South African Banks Failing Online

With the cost of new customers increasing because of a more competitive marketplace, South African banks need to be looking online for a new way to generate less costly leads and customers.  A single new customer has an extremely high value to banks because of the spend and revenue that can be generated per customer.

Finance, real estate, and business services currently account for 20.7% of the South African GDP (source), so with such a large market to take more share of, why are the banks of South Africa not working harder to get more leads online?  My opinion:  It is because they are failing to take advantage of the online channel to drive growth for the business.

Of four major banks in South Africa (Standard Bank, FNB, ABSA, and Nedbank) it is clear that not a single bank has grown in organic search visibility (the overall search performance of a website) over the past 2 years.  Even as the economy grows, more people needing banking services, in addition to the opportunity to take market share from competitors, the marketplace has stayed the same – except for Nedbank which we can talk about in more detail soon.

Search Visibility of 4 Major South African Banks | Source: SearchMetrics

Search Visibility of 4 Major South African Banks | Source: SearchMetrics

Because none of these banks have been successful in taking more market share, there has been an increase in the number of websites whose business it is to sell their banks leads.  Examples – ooba.co.za, sahomeloans.com and sabondcalculators.co.za.  This means that the banks need to buy these leads at a premium to prop up their growth figures, and in doing so they add risk that the more leads they buy, the more the middlemen are able to control the market.

And this is just for the bond/home loan market.

On to Nedbank for a minute.  Where Nedbank went wrong was with updating/migrating their website to the Adobe CQ5 Web Content Management platform.  While it looks like they lost traffic in this transition, only they know how much and what effect this has on their business.  It could also be that even though they have less web traffic coming from search than before, they could have increased their conversion rate – but the bottom line is, don’t lose traffic when migrating a website if you care about your online lead generation.  The most likely case – they did not have a search engine specialist on the project team and they dropped web traffic because of it.

As a digital marketer or SEO for any of these banks, I would set up a plan for organic & online growth, and it needs to be a good and detail plan based on research and know-how.  A good target would be 10% per year, and this should be easily attainable even if the economy had no growth.  Then execute this plan knowing that you are the first to do it.  If you are able to achieve your goals, then you can be the market leaders online in banking in South Africa.