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Getting Real with Experience Design
October 16, 2019 |

Each day, your customers wake up thinking about their money.

Their money—and how they can save for retirement, earn more, spend less, tighten strings, allocate portfolios, go on a vacation, buy a vacation home, support a family member’s operation, invest (or re-invest) into their business, hire more people, write a birthday check, send a P2P payment, raise their credit score, get through college, finance a car, keep the lights on, put food on the table, and maybe, perhaps—for a moment—breathe easier under the crushing weight of long-term, immutable debt.

The truth is, stacked against all those things, Customers don’t care about what you think about your brand. They care about what you can do for them. They care about the ease, speed, and efficiency that you do it—and how it contributes to larger, more meaningful experiences.

And while banks, at their best, can be vehicles of success in life, the experience starts well before customers engage with the institution itself.

Experience Design is a discipline and focus based on way more than what audiences see in a single moment. It’s the combination (the full brand) of a digital ad, a window sign, a halftime show, a reputation in the ether, a voice in an interview, an endorsement from a celebrity, or a logo on a water bottle. And only after audiences have a full view, will they trust you with their money.

Today, banks of all sizes—but particularly local banks—are facing intense pressure around their full brand experiences. Fintech startups have participated in a great unbundling that quickly, (sometimes responsibly and sometimes irresponsibly), meets new, modern behaviors and technological demands—all while acting as gateways to more services and deeper loyalty. Take a company like Chime, that’s making it easier than ever to open basic checking and savings accounts. They’re growing quickly with these opportunities as gateway experiences.

By being customer-first, putting convenience ahead of internal processes, and speed and simplicity at the forefront—they’re removing barriers and friction for the modern customer in seemingly pedestrian activity.

And those deposit accounts are what fuel balance sheets.

Coinbase has done the same thing for cryptocurrency, and then some. And every day, there are still more examples across a range of products and services. 

This is something I have seen in my time agency-side. The unsung hero of experience design isn’t just what the touchpoint looks like—but how it behaves. How it starts. How it ends. All the preambles, and fields, and clicks in between, and ultimately, how it makes the customer feel.

If you’re an organization with a large number of customers, employees, and stakeholders in the mix, Phase2 encourages counterparts to start small, test, iterate and figure out what works specifically for your institution and audiences. Whether you’re focused on the actions, interactions, functionality, or cosmetics of a channel, you have to consider the full journey.

Similarly, change begins with culture. And culture changes slowly. But where to get started?

A quick-start, tactical approach (and something I often encourage my clients to do) is to begin adjusting the organizational mindset by setting up a regular cadence of design-thinking workshops and blue-sky explorations.  

And, I’d do this without any presupposed outcomes or expectations; simply embracing new ideas and facilitating open debate and dialogue in a trusted setting. This will add tremendous value in enabling forward change within the organization by simply taking your team out of the “daily task” framework, and getting them to think—not just about what the bank is today—but what the bank could be Tomorrow (yes, with a capital T).

In this way, experience design isn’t retroactive. A recent-ish Forrester study covered by Forbes showed that intentional and strategic user experience has the potential to raise conversion rates by as much as 400%. The opportunities in the space are there for the taking.

And they start by deciding what kind of bank you want to be. Do you want to be a bank that is unapproachable and hard to do business with? Or a bank that hinders customers from living their best, most efficient, and successful lives?

Brass Tacks and Some Experience Design (Simple) Math

At a high level, it is easy to imagine a causal relationship between Experience Design and conversion rate when the customer is showing intent to purchase. However, the table below illustrates what a one-point improvement in the experience can mean in terms of success or failure in the marketing funnel.


Media Spend















New Customers



1x Customer Value 






In my experience (and based on the math above), banks should be investing in the time to design the right experience, not just make a subpar experience look marginally better.

Make it fun. Make the user love it so much they want to come back for more.

Make them want to tell all their friends about it. 

Make them want to tell their dog.

In any scenario, the goal should be to create a kinetic experience that’s shareable, not just marginal. If you’re just trying to “get to parity” with your competition, you’ve already lost.

Full-service regional banks can serve the next generation of customers’ needs by looking to the future, investing in areas that have the most impact on how customers view your brand, but improve their lives and achieve their financial goals. It’s not about designing one in-branch experience, or one two-click experience, or a halftime ad—but each moment when it comes and how it defines access, action, and attainability for every banking client generation.

I can talk shop all day and phone calls are always free, let’s connect here.

User Experience

TJ is a creatively driven leader with 15 years of experience in idea creation and execution. A business professional with expertise across the digital ecosystem. TJ is a strategic leader, balances business goals with customer goals with an intense focus on the customer experience, providing exponential growth and impact for clients. He has many highlights over his career,  having designed and executed dozens of digital and owned media initiatives for CPG Brands, Financial Institutions, Retail Energy, and Sports & Media. 

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