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Financial Product Design: Banks Could Learn from "Apple" Strategy

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Financial Product Design: Banks Could Learn from "Apple" Strategy

Apple tells us a fantastic story about how a small company that started out serving Silicon Valley became the largest and most famous product company that formed our world. I believe that Apple's strength is not in the company's size or the number of employees. The key to a company's success lies in its strategy. What if I tell you that any financial company can use a similar approach to super-charge its financial product design?

What is Apple's product strategy focused on?

Where other companies give up and tell employees, “It's enough, let's put it in production,” Apple always persistently refines even the smallest of details to achieve the perfect outcome. They are not satisfied with mediocre execution, and their team is always looking for new ways and approaches to provide the best customer experience and highest quality.

Everyone in the world calls Apple an innovative company because it uses the latest technology and innovations in its products. However, many of these technologies appeared on the market under other brands even before they appeared in Apple products. But, Apple engineers carefully evaluate innovations in the market and integrate them into their products in a way that ensures the best possible user experience. As a result, users get a product that is not packed with a bunch of useless functions but well-thought-out and convenient functionality that helps to make everyday life easier, creative and more fun.

This approach could apply to any company in any industry. You can get the same recognition, reputation, and demand in your industry as Apple if you use a similar approach every day to your services and customers. Even a tiny cafe can become the best and most sought-after service provider in the city─like the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle by Chan Hon Meng, which received a Michelin star in Singapore. Travelers from all over the world wait in line for the exceptional experience provided by this food stall.

Steve Jobs was well known for his uncompromising approach and autocratic style. Many Apple employees were outraged and afraid of his autocratic leadership, so much so that at some point he was fired from his own company. And this brought Apple to the verge of bankruptcy in the 90s. Later, in his interview with Walter Isaacson, Jobs commented, “I don’t think I run roughshod over people, but if something sucks, I tell people to their face. It’s my job to be honest.”

Steve Jobs returned to Apple for his second stint in 1997, got up on stage and asked everyone to tell him "what's wrong with this place." After some murmurings and bland responses from managers, Jobs cut everyone off, "It's the products! So what's wrong with the products?" Again, more murmurs, Jobs shouted, "The products suck! There's no sex in them anymore!" Jobs returned to save Apple and turn it into a technology leader. He designed iconic products that changed the world.

Apple's success is rooted in uncompromising design strategy─a design that helped deliver such a fantastic user experience that customers became fans of the company, and Apple's philosophy became their "religion." Consider how you can ensure such a design strategy breakthrough in your company. It will take a lot of energy and time, of course, but it's easier than it sounds.

Primarily, it should be understood that financial product design is not just about the attractive interface or "packaging", even though Apple, more than anyone, pays attention to packaging. Design is a way of thinking and solving problems using a scientific approach to find new ideas─ideas that are later executed with such an uncompromising quality of service, products, and experience design that customers fall in love with the company.

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As Steve Jobs said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Financial product design requires more than flat functionality

Previously, customers of any company made decisions about using products only based on their functionality: useful or useless, good or bad. Currently, the basic functions of well-known products are very similar. If you compare Apple and Samsung smartphones, or Mercedes and BMW cars, these products do the same thing. There are practically no functional differences, or they are minimal, and the only ones who can identify them are those who compare these brands or use both daily.

Each of the well-known brands has its own identity, its legend, and unique value. Value is the foundation on which a brand of any company builds long-term relationships with its customers and strengthens their faith and trust. Value is what the brand's customers pay for because nowadays, they rarely buy only functionality.

If you want your business to become as beloved as Apple, just a good product or service is not enough. You need to create significant added value that magnetizes the attention of your customers. The size of this value determines how much your product or service will be in demand and what price people will be willing to pay for it. 

Apple is an excellent example of creating the best possible customer experience with design-centered innovations and corporate culture. And any business can be transformed into such a company. To ensure such a culture of innovation, you need to speed up the design maturity of the company.

To execute a business idea, an entrepreneur needs to create a business model by defining the key processes for producing a product or providing a service. The next step requires a team of professionals capable of realizing this idea and performing business processes. Once the team is formed and follows the planned processes, the right actions need to be taken to start manufacturing or providing services.

To make sure your financial product design is moving in the right direction, you need to identify and measure the results of your team's actions. By doing so, you will ensure the unique value that your product or service will deliver to your customers, thereby making your business successful. So, design helps to create and increase this success if it is implemented at all five levels of the company: process, team, actions, results, value.

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Empower financial product design at all levels of business

We've all heard that a restaurant starts with the kitchen. If the kitchen is in perfect order, adheres to high standards of cleanliness, and all products are properly prepared and stored, this ensures the prepared dishes' quality and shows the company's attitude toward its customers. 

Also, the original and pleasant design of the restaurant's interior, amazing details such as free water with rose petals or unusually served snacks, attentive service, thoughtful choice of dishes and delightful plating, as well as compliments from the chef, can encourage visitors to tell their friends about the establishment. Such clients become loyal and advertise the restaurant. This works only if the food is great, of course.

