Websites such as Amazon.com are often cited as the gold standard for the online experience, but turning your financial institution website into a carbon copy of a retailer site is neither practical nor wise. No financial institution can be, or should be, just like Amazon, yet there are some strategies and tactics that banks can borrow from online retailers, particularly when it comes to cross-selling.

To better understand consumer attitudes toward online shopping and banking, Fiserv conducted a series of consumer focus groups and a survey of 3,000 U.S. consumers who both bank and shop online. Responses indicated that consumers think differently about online banking and online buying. Part of this is due to a banking vs. browsing mentality. To consumers, banking is task-oriented, while shopping may be more of a pastime. During focus groups, consumers stated that they prefer to "get in and get out" when they are banking, but they often spend time browsing when they visit a retailer site.

In addition, consumers have told us they hold their bank to a higher standard than they do online retailers. According to one focus group respondent, "I feel like I have a different relationship with my bank and my doctor than I have with my retailer. I expect them to act to a higher standard. I expect Amazon to sling stuff at me to see what I'll buy. That's what I'm there for. But I want my bank to act differently."

As evidenced by such consumer feedback, banks must be selective of the practices they borrow from online retailers.

After considering the data, Fiserv has identified five tactics for banks to deploy when pursuing online cross-sell opportunities:

Make it easy for users to find what they want. The number one driver of consumer satisfaction with online banking is ease of use. Banks should make it easy for their customers to locate and conduct specific transactions by prominently positioning frequently used online tools. Similarly, advertisements or content that interrupts a task is likely to annoy customers. Instead, financial institutions should position offers in tandem with a related transaction or present promotional information when a task is completed or as customers log off.

Offer a personalized online experience. Personalization does not have to be complex. It can be as simple as providing online banking users with a personalized greeting or the ability to edit their profile and account information, areas where the online banking experience lags the online buying experience. For example, 70 percent of participants in the Fiserv survey indicated they were highly satisfied with the ability to edit their profile and account information at a leading online retailer, while fewer than 50 percent said the same of their online banking service.

Target the message to the right customer, the right way. Banks should present products and services to customers based on their needs, rather than sending all customers a blanket offer. For instance, customers with checking accounts may be receptive to an offer for overdraft protection or a new homeowner might welcome information about a home equity line of credit.

Position recommendations in a helpful, friendly manner. Online retailers are good at low pressure product promotion. Following in their footsteps, financial institutions may want to consider adding social elements to certain areas of their sites to let consumers provide product feedback. In that way, consumers that “like” products or make positive comments provide a softer approach to product promotion.  Financial institutions can also promote products and services by offering suggestions to customers about what may be helpful or useful to them, rather than using more traditional sales tactics.

Focus on what you know. When consumers are engaged in online banking they are most receptive to offers about products and services that will enhance the banking experience or that are related to financial management. Online banking customers are not generally receptive to third party offers, unless it is for a service or tool that can help them save money.

Seventy-four percent of survey respondents indicated that they would be open to recommendations for financial institution products and services that are tailored to their specific banking needs and activities and recommended in a helpful manner. Focusing offers on financial products and services, while using tactics borrowed from online retailers can boost the success of financial institution online cross-selling initiatives. Done right, online banking can help financial institutions meet customers where they are while delivering right-timed offers that, instead of being distracting, are considered helpful.

Geoff Knapp is the vice president of online banking at Fiserv.