Simplicity

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5 March 2013
Daniel Latimore
I recently spent several days in New York speaking to a host of clients, both technology providers and banks, many of whom are focused on driving adoption of new technologies. I was struck by the consistent increased focus on simplicity in the customer experience. Why is this important? I contend that in human behavior generally, and financial services specifically, the most powerful force is inertia: a body in motion tends to stay in motion. To get people to do something differently, you’ve got to make it worth their while to change. There are two components to this equation: the size of the potential benefit, and the effort required to reap the benefit. As the perceived value decreases, so too must the effort to achieve it. Because in financial services the perceived benefit is so often uncertain, reducing the effort required to achieve it is critical. Let’s look at the Apple music ecosystem (iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.). The iPod wasn’t the first mP3 player to hit the market. Wikipedia says that the first commercial players arrived in 1998. But they were very clunky to use, requiring several steps to transfer music from a digital library on a computer to the player. And while it was easier than recording a vinyl album to a cassette tape (to date myself), it was nevertheless a cumbersome process. Enter the iPod in 2001. Moving music onto it was fairly seamless, requiring only a couple of steps. Organizing music was easy, and the whole system just plain worked. Simplicity (achieved consciously and with a great deal of hard work behind the scenes) played a critical role in the meteoric rise of iTunes. Now apply that same kind of thinking to banking, particularly the mobile and tablet experiences. Reducing a process from 10 steps to five isn’t going to change much behavior; moving from five steps to two will. Your task is to make new processes simple enough for the average consumer to be convinced that she should start doing something new. How can you eliminate those crucial last few steps to get to something elegantly simple?

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