Fintech represents a set of innovative services, supported by advances in information and communication technology. The fintech sector includes innovative companies that offer financial services based on technology, fintech being the results of merging two concepts: “finance” and “technology” to “financial technology” [1
]. Fintech services are to be found in a variety of industries such as: mobile payments, e-commerce, portfolio management, risk management, customized consulting, virtual currencies, systems integration, and others [2
]. The financial crisis of 2008 concurred to the growth of fintech industry, as consumers experienced difficulties in accessing traditional financial services [3
]. Fintech contributes to democratise access to financial services, which is beneficial for financial inclusion in developing markets [6
]. Non-bankable categories of people and small companies can access microloans thus improving their experience with financial services [7
Fintech relies on advanced technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, near field communication (NFC), mobile wallets, and others [9
]. It is estimated that these technologies will contribute to the development of fintech services, by facilitating data and information collection, democratised access, prompt delivery of services [10
]. Based on information and communication technologies, more and more financial transactions will be implemented electronically, without human mediation [12
The growing impact of the fintech sector depends on technological innovation [13
], as well as on combining the innovative processes with the creation and delivery of customized, 24/7 financial services that enhance customer experience [14
]. Fintech means not only service innovation, but also innovation of financial business models [15
]. Fintech companies are more technology-oriented than traditional counterparts; with the help of information technologies, financial services can be offered to customers in a faster and more convenient way and at lower costs [2
]. Fintech innovations can change customers’ attitudes and behaviours towards financial services, with a possible significant impact on the traditional sector [19
Financial technology is used both by innovative IT companies, that offer new financial services mediated by technology, and by the traditional financial sector, such as banks, insurance companies, broking companies, that are using technology to enhance their services [20
]. Financial technology is beneficial to the traditional financial sector, but at the same time, it has a big disruption potential as the new fintech companies are more flexible and agile [21
]. For the purpose of our paper, we conceptualise fintech as companies that offer financial solutions outside the framework of the traditional financial sector.
Studies on customer behaviour and fintech are still in their infancy. The reasons why customers adopt fintech services are not yet fully clarified [23
] nor properly understood and described in the literature. Although the fintech sector is expanding and has a growing customer base, to the best of the authors’ knowledge there are no studies that analyse the customer experience in fintech. Therefore, this represents a major research gap, which justifies to explore the antecedents and outcomes of customer experience in the fintech industry
. The research scope of our paper is threefold: (1) to clarify the concept of customer experience in fintech, (2) to examine how customer experience is influenced by the perception of stimuli originating from fintech companies, and (3) to measure the extent to which customer experience contributes to loyalty intentions. To support our research, we underpin our discourse on the Stimulus-Organism-Response (S-O-R) framework.
By analysing the customer experience in fintech, this paper makes significant contributions to both theory and practice: from a theoretical perspective, we extend the application of the S-O-R approach with new insights from customer experience in the fintech sector and highlight several factors influencing the customer experience, while from a managerial perspective, we formulate a series of actionable recommendations for a more relevant customer experience in fintech.
The paper is structured as follows: in Section 2
we present the review on customer experience and on the S-O-R approach, and explain how the customer experience is formed in the fintech industry. Section 3
deals with the conceptual framework and hypothesis development, while Section 4
describes the research methodology. In Section 5
we present the results of our research, followed by their discussions. The paper ends with conclusions and the theoretical and managerial contributions, as well as the limitations and future research perspectives.
3. Conceptual Model and Hypotheses Development
We define customer experience in fintech as a set of relevant cognitive, affective and social responses, resulting from the customer–company interaction. In our view, customer experience is not low or high, nor ordinary or extraordinary, nor negative or positive, nor weak or intense or, but it is a relevant experience, both for the customer and the company. The following question arise: what is the significance of a customer mark on a Likert scale when asked to evaluate the dimensions of customer experience? Can we judge the highest mark as a positive experience? Or, perhaps the lowest mark as an unpleasant experience? In the terms of this paper, we propose the concept of relevant customer experience. The higher the respondent mark, the more relevant the experience was for her or him. The concept of relevant customer experience is circumscribed to the concepts of high, intense, extraordinary, powerful, consistent, adequate experience, and others. Relevant customer experience is the one remembered by a customer and the one that had a positive outcome. The customer internalizes and gives a meaning to that experience. The relevant experience has four characteristics: it has an impact, it is memorable, it has a meaning and it triggers a response. For companies, relevant customer experience is actionable, because of the responses from the customer side. Taking into account the above considerations, a higher score from a customer evaluation signals that the relevant experiences are valuable compared to other experiences, and so companies should look for these experiences and should try to replicate them.
