Optimizing digital customer relations, the new focus of European banks


Field observations confirm the following global usage statistics: saturation of the banking rate – especially in the north of the continent – and/or difficulty in making the new recruitments profitable, the majority of European banks seem to have changed their priorities shifting from new customers’ acquisition to retention and profitability of the existing portfolio. The innovation strategies conducted on websites and mobile applications testify to this observation, D-Rating noted that among the nearly 2000 application updates analyzed (over 300 banking apps, since July 1st 2021), 40% focus on the optimization of daily operations (personalization, card and transfer management…); 20% are regarding the possibilities of subscribing to main banking products (junior account, consumer loan, mortgage loan, insurance…), and less than 1% are aimed to improve  the account opening process online.

D-Rating’s mystery shoppers experienced a concrete illustration of this refocusing during the account openings conducted over the past few weeks as part of its sixth campaign to study the digital proposition of European banks: while account opening refusals were anecdotal, they are tending to become more systematic in several establishments, mainly in France, Germany and the Nordic countries. These account opening trials have not been successful, regardless of the diversity of the profiles that have initiated them.

The evolution of Data.ai’s data confirms the strong decrease in the evolution of the number of users of banking applications and can be considered a fairly direct reflection of the number of active customers. It is safe to say that client acquisition through account opening no longer represents a central objective: the decrease trend, on a continental scale, is barely above zero in Germany, Scandinavia and Finland, and has even gone into negative territory in the Benelux, as shown below (left graph).


The usage remains strong, however, with time spent increasing by 14% over the year in Europe as a whole (right graph), combining a catch-up effect in the transition to digital processes of daily banking operations (southern countries: numerous but short sessions) and the widespread use of « full mobile digital banking » (northern countries: less frequent but longer connections).

Considering that the average gap between the evolution of usage and the evolution of the number of users prevailing at the European level, i.e. 5.2 points, we observe that some banks have an increase in traffic on digital channels mainly resulting from the increase in the number of customers (below) or from an increase in the time spent per capita (above). The United Kingdom and Ireland, Germany, France and above all Poland appear to be behind the European pace.


From one establishment to another, the differences between the 106 brands studied by D-Rating are spectacular.

In France, for example, they range from -23 for Lydia, which is still marked by its status as a payment operator/facilitator[1] , and as such is used for short and irregular sessions, to the national best performer Hello Bank, which has a differential of +22 points. The BNP Paribas Group subsidiary, which in 2021 shared the best rating awarded by D-Rating (A-) in Europe with BBVA, Boursorama Bank and KBC, is capitalizing in particular on its investment in customer care: already in first place in 2020 and 2021, in digital customer relations, in France, it once again comes out on top of this field on the 2022 campaign results.

[1] Payment by SMS initially

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The magnitudes are equivalent or similar in the other European countries studied by D-Rating, which raises questions about the long-term profitability of establishments that are unable to adopt their digital channels for anything other than one-off interactions and rapid use.

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