on the research findings. 


The Race to One-Stop-Shops

Many banks are expanding their services to be more all-encompassing for their users, sometimes through acquisitions or by building new parts of the business. “Doing it all” can sometimes be at the expense of the user experience, but UX research can help with the transition. 

As digital products grow and change, they can actually create a negative impact on how easy it is to use. As you become a one-stop shop, keep testing everything - as often as you can - to ensure you’re keeping up with the experience of what it’s like to really use these new offerings for your customers. Additionally, when expanding services, foundational research can help you identify what it would take to win more of your users’ wallet and if you can realistically offer it. 

“We’ve always known that switching financial institutions is a pain for users, but it’s less true now that everything is digital - branch and ATM locations are far less important. Users will say that a one-stop-shop for consolidating their finances is appealing, but they also say they need more than that to switch.” - Molly Kessler, Senior Research Manager

Mix it up with Mixed Methods or In-person Research

Research and Product teams have countless research methodologies in their toolkit to get the most impactful insights, but sometimes, we see teams relying on the same tried-and-true methods over and over again, whether that’s purely qualitative sessions or big quantitative data samples.

When you need to really dive in, try employing a mixed-methods approach. By combining quant and qual, you gain a comprehensive understanding of user interactions, enabling you to make more informed and data-driven decisions.

With some banking tasks, like setting up bill pay or interpreting budget tools, pure quantitative surveys and unmoderated studies can be a bit misleading, as these tasks are often very subjective and complex. Starting with the big picture and drilling down into the why can give you that critical added perspective.

In-person research can also be an underutilized tool. In the last few years, we all grew accustomed to conducting exclusively remote research, and while there are many benefits, sometimes conducting research in person can give you added context. With these studies, the researcher is able to observe how people hold and use their mobile devices, capture hand gestures, and observe nuanced movements or frustrations that you can’t always witness in remote sessions, adding a ton of value to the insights. 

>> Case Study: Streamlining Development Pre-Launch - Mixed Methods In-Person UX Research

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Meeting the Demand for AI

Don’t worry—we know we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention AI. One of our attendees asked: If we haven’t built the technology behind our AI features and products yet, how can we test them?

UX Research can help you test for AI with creative solutions. We can always test a product with static images or sketches of your idea to get low-effort feedback from users. But we have a few methodologies that would be perfect in this scenario. 

First, try competitive analysis and testing. See what’s out there and how users perceive it, watch them use it, and look for pain points. Use those findings to better plan what you’d like to do in the future. Second, is a methodology called “Wizard of Oz Testing”, in which the user thinks they are interacting with AI, but it’s actually a person “behind the curtain” pretending to be the AI interface, typing in or pasting in responses to see how the user reacts.

>> Case Study: Accessible AI Chatbots - Testing Customer Support for Accessibility


Discover what’s happening behind the login screen of national banks' apps by accessing this syndicated research report based on expert research conducted by AnswerLab - Syndicated Research Report: Mobile Consumer Banking

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AnswerLab Research

The AnswerLab research team collaborates on articles to bring you the latest UX trends and best practices.

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