Retailers are training consumers to have higher expectations of banks

Top takeaways from the Simple presentation at ABA HiX Conference


“Great retailers not only have better products, but they’re training consumers to have higher expectations. They’re training people that they can get anything they want, at any time, anywhere in the world.”

Thoughts from Marketing Director at Simple Scott Edwards’ keynote presentation at last week’s American Bankers Association Marketing and Retail Conference Higher Expectations.


Everything at Simple is designed to drive out complexity and make sense to the customer. From product design to marketing to customer service, each move is made by considering the customer’s point of view, not necessarily the bank’s view.

By describing Simple’s processes and the logic behind each of them, Edwards’ presentation gives big insights to bank marketers challenged with meeting the growing expectations of their customers.

Top takeaways:

Passphrase and mobile unlock code

When creating an account, customers are able to choose a “passphrase” — a phrase with words separated by spaces, rather than a commonly used one word password. After customers are initially logged in to the app using that passphrase, they simply enter a 4-digit “mobile unlock code” each time they revisit the app.

This is designed very similar to how customers already interact with their phones every day — they slide and unlock with a 4-digit “passcode.” Not a 4-digit “pin” and not a 6+ digit password with $peciaL characters.

It’s a small, yet perfect example of designing for the customer, not the bank.

iPhone login screen & Simple login screen

“It’s no longer my bank app. It’s my app.”

Notice the selfie on the login screen too? From pictures to budgeting, Simple understands how personalization can transform a product into becoming part of the customer’s lifestyle.

Let’s say I’m needing to budget every transaction during my time at the ABA Conference, so I use the hashtag #orlando with my purchases. I’m grouping these expenses and searching for transactions the way I want to do that. Most bank apps don’t give the opportunity to choose my own categories and instead, automatically categorize by only transaction types such as checks, deposits, ACHs, direct debits, etc.

This, along with the Safe-to-Spend feature, allows the app to become customized for my personal goals.

If I set a financial goal, the app only presents the Safe-to-Spend amount, not my available balance, while putting the saved money in the Goals section. This is clearing my mind as a consumer that I’m not going to spend money I don’t need to spend if this is a goal that’s really serious to me.

(really serious)

Customers have a 5 to 1 preference for in-app messaging for customer service.

In-app messaging creates a conversation, rather than just a message exchange.

Instead of asking the customer to send an email or message that disappears and gives no evidence that it was even sent, leaving a history of the conversation within the app holds Simple to more accountability and allows customers to easily recall that their issues were resolved.

Plus, those positive experiences can’t help but be shared.

https://www.simple.com/reviews

Being human

In communication between the company and the customer, whether that’s customer service or marketing, retailers are expected to be human, using human terms and human language.

The best way to do that?

  • Remember people buy not what you do but why you do it. Talk less about features and more about why you offer them.
  • Don’t expect customers to learn our bank terms. Describe accounts and features in ways everyone can understand.
  • Use inspirational language and help customers validate their choice to bank with you.
  • If it’s easy to use, it will be easy to show how it works. So rather than writing a newsletter or blog post to describe your product, use a short demonstrative video to teach people how to use your product.
Simple’s “dog shaming” campaign encourages customers to send in pictures of dogs guilty of destroying debit cards

One customer, one account, many devices

Eliminating too many account choices with too much complexity makes the purchasing decision easy for the customer.

And while Simple recognizes how important mobile is to the experience, they certainly don’t ignore online. Instead, they bring out the best of their online banking, such as providing infinite scrolling of transaction views similar to the design of a Facebook News Feed.

When the customer visits Simple.com in a browser on a mobile device, smart app banners are used to redirect the customer to the app. So while multiple platforms are available to access the one account, the customer is encouraged to use what’s most fitting to the experience.

Fun spin on customer use data

By aggregating their own customer use data, Simple was able to share which states and cities were tipping the most and the least. It’s a fun and interesting way to engage with their users with original data.

The states with Simple users who tip the most? Montana, Wyoming & Colorado

The least? Utah, Delaware & Hawaii

See the Simple blog post.

Learn from others and yourself.

Without understanding the products of other financial companies and leading retailers, banks can’t effectively compete. Edwards shared features from other mobile financial tools like Acorns, Square and Betterment that are also doing things other finance apps aren’t.

Plus, Simple is dedicated to measuring their own key insights. By studying bounce rates, for example, they can use retargeting tags to show ads to visitors who abandon the sign up flow. They also study time spent on the page, click throughs and conversions, plus use Facebook Custom Audiences to generate lookalike audiences for low cost advertising.


The Simple presentation and entire ABA HiX Conference demand that marketing and customer usability are no longer afterthoughts, but instead, are driving everything that we do. So while companies like Simple are teaching customers to have higher expectations of banks, the banking industry has to also have a higher expectation of the role that marketing plays in the success of our industry.

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