JPMorgan Chase is poised to launch a new home page for Chase Bank this weekend and the design is decidedly not bank-like. While customers can still use it to sign in and manage their accounts, it is set to offer a surprising twist: news stories.
The stories tend to be of the tips and tricks variety right now, but the company said it may explore other formats. The section is produced by an in-house editor, with the help of freelancers. The idea is to build engagement by leveraging the brand to deliver curated information to customers and potential customers.
Chase is seeking to connect its customers beyond its products and services and foster a deeper relationship. Offering stories is one way to accomplish that.
"We know that [engaged] customers stay with us longer, give us more of their business and are more likely to make us their primary bank," said Gavin Michael, head of digital for the company's retail bank.
The stories feature also gives the company more ways to reach people online. Customers might visit the site to check their accounts, but a story posted to Twitter could bring a slew of people to the site. Further, the format is set up like Vox.com where one story flows into the next, giving readers the chance to scroll through story after story.
The company has dabbled with the news and stories function since November, but is set to make it more integral on the new site. Early response to the existing tab has showed customers are staying.
"We know customers come to us for many points of view and by posting relevant stories we've gotten a lot of traffic and seen a good uptick in time spent on the site," said Josh Klenert, a user experience lead and part of the company's digital customer experience team. "You'd think people typically come to log in, but people who look at articles on news and stories spend three times longer on the home page."
Additionally, customers who read the content can expect a personalized experience as the company learns more about their needs.
"The weapon of choice when simplifying digital experiences is learning how to tailor it," said Tim Parsey, head of digital customer experience at Chase. "It is all about making this about you, what is important to you."
Personalizing or at least humanizing the digital experience is trending. Wells Fargo launched an e-magazine last year with the intention of adding a personal touch to its brand and to engage customers. Capital One now lets people attach selfies through its mobile app. USAA, often considered a leader in digital innovation, has also been focused on building personalization into its mobile app.
"Digital banking has done a good job of putting distance between the banker and the customer," said Mark Schwanhausser, director of omnichannel financial services at Javelin Strategy & Research. "Now, it is about taking the technology and making that human connection putting the 'person' back in personal finance."
To be sure, the amount of available news and stories online is tremendous and the company will have to fight hard to have its voice heard amid all the others vying for clicks, said Ron Shevlin, director of research at the bank and credit union consultancy Cornerstone Advisors.
"Creating more opportunity for engagement and not simply selling and pushing product is a worthwhile objective and goal," Shevlin said. "But given the amount of content out there, it is going to be more than simply a matter of build it and they will come. It is going to take a serious marketing effort."
Shevlin added that depending on how engagement is measured, the digital staff may struggle to justify the business value.
The new homepage is the first major overhaul on Chase.com in three years and builds on the success the company has had with its mobile app. Michael joined the company in April 2013 from Accenture with the plan to revolutionize the mobile app within 100 days. The bank reported earlier this week that the app has 21 million users, up 22% from a year earlier.
For now, it is only the homepage that is changing. After logging in, customers can expect to see the site they know at least for a little while. The company is planning more changes in the fall.
The site is built with responsive design, improving on one of the key drawbacks to the old site: it was clunky on tablets and phones. Chase designs the products in-house and Parsey and Klenert say that the best elements of the old site, like a strong call to action (i.e. log in), were part of the redesign.
"It worked well in the paradigm of the era, but the world has changed. We need a flexible content environment with multiple screens and emotional power. We want to grab you from a feelings perspective," Parsey said. "It is now time to be part of what the world is doing now."
A localized photo for instance, the Brooklyn Bridge for New Yorkers is a key feature of the mobile app and it shows up again on the redesign.
There is also a more natural approach to language. Rather than log-in, it is sign-in. Rather than a tab for mortgage, there is an icon labeled 'buy a home.'
"It sounds like a simple change, but it represents the change in tone," said Klenert, who the company recruited from Huffington Post. "Log-in is computer speak, sign-in is more conversational."