Singapore Net Users Now More Open To Online Banking

Internet users in Singapore have been visiting the Web sites of five local banks more often in the March-May time frame, resulting in a gradual increase in the reach of the e-banking sector in the city state, according to Internet measurement firm NetValue.

In the three-month period, reach across Singapore-based banking sites of DBS Group Holdings, Overseas Union Bank, United Overseas Bank Group, OCBC Bank and Keppel TatLee Bank increased marginally from 25.4 percent in March to 25.9 percent in April, and jumped to 28.1 percent in May.

NetValue figures showed that 235,860 people had visited the e-banking sites in May this year. “Compared to December 2000, visitorship to online banking sites has increased by about 36 percent, making it one of the fastest growing Internet sectors,” the report said.

However, the amount of time visitors spent at these sites had been declining from 25.1 minutes in March to about 21.4 minutes across April and May. The report attributed the decrease to an increase in the proportion of visitors browsing for information rather than engaging in secured connections to perform account-related activities, which would require them to spend more time at the sites.

The NetValue report identified DBS Bank’s site as the one that registered the most visitors, with visitorship increasing by 24 percent since January this year. It also found that about 60 percent of those visiting the other four online banking sites also visited

But what was more telling of a site’s success, the report noted, was actually the proportion of visitors that engaged in secured connections.

“It is important to differentiate the customer-visitor mix to evaluate the performance of any e-banking site and its related marketing campaigns,” said Jack Loo, NetValue’s Singapore country manager.

“Are banks attracting new prospects or prompting higher usage levels amongst their existing customer base? Web traffic alone does not tell you much about how successful the site is. You need information about the proportion of the visitors that engage in secured connections — that is, visitors versus customers.

“On the average, about two in three visitors [according to NetValue’s findings] actually engaged in a secured connection. Comparatively, United Overseas Bank Group has the highest proportion of visitors engaging in secured connections for the month of May 2001,” he added.

Generating More Online Transactions
Delving deeper into the findings, Loo suggested that banks take advantage of what they know about their Web site visitors to encourage more online activity and, ultimately, increase the number of secured connections at their e-banking sites.

For example, NetValue discovered that three in four e-banking visitors owned a mobile phone, and that local mobile telecom providers M1, SingTel and StarHub had captured 37.4 percent, 36.3 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively, of the online banking visitor base.

“Banks should consider partnerships with telecommunications providers to incentivize their customers and/or to expand their client base. Rewarding e-banking customers with bonus air time, for example, may encourage more people to use the online banking facilities,” Loo suggested.

NetValue also found that e-banking visitors were more likely to use instant messaging, chat and news protocols, and were receptive to audio-video streaming. “To fully understand the Internet behavior of your target audience, you need to know what they are doing online and not just where they have surfed,” Loo said.

“[And] knowing that online banking visitors are also frequent users of the other protocols, e-banking sites may incorporate some of these applications … to induce traffic and repeat visits; [they] may consider integrating audio-video streaming facilities at these sites to enhance their content.”

Loo’s third suggestion to the local banking community was to bear in mind that more than half of those who visited the five local sites were early adopters of Internet technology — having connected to the Net in 1997 or earlier —
which may indicate that they would be comfortable with conducting online transactions and be receptive to more complex transaction options.

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