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Financial institutions can win big by serving new customers in new markets—particularly when they leverage the power of translated and localized websites. In North America alone, Spanish-speaking U.S. Hispanics, and French- and Chinese-speaking Canadians represent valuable, and largely untapped, online demographics for banking, insurance, and other financial services companies.

The value of engaging these consumers in their languages of choice extends beyond simply reaching more customers, however. It offers opportunities for banks to tailor products and services to their unique wants and needs.

For more than decade, my company has localized websites for large banks (and other financial services companies) based in North America and beyond. Along the way, we’ve witnessed the emergence of key consumer behaviors. Here are five trends we’ve recently noted:

Trend #1: Offering the Right Language Eliminates Friction

Based on third-party reports and our own proprietary data, it’s clear that consumers around the world seek out, and prefer, online content in their native languages.

One independent study suggests that at least 60% of global consumers prefer websites in their own language to those in English. In fact, many won’t visit English sites at all, even when they’re proficient in the language.

This jibes with our own research. One of our clients, a major Canadian bank, translated its flagship English website to Canadian French to serve this thriving secondary market. Since its debut a few years ago, this site has seen traffic growth of more than 60% year over year.

When another bank targeted Chinese-speaking Canadians (a growing, and increasingly affluent, demographic) with a localized Chinese site, it saw immediate results. The inbound traffic continues to increase well into its second year, with a 40% year-over-year rise in sessions.

The takeaway is clear: when given the options, global consumers will opt-in to a localized experience to transact in their preferred language.

Trend #2: You Are Being Watched

Our data hailing from sites targeting U.S. Hispanics and Chinese Canadians suggests that these users may have higher engagement rates than English-speaking users on English sites. 70% of these customers seem to be using the sites to investigate products and services, and learn about the financial institution. We see high levels of engagement on informational sections focusing on applying for a mortgage, for instance, or learning about different auto and educational loans available.

Further, more than 30% of total site visits hail from returning visitors. The behavior seen during these visits suggest consumers are accessing their online banking through the localized sites.

Localized websites increase consumer trust, and encourage research and engagement. Put another way: offering sites in-language invites prospective clients to learn about your business, which leads to conversions.

Trend #3: They Want Relevant Content

Global and local multi-lingual consumers have unique world views, and unique product needs. Banks that answer this with tailored, highly-relevant content often see great results.

For instance, we’ve found that banks (operating localized sites) that prominently highlight their cross-border banking services generate more interest than those that don’t. Another hit: offering best-practices information to recent immigrants on how to build their credit history. Clearly displaying the requirements to qualify for different savings, checking or credit accounts also leads to more engagement and conversions, we’ve found.

Providing high quality, locally relevant content can account for as much as 50% of a localized website’s inbound traffic, we’ve found. Offering this information helps banks stand out in regional search results—especially among “fact finding” prospective customers.

Trend #4: Different Markets Exhibit Different Mobile Use

Responsive website design is a must-have for all companies these days, including financial institutions. This is especially important when serving “mobile-first” markets, where smartphones are consumers’ primary means of accessing the web.

For years, U.S. Hispanics have been considered mobile “power users,” with higher mobile content consumption habits, higher mobile payment adoption, and more frequent use of mobile banking and coupon services than the non-Hispanic average.

For the Spanish-language financial services sites we operate, about 65% of sessions hail from a mobile device. Targeting this market, but failing to provide a mobile-friendly experience, is a missed opportunity.

Our data on Canadian banking sites suggests more nuance between different Chinese-speaking customers.

Residents fluent in Simplified Chinese (common among mainland China immigrants), prefer to visit banking sites via a traditional website browser. About 60% of all sessions hail from desktop PCs and laptops. Windows-powered PCs accounted for about half of all traffic.

Consumers fluent in Traditional Chinese (who typically hail from Hong Kong and Taiwan) exhibit different behavior. These constituents heavily favor accessing localized banking sites with their mobile phones—about 70% of sessions hail from phones and tablets. Apple iPhones and iPads accounted for more than half of total website traffic.

(Interestingly, this data may showcase the different levels of financial security within the Chinese Canadian community. Generally speaking, longtime residents from Taiwan, for instance, are more financially secure and have more disposable income. This could account for the pricier iPhone ownership and usage. However, many mainland Chinese immigrants have spent far less time in Canada, and haven’t yet acquired a comparable level of disposable income.)

The takeaway: Be sure to offer a responsive version of your localized websites, or provide a localized mobile app.

Trend #5: They Crave Greater App Functionality

Many of the banks we work with offer their clients localized mobile apps. This is a progressive move, but our data suggests that time and again, customers visit their localized websites far more often than the apps.

What’s causing this peculiar disconnect? We believe it’s because banking apps are focused on providing mobile banking functionality, exclusively. But recall that these customers are often looking for helpful product and services information—often at higher rates than the English-speaking average. Customers seeking this info must visit the localized website for more information.

A website remains the optimal channel to provide in-depth information on financial trends and products. However, the fact that a large number of users continually visit the website via mobile devices illustrates an opportunity to provide this information within a localized mobile app.

Financial institutions that incorporate this information into their localized apps can wildly reduce the friction between consumer and content. The end result? Improved engagement and conversion rates.

 

Eric Watson is a global online strategist with the Global Growth team at MotionPoint Corporation, the world’s #1 enterprise localization platform. Learn more about MotionPoint at MotionPoint.com,

 

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James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

Zachary Ehrlich

25-year-old writer, and as a native San Franciscan, I am unreasonably loyal to Bank of America, if only for their superhero-like origin story, involving the 1906 earthquake and Italian fruit vendors.

Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

Brad Strothkamp

http://www.forrester.com/rb/analyst/brad_strothkamp