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Finance> Financial system> Digital banking Updated: 04 Jun 2018

BBVA’s six keys to creating digital experiences as a data-driven organization

Consumer habits have changed. Users are increasingly demanding and want services that understand and meet their needs in the moment. How do banks adapt to this new paradigm? Eugenia Gibbons, the Global Head of Digital Sales and Customer Engagement BBVA, explained during the Adobe Summit 2018  that the key lies in creating one-click, intelligent and customized products.

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Teresa Alameda (BBVA Creative)

If someone opens Uber’s app in Mexico City or Barcelona, the experience is identical: the same design, the same navigation and the same usability. As is the case with Facebook, Amazon or Netflix, their products don’t change from one country to another and instead offer a unique and global digital experience. “At BBVA, we are doing the same thing”, says Eugenia Gibbons, who heads up digital sales and client relations at BBVA.

The Group has spent years working on a model for digital sales and client interaction to create products of note that attend to demands. The results of this, as Gibbons explained at the summit, have been positive, generating new sources of revenue. The event saw BBVA and companies such as LinkedIn, Coca-Cola and Facebook explain in detail how they approach digital marketing and the creation of digital experiences at a time when the needs of users are in constant evolution.

Nobody is immune to this revolution be it transport, commerce or banking. All sectors today face the challenge of replacing the ‘face-to-face’ approach in establishing a relationship of trust with users with one that is screen-based. “The financial services industry has gone through a lot of change over the last 10 years. Change and disruption now are a lot more than we have experienced in the history of our industry. Some companies have seen this as a threat. For us it has been clearly a great opportunity”, Gibbons explained.

The BBVA Group today has 24 million customers who operate through digital channels of whom 19.3 million do so using mobile devices. In 2018, the Group is aiming for digital customers to make up 50% of its client base on a global level and for 2019 the target is to have mobile customers making up 50% of the total.

Currently, one out of every three sales at BBVA is via digital channels and this figure is expected shortly to rise to one out of every two. “Only three years ago it was one out of 20”, Gibbons points out.  How did we get there? “In order to achieve this growth in the digital channels we have put together a very robust plan organized around these six priorities,” the BBVA executive explains.

1. The operating model: digital talent and an ‘agile’ structure

For years banks have hired employees with the same type of financial profile. But the digital eruption has exposed the need to look for talent beyond these boundaries. “You need to be open to hiring people that don’t necessarily know about banking”, Gibbons explains. Added to this is the importance of establishing teams, or ‘scrums’, to work on developing solutions for clients: “When we started working on our agile structure only two years ago we had around 100 people across the globe, and now we have up to 3,000 people working on agile”, Gibbons says.

“My advice would be never stop looking for improvements and things that you can do better"

When it comes to designing an organizational model to meet digital needs, Gibbons also believes it is essential to build bridges between the online and offline worlds and include digital strategy in customer support centers and offices. “You cannot have a successful ecommerce business without understanding the relevance that your offline presence has on your success”, she explains.

2. Tool development: continuous customizing and fitting

Putting products in the hands of customers at the same speed as big digital companies also requires the right partners to develop customized tools. One of the lessons Gibbons noted was the need to surround yourself with people who “know more than you, that help us understand issues that we have and how to fix them”. When it comes to digital marketing, tools are of significant value in improving digital experiences, Gibbons says.

3. Digitizing customers: making them come back

How to make a customer move toward digital banking? For Gibbons, this part is “relatively easy”, in the sense that customers nowadays are “hyperconnected”. “Customers are looking for opportunities to be digital and be online. It’s a maturity wave that we are taking advantage of”.

But it wasn’t always like that. “When the first ATM was put out there 30 years ago, people would walk by, look at it, and don’t even know what it could be. And these days, whatever digital product you put out there, it’s taken. It’s instant”, she explains.


Eugenia Gibbons, Global Head of Digital Sales and Customer Engagement BBVA, during the Adobe Summit 2018.

After ATMs, the telephone arrived and then the computer. And now the mobile phone. “Our customers are purchasing products, and that’s the way we define the highest maturity of our digital journey”. However, although customers are more open to embracing the digital option, some groundwork is needed beforehand. “Before they purchase, they want to build trust with you. What we’ve realized is that we need to create digital experiences that make them come back”, she explains.

"Customers want products to be customized to what they need. They want you to know the customer"

Normally, a customer doesn’t buy a product straight off the first time they visit a website or and application. “First, they are going to survey, they are going to go through your experience of responding to their immediate needs with perfect solutions”, she adds. This makes first impressions important. “Nail that down… so then they’re going to come back to purchase the most complex products”.

4. Product availability: one click, customized and intelligent

In order for all the above to work, you need to be able to call on a portfolio of digital products that matches customer needs. Some 92% of BBVA’s solutions are already in digital format. But that’s not enough: “Product is very different in the digital world if you compare it to the traditional way of creating products in banking. Having a credit card available for purchase online is not enough. Customers want that to be customized to what they need. They want you to know the customer so that when you create those humongous forms that they’re supposed to fill in, you know they won’t”, Gibbons explains.

For the BBVA executive, the philosophy of immediacy and ease in doing things takes the shape of creating one-click products in which the habitual multiple fields you have to fill in to request a card are “replaced by a single click” by using and extracting value from the information already available on the customer to simplify the process.

But instantaneity isn’t everything. It is essential that contact with the customer also adds value. “The customer wants the product to be customized. They want us to customize messages for them to make them feel like you know them and put that message across at the time that is relevant for them”, she adds.

The next step in terms of availability, something BBVA is already work on to make a reality, is intelligent products. “We are actively working on having predictive models so we can have offers being more relevant to our customers”, she says.

5. Creating traffic: trial, error and success

Another pillar of digital strategy is bringing customers to the products. The challenge of coming up with a model that works is one BBVA has been working on relentlessly. “We started with a small budget and the way we got to where we are today is by test and learn, test and learn and improve”, Gibbons explains.

Her team’s first step was “tracking customers’ journey and reading the data” to understand the digital path taken by the user from start to finish. “And now we are a lot more comfortable saying that we can track from beginning to end what the marketing dollars is doing for us and we have increased our budget over year by 35%”, she says.

In this process Gibbons underscores the need to trust and respect analytics experts as the only way to understand “what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong”. “Organizations need to be ready to fail and recover. And in BBVA we have been lucky that our leaders have been very supportive in letting us learn, experience and come back with better plans and better results”, she adds.

Here's three examples of how BBVA wants to create smart interactions for customers.

6. Conversion optimization: an engine for creating value

Lastly, Gibbons talked about the importance of having good conversion optimization tools available to understand the “funnel” through which customers find and acquire products. The optimal conversion model needs to focus on three aspects: products easy to find, a simple purchasing process and customer support when needed.

For Gibbons the digital journey has meant not only a change in the way of doing things but also a tremendous push to growing the business. “My advice would be never stop looking for improvements and things that you can do better. Because even if you feel that you've reached that perfection, your customers are evolving and the bar is still rising", she concludes.