User Research Helps Demystify Small Business Customers

By Gibbs Barrow and the Projekt202-ApitureTeam

Small business banking customers are a mystery. They think and operate differently than medium-sized or enterprise businesses. Typically, they don’t find commercial banking features useful or easy to use, yet they need time-saving tools so they can focus on running their business. 

Recently, our design team at Projekt202 was tasked with helping Apiture redesign its small business banking platform. The team spent more than two months conducting user research – interviewing small business users and observing these users walking through bank prototypes. 

Our Process

We identified aspects of this often-misunderstood audience by relying on the following three key practices:

  • Recruiting participants: Beginning with participants from Apiture’s target market, we identified unique characteristics to gauge whether the target audience’s banking practices were aligned with the platform’s experience.
  • Building realistic prototypes: We developed prototypes detailed enough to elicit feedback from users, but generic enough to allow for exploration, allowing us to effectively probe navigation and organization of the site.
  • Leveraging interview techniques designed to uncover insights: We designed open-ended interviewing techniques to begin pulling back the veil of the small business customer.
Learning About Apiture’s Customers

The research gave us valuable insight regarding the users’ challenges and how the banking prototype could better support them. We dug deep to understand what experiences work and do not work, as well as to uncover the mental models and emotions that drive customer behavior. By following the customers’ conversations, we see the banking prototype through their eyes. Here’s what we learned:

  1. Customers are Time Pressed

Small business owners wear many hats and are often spread too thin. They may only have a few minutes a day to manage their company’s banking activities, as the bulk of the day is spent communicating with customers and prospecting for new business. They are running a business where serving customers is paramount. And unlike employees in medium-sized businesses, they do not have the time nor the inclination to learn the ins and outs of business banking.

Based on these findings, we simplified the terminology and requirements so that everyday users can understand. We also included more guidance throughout business banking to better inform users before taking action on behalf of their business.

2. Cash-Flow Constraints are Real

Small business customersoften prioritize payments before submitting them, deciding not to pay certain invoices because they might be short on cash. The uncertainty of available cash leads them to constantly double-check bank balances and monitor accounts for errors and unexpected transactions.

We found that users need an easy way to monitor the cash management process, so we centralized the transactions to make them easier to view.

3. Banking Concepts and Terminology are Confusing

Users were not familiar with the terminology in ACH payment transactions, often referred to as NACHA. Business customers want a quick, cost-effective way to pay their invoices. Expecting them to learn this terminology is a big ask.

To deal with terminology issues, we reframed and improved the organization of content so that the average user can more easily understand it.

Turning Research into Practical Design

We learned users view the experience holistically. This reminded us that users are not evaluating the product based on a feature-by-feature basis but on how all features work together to create an experience — in other words, the whole (i.e., experience) is greater than the sum of the parts (i.e., features).

Leveraging research and design best practices, Projekt202 helped Apiture learn valuable insights about its small business customers and ultimately improve its small business banking experience. Speaking to users directly informed the decisions we made to improve the overall business banking experience and integrate research findings into our designs.

More Research to Come

Moving forward, Apiture will adopt an incremental release process leading to rollouts of new navigation designs beginning in Q4 2022 and improvements in early 2023 in the way businesses make digital payments. Projekt202 will also use our methodology to continually improve the Apiture Business Banking product and give users what they need to better do their jobs.

To learn more about user experience design, contact Projekt202.


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