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Designing to be ahead of the curve

Ben Dickens, March 11, 2016

Digital design, why standing out could be the best thing you ever do.

This week we discuss digital design with particular emphasis on the Financial services sector. We argue why it’s so important to stand out and eschew the bland template driven design that has pervaded the internet of late.

The Financial Services (FS) sector is in flux. Technology has changed behaviour and many players in the space have been slow to align marketing and sales efforts around the customer journey. The telephone call or face to face meeting is rarely the first interaction a potential customer has with a brand anymore, regardless of their products and services, consumer or b2b focus. This is a clear departure from the linear sales funnel that many organisations have historically based their marketing and sales efforts around. In this article from McKinsey they highlight significant waste in marketing spend by companies not aligning their activity to the customer journey.

So why is design so important in all this?

Well it’s simple really. We’re in the digital age, the first interaction a potential customer has with your brand is rarely with a person. They are forming an impression of your business based on what they interact online with – an ad, content, your website. The impression is formed by the sum of those initial engagements, good or bad. If the design, both visual and interactive, is bad then the experience is invariably bad and it’s highly likely you’ll never have an opportunity to convince them otherwise.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition versus the people and their smart business addresses, but the overall experience is eroded by their work in digital, which is very often formulaic with little importance placed upon it. Bad design and an ill conceived brand that lacks differentiation creates a negative emotional response. Is this how you want your company to be perceived?

Digital has a huge part to play, whether these brands have budget for TV or not, digital will form a part of the customer’s journey. This is unavoidable, it’s simply the way the world works these days. Within the digital space there are three creative elements at play, visual, interactive design, and content. Digital is actually a catch-all for a variety of channels. Some you own, some you pay for, but all need to be aligned with your brand. It’s simply not enough for your digital presence to have your logo and colour scheme, it’s an imperative that the whole package, the way it looks, the way it behaves and the way it communicates, all aligns to your brand.

A change in behaviour driven by digital should have been a real wake up call, but that still seems not to be the case. We suspect this is mainly driven by a lack of understanding, especially when marketing has historically been less of a factor. It’s understandable, in the old linear world, face to face interactions happened much earlier in a customer journey – referrals and networking drove new business. Websites were just an expense as they didn’t have a perceived effect. Ah, the good old days. Well not anymore.

And it’s not just the incumbents who are getting it wrong, in this article by Marketing Eye they highlight the mistakes being made by new entrants in the space. These tend to favour safe design, something the sector does well. But put simply, consumers don’t buy into safe and generic. Not anymore. Whether you’re new on the block or an old hat in an increasingly competitive climate, differentiating your brand is key to success. To do that you need good design.

If you’ve read this thinking “that’s great but it won’t affect us” then you need to have a change of heart, because someone will come along who understands the art of good design and all of a sudden you’ll be looking for another job. It’s absolutely the right time to think about how your brand is perceived, as consumers are re-evaluating their relationships with financial institutions. Don’t believe us? Well in a 2013 YouGov survey 73% of responders believed the reputation of bankers was bad. Time to check up on how your brand is being perceived then.

For an overview of our creative services you can read more, here. If you’d like to discuss with us how we can help shape your customer experience, stop wasting money and get the results you want then give us a call, 020 3771 2461 or email us.

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