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Bank Technology

Battle of the banks: Who's seeing the best digital returns out of RBS/Natwest, Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds?

By James Hammersley, founding partner

March 31, 2017 | 5 min read

Banking has been ‘online’ for some time now and in a world where governments of all persuasions have been driving greater competitiveness the ‘big four’ (RBS/NatWest, Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds) banks have invested heavily not just in online banking but also online acquisition of new customers.

online banking

In this week’s infographic, The Drum’s Mystery Shopper reviews the online performance of the ‘big four’ high street banks to see if incumbency is really threatened by the advance of the ‘challenger’ sector or if they are banking on customer inertia to secure their market position.


Insight: Revenue comes from traffic that converts. Having more traffic than your competitors is a real advantage.

Analysis: Between them they attracted c3.5m visits a month from organic and paid search. The RBS group is slightly ahead of Lloyds and both are significantly ahead of Barclays and HSBC.

What is fascinating is how the leaders diverge in performance from here on in.

Paid Campaign

Insight: If you are confident about your sales execution (ie customers stick on your pages and convert well) then you don’t have to outbid your competitors to gain a top three ad slot, which is where you will attract exponentially more traffic than position four or below.

Analysis: This is a very competitive sector and the losers are RBS/NatWest. They are not investing in sufficient keywords to stay in touch with the other three banks. Lloyds too have something to worry about as despite investing in over 1000 more keywords than HSBC they are driving less than half the amount of traffic.

All of the banks analysed here perform well when it comes to their ad positioning with the exception of NatWest. The standout performers are HSBC and Barclays who are ensuring that all of their top 100 AdWords are appearing in the top three search positions. This high position will be driving greater engagement with their brand compared to the other three.

Landing Pages

Insight: Landing pages are a mark of how well you understand the different customer needs that you are fulfilling. More pages and more thought is being put into the marketing proposition and the following sales execution.

Analysis: Lloyds Bank are the strongest performers with regards to their landing page numbers for their top 100 AdWords, with 36 unique pages. Barclays are in second place, with RBS third and HSBC fourth. NatWest are left trailing the pack on this measure. Although not an outstanding performance, Lloyds Bank are differentiating and segmenting their users more than their competitors and by taking their users to their chosen destination in as few steps as possible they will be driving sales as a result.


Insight: Listening to your customers is vital, without understanding the needs and wants of a potential buyer it is near impossible to improve conversion.

Analysis: Of the companies looked at here, only HSBC have a full toolbox. Lloyds Bank and RBS/NatWest are missing customer surveying tools whilst Barclays is missing out on on-page analytics. Despite possessing voice of customer tools, neither HSBC nor Barclays are actively surveying their users. Only by blending the data from a range of sources with the customer at the very centre can you build a successful split-testing programme that drives revenue and growth.

What can you tell from this?

The obvious conclusion: HSBC and Lloyds Bank are battling it out for the top position in this sector. Both however could do more to listen to the customer in the market to understand how they could drive sales.

The inevitable conclusion: RBS/NatWest are the sector poor performers. They need to place more emphasis on their paid campaign and digital toolbox. If they don’t do this soon, they could be left behind.

The surprising conclusion: None of these businesses are top quartile performers online, even though all of them have invested heavily in technology. Despite all of them investing heavily into re-connecting with customers and the wider community none of them are inviting customers in the market to give them feedback.

The insight: From this analysis it would seem that customer inertia may be propping up incumbency, particularly for RBS/NatWest. Whilst scale will become an important driver of profitability for challenger brands, potentially targeting customers who are considering weak propositions might just be one way to build a significant customer base.

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