E-Banks With Targeted Marketing Tops in Survey

FRAMINGHAM (03/27/2000) - Comerica Inc. in Detroit and American Express Co. in New York scored highest in a survey rating 41 online banking sites on their levels of interactivity.

The study, conducted by Atlanta-based Speer & Associates Inc., also found that banks with both a virtual and physical presence do a better job of serving their customers on the Internet than those that are online only.

Unlike most institutions, Comerica and American Express are conducting targeted online marketing with their customers. Meanwhile, the majority of the other institutions in the survey have Web sites with lower functionality that merely allow users to make inquiries and transactions.

But even Comerica and American Express fell short of the standards set by other industries, which integrate external marketing data with internal customer database knowledge and Web site usage information, according to study author George Albright, chairman of Speer & Associates.

"Without better use of the interactive marketing capabilities enabled by the Internet, financial institutions are missing the principal opportunity presented by the Web," said Albright, in a statement. "As this occurs, sales opportunities will be squandered. But more importantly, customer relationships will be lost to more aggressive firms with highly developed Internet marketing capabilities."

He added that leading Internet firms in other industries improve their Web sites as often as once a month.

"The financial services industry cannot keep pace with customer expectations or exploit marketing opportunities on the Web by maintaining traditional development timetables and marketing information system priorities," Albright said. "Transactional services are not the endgame."

Playing Catch-up

Banking has been slower to move online than other industries and slower than other types of financial institutions, said Mark Macklin, an analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc.

"They have the old way of banking," he said. "The culture internally remains the same. You still have people making decisions who may get the Net, but they don't necessarily know how to implement the Net."

In comparison, he said, San Francisco-based brokerage firm Charles Schwab & Co. updates its Web site at least once per quarter.

American Express prides itself on updating its Web site frequently.

Desiree Fish, a spokeswoman for American Express, noted, "We're constantly improving it."

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