eBusiness executives at financial firms often ask Forrester: "What can I improve about my website to sell more products online?"

The short answer to this question is: "You need to help customers on your websites achieve their goals". But what exactly does that mean in terms of content and functionality? To give a profound answer, we have analyzed how customers use financial services websites to research and buy financial products and what content and functionality they expect – based on our Consumer Technographics® surveys.

With this knowledge, we have created Forrester’s Website Functionality Benchmark methodology that tests how well financial services websites support the phases of the customers journey and help drive online sales.

In Germany, the Internet is an important distribution channel for financial products. Some 23% of German Net users researched and 9% have bought a financial product online in the past 12 months. 

To help eBusiness executives at German banks drive online sales, I have reviewed how well the websites of eight German retail banking brands help customers to research and apply for a giro account – and published the results in the report: "Benchmarking German Banks’ Sales Sites 2011".

Postbank tops the ranking with the best content and functionality – closely followed by ING DiBa. Postbank does best in supporting both the research and the application phases of the customer journey – while none of the other bank tested is good across the board. Postbank effectively attracts the customer's attention to the giro account and provides product information that is both relevant and sales oriented. Postbank also does better than most other banks in supporting the customer in the online application process and the post-application phase.

Most German banking websites reviewed, show flaws in two key areas:

  • They fail to attract the customer's attention to the giro account.
    Sparda-Bank Baden-Württemberg is one of the few to advertise the giro account on the homepage with an eye-catching and persuasive video campaign. Only Postbank attracts provides a motivation tool that calculates what account fees the customer can avoid.
  • They don’t help customers find the right giro account for their needs.
    Only half of the banks reviewed provide product comparisons, and only Deutsche Bank offers a product selection tool for giro accounts.

These clear results lead to some obvious recommendations for German eBusiness executives. To drive online sales they should advertise giro accounts more prominently on their sites and provide more and better functionality for product comparison and selection.