Consumer adoption of the online channel has been disappointing for many financial institutions but actually follows the traditional adoption curve expected for any new technology. The early users of new technology are broken down into "Innovators" and "Early Adopters" and represent approximately 21% of the population. These two groups of consumers are willing to use new technology early in the technology's life cycle without seeing much immediate value to them. The one clear distinction that makes adoption even more challenging for financial institutions is that they are asking their customers and members to adopt technology that enables them to manage something near, dear and precious to them: Their money! (see figure 1 below)

However, most customers and members need to incrementally get acquainted with the online channel at their pace to feel sufficiently comfortable and to have enough trust to dive in the deep end and actually complete financial transactions online. The problem is most financial institutions have done little in the way of providing their end-users with a way to slowly try out this new delivery and support channel. They usually do not actively promote the online channel as a way to interact with them to get answers or ask questions and most financial institutions web sites provide little or no incentive to visit them if you are not going to use online banking services. So it's either swim in the deep end or don't go swimming at all. For most of their end-users, they will eventually adopt the channel en masse but it will occur ever so slowly.

Adding additional online products and services such as eStatements and online check images will generally have little impact to accelerate consumer adoption, but rather will only cause existing online customers to use more services. To cross the chasm (also referred to as the tipping point), you must do much more or your additional expenditures on your online channel will not produce the results expected.

To provide a comfortable migration path for your consumers, look to extend your Web site by providing services that allow consumers to use features that they are already comfortable with -- such as email and research -- and make your Web channel a compelling alternative to your phone and in-person support. Click here to see things that you can do to bring your Web channel to the next level.

  • Innovators (Technology Enthusiasts) -- 7.5% of the population is willing to innovate in their use of technology, even to the extent of developing it (since the market typically doesn't have any offerings at this point in the development cycle). This population has a high tolerance for risk, and for a steep learning/implementation curve, and may be interested in technology in general.

  • Early Adopters (Visionaries) -- 13.5% of the population is willing to adopt a relatively new technology in advance of their colleagues. Again, because the technology is somewhat immature, members of this population experience a steep learning/implementation curve.

  • Early Majority (Pragmatists) -- 34% of the population is willing to ride along with the first large wave of adopters. They have less tolerance for risk, are more expedient (interested in what technology can do for them), are generally not interested in technology for its own sake, and require that the technology be easy to use and supported.  

  • Late Majority (Conservatives) -- 34% will take advantage of the experiences of previous adopters and maturation of technology by waiting until a majority of the membership has implemented use of the technology. This population is risk-averse, and completely expedient with regard to technology (what can it do for me, right now, with a minimum investment in time and energy?)  

  • Laggards (Skeptics) -- 16% of the population will resist any adoption of technology until it is imposed on them by policy or peer pressure. This population may be uncomfortable with technology, or have pressing priorities that technology may not further.

Excerpts from "crossing the chasm" book by Geoffrey A. Moore