For a relevant customer experience in fintech, alongside the service performance, the aspects related to the system and those related to the delivery process also matter [71
]. A fintech offer is evaluated by customers through the perceived benefits. These benefits influence the customer experience. We aim to analyse the following determinants of the customer experience in fintech: ease of use, perceived value, customer support, assurance, speed, and perceived firm innovativeness.
Ease of use rates how simple and smooth fintech apps are to operate. Ease of use contributes to the perceived control which, in turn, positively influences the affective dimension of the customer experience [33
]. When accessing a fintech service, customers do not want to waste time learning to use the service or waiting for the completion of the service. Ease of use and perceived control are important elements in the financial environment of customers [74
], being of greater importance for people who are low in technological readiness [75
]. Less tech-savvy customers will have a low motivation to engage with fintech unless the perceived ease of use will not lead to manageable levels of mastering the fintech app. For them, learning or adopting a new technology is a matter of stress, therefore the experience with the new technology might not be so positive, at least for the initial interactions. Even if, for tech-savvy and tech-dependent customers, such as Millennials or Generation Z, ease of use is not a matter of concern [76
], still it facilitates the formation of relevant customer experience. Ease of use also contributes to the loyalty intentions of the customer [78
]. Ease of use helps reduce the anticipated stress of adopting a fintech service [80
]. Fintech companies favour ease of use through a multi-stage mechanism of conscientization, capacitation, incentivization, enrichment and cultivation [82
]. Hence, we postulate that:
Hypothesis 1 (H1).
Ease of use is positively associated with customer experience.
Perceived value can be understood by linking together the quality and price of a service [83
]. For fintech customers, costs can relate to time and money. The perceived value quantifies the benefit of the customer expressed in monetary terms [84
]. The higher the perceived value, the more relevant the customer experience [60
]. Financial savings are among the most quoted benefits of companies in the fintech sector [14
]. Fintech companies are able to offer services at low prices due to an optimal cost structure, based on innovation and technological progress [85
]. The perceived value is an important determinant of behavioural intentions to use banking services, including digital financial ones [86
]. M-banking ubiquity and novelty seeking contribute to the perceived value, which is a prerequisite of the intention to continue to rely on mobile banking [87
]. Ubiquity is important for fintech because it enables customers to perform financial operations anywhere and anytime. Fintechs offer non-stop financial e-services, which saves customers’ valuable time. Tech-skilled customers will embrace new technologies, provided a higher perceived value [88
]. Therefore, we hypothesize that:
Hypothesis 2 (H2).
Perceived value is positively associated with customer experience.
Through customer support, organisations help the customer when she or he has problems [89
], being also responsible for relevant customer experience. The customer needs to feel reassured by the support of the fintechs in the event of a potential problem, such as a possible financial loss. This requires prompt intervention to reassure the safety of the customers’ investments. Other aspects of concern regard privacy issues and monetary considerations. Fintechs must find suitable ways to overcome negative consequences and to gain customers’ trust and loyalty by developing a relevant experience. Fintechs are challenged to perform with agility in designing the most innovative technology-intensive services, while maintaining strong focus on the customer journey via the continuous dialog with their customers [90
]. The success of fintechs is also due to superior and personalized customer service as opposed to the traditional financial sector [92
]. Therefore, we hypothesize:
Hypothesis 3 (H3).
Customer support is positively associated with customer experience.
Assurance refers to protection of the customer personal and financial data when dealing with fintechs [93
]. Customers need to know that operations through fintechs are safe for them, and that personal data are protected, especially for e-financial transactions. Safety and trust contribute to the perception of a relevant customer experience [94
]. Fintechs rely on technologies to mitigate customer’s perceived risks, theft of information, data violation and/or their fraudulent use [95
]. In order to prevent such security leaks, fintechs implement multiple security checks: electronic keys, encryption and biometric identification, service, platform, network, and device security [9
]. The availability of privacy and security policies, along with a good reputation should not be neglected [97
]. Where possible, fintechs might offer credential from a third party, regulatory or certification body. These considerations point towards:
Hypothesis 4 (H4).