Apple's product design is not created in some department in a distant basement, it is formed and improved at all levels of the company, starting with the CEO and ending with support employees. The same approach works for financial product design at all levels of the organization:

1. Prioritize design through all the processes

The first step is to prioritize customer-centered financial product design across all business processes to ensure that everyone in the company cares about the customers. This will create and significantly enhance your company's overall brand value. In every business process, you need to ask questions: How does this help our clients? How does it improve customer relationships? What positive emotions does this invoke in our clients? Ask yourself these questions even when it comes to internal processes that customers do not see.

2. Ensure design competence in your team

The next step is your team. If you want your business to succeed through design, then creative and responsible professionals focusing on the design must be involved in the work. If they are difficult to find, you can create them by training an in-house team and practicing a design-centered approach to service creation and company development. 

You can also hire outside professionals because there are many UX design agencies around. But, this can only work if company managers understand the power and impact of design and actively integrate and develop it within their team. That's why Steve Jobs was obsessed with perfect design, and one of Apple's top executives, Jonathan Paul "Jony" Ive, was a designer himself.

3. Bring design into action by sharing responsibility

Next, if you have professionals who can improve your financial product design, you need to figure out the right course of action. If a designer just sits and creates beautiful packaging for a product, this will not give you anything that will sustain the company's long-term development. The company's designers must be able to participate in the creation and development of the product.

Example: A company has built a great financial product design team but hasn't improved the service. The reason is that all service decisions were made at management meetings, at which the designers were not allowed, since this was their responsibility.

If you want to quickly and significantly improve your product or service, involve your entire team, and even your customers, in the financial product design creation. This will give you many intriguing ideas and insights, and a better understanding of your customers need and how you can exceed their expectations.

4. Measure design with the right results

The fourth step concerns measuring execution. Results and KPI (Key Performance Indicators) are what you define in the company as the goal that your team must achieve. If you want to develop design thinking in your company, results must be defined and measured accordingly. Business performance metrics should include your customers' reaction to your product or service. 

How satisfied are your customers? How willing are they to recommend you to others (NPS - Net Promoter Score)? How actively do they use your product or service? How often will your customers come back for a repeat purchase?

5. Apply design to the value

The most crucial step is to identify the brand's core value and ask the right questions. By applying customer-centered financial product design in all of the above steps, it is possible to deliver incredible value for your customers. 

You could also apply design right to the key customer value definition because design helps you answer the main questions that determine brand value: Why are we doing this? What does this give our clients? What makes us special? and Why should customers choose us?

Find Your "Why"

This was very well explained by Simon Sinek, who also used Apple as an example. In his concept, The Golden Circle, Simon explains that Apple outcompeted thousands of other electronics companies with their "Think Different" motto and creativity support. Only after the answer to the question, "Why are they doing this?" can follow the questions "How do they do it?" and "What are they doing?" Only by focusing the entire company on a single idea did they manage to inspire customers, employees, and the whole world, resulting in a unique and strong brand. The value we are talking about is not provided by individual Apple products but by the entire Apple ecosystem, bringing together all the services into a continuous user experience flow.

Unfortunately, most companies do not define their value by formulating an answer to the question, "Why are you doing this?" It’s because they believe that everything is for the sake of profit. But, as Simon says, profit is a result, and a business's real purpose is different. It's about serving people’s needs. Many companies find it easier to answer the question, “What do we do?” and “How do we do it?” That's why Apple and companies with similar design-centered approaches are at the top. They use the power of design to communicate their “why” in absolutely everything they do.

The value of this is so great that sometimes users are willing to forgive even partial shortcomings of a product or service while still maintaining their loyalty and paying a much higher price than the market average. Customers forgive imperfection only to those who are obsessed with perfection and love what they do. Use Apple strategy as an inspiration, and use the power of design to provide your customers with the highest quality service. Become the best company with the best financial product design in the industry!

Get UXDA Research-Based White Paper "How to Win the Hearts of Digital Customers":

If you want to create next-gen financial products to receive an exceptional competitive advantage in the digital age, contact us! With the power of financial UX design, we can help you turn your business into a beloved financial brand with a strong emotional connection with your clients, resulting in success, demand, and long-term customer loyalty.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex
Alex, Founder/ CEO/ UX Strategist

Alex has dedicated half of his life to studying human psychology, as well as business success, developing 100+ digital projects and 30+ startups. He spent 10 years researching UX and finance to create UXDA's methodology. Alex is a passionate visionary who's capable of solving any challenge to improve the financial industry.

Linda
Linda, Co-founder/ COO/ CFO

Linda is a source of endless energy. An education in international business management and years-long experience with 20+ digital startups has made her a dedicated strategic thinker who solves any problem with grace. No mission is impossible for her. Linda's responsibility and punctuality have become a legend around the agency.