Assurance is positively associated with customer experience.
Speed designates the performance of the fintech service in a timely manner [86
]. Prompt delivery of the service is a key element of customer satisfaction. New Internet-based technologies are increasing the speed of service delivery [2
]. Fintechs offer prompt and safe services [12
]. Time is an important asset, especially because fintech services are used both by individuals and companies to gain efficiency and productivity. Customers engage with fintech companies to avoid travel to brick-and-mortar locations, to perform e-services and to beneficiate from the speed and ease of use associated with new technologies [81
]. Perceived transaction speed influences the perceived effort to engage with fintechs, while the perceived transaction speed positively influences the behavioural intention to continue the relations with fintechs [100
]. Based on the foregoing arguments, we assume that:
Hypothesis 5 (H5).
Speed is positively associated with customer experience.
Perceived firm innovativeness encapsulates the attitude of customers regarding the company’s ability to deliver new products and experiences [101
]. Innovation is often considered a key element of fintech [19
]. A firm perceived by customers as innovative enjoys better ratings of its products, beneficiates from greater consumer engagement, and can lead to consumer loyalty [103
]. The development of innovative products stimulates customer experience. Innovation leads to cognitive and affective responses from consumers [104
]. An innovative company is perceived as having technological leadership and, at the same time, can generate enthusiasm and optimism among customers. Market impact, expressed by products and services that incorporate better solutions to consumer problems, is a potential source of perceived innovation [101
]. Fintech companies are recognized for their innovation capabilities, through which technology is used to develop personalized services, contributing to customer experience [70
]. In practice, fintech innovation can be noticed at four levels, with an impact on enhancing customer experience: product innovations, process innovations, organizational innovations, and business model innovations [2
]. Therefore, we argue that:
Hypothesis 6 (H6).
Perceived firm innovativeness is positively associated with customer experience.
One of the most sought-after outcomes of any company–customer interaction is the customer loyalty. In search of customer loyalty, companies try to figure out the best ingredients that will bring customers back. As customer experience has a positive impact on loyalty, its outcomes present several benefits for the company such as: trust, customer loyalty, increased commitment, a positive word-of-mouth [39
]. The perception of a relevant customer experience could lead to a greater commitment to the company, which is reflected in customer loyalty [43
]. Studies on customers experience with online retail applications have indicated a positive influence of cognitive and affective experience on customer loyalty [57
]. Hence, we postulate that:
Hypothesis 7 (H7).
Customer experience is positively associated with loyalty intentions.
The proposed conceptual model is depicted in Figure 2
6. Discussions and Implications
The perceived value influences the persistence of customer experience on the long-term [60
] because savings made are visible in the customer’s pocket, which contributes significantly to loyalty [87
]. The perceived value of fintech services impacts on the relevant customer experience and satisfaction [128
]. The perceived value can be increased by offering substantial value for the same price or by maintaining the value offered to customers and dropping prices [88
The customer appreciates the company when it has a proactive approach, when it solves problems from the first time, and when it responds promptly to the customer’s requests. Fintech companies have the resources to use technology for prompt and adequate customer support, enabling relevant customer experience [129
]. Customer support is provided across multiple touchpoints and devices, including remote expert and digital assistants, to offer customers personalisation and interactivity [91
]. Through customer support, the fintech company can initiate communication with the customer, which can strengthen the fintech relationship with the customer, leading to relevant customer experience.
Assurance contributes to the customer experience by consolidating a climate of reassurance and security, with multi-step checking procedures. Technological innovations must also come with improved safety standards. Fintech companies usually implement multi-step control systems, which translates into secure transactions and data protection [96
]. The way in which assurance contributes to the customer experience can be explained as follows: given the reports of online fraud, the security of fintech transactions is reflected in a relevant experience [130
]. The customer experience is relevant when the customer associates the fintech company with a high level of security and protection, control mechanisms and procedures, multiple stages of validation and confirmation [9
Fintechs offer fast services, which can be accessed online, thus saving time for the customer [131
]. Fintech services benefit from fast protocols to validate financial operations, by using sophisticated algorithms [85
]. Customers enjoy the possibility to benefit from financial services in a short time, without additional costs [2
]. Speed materializes in freeing up customer time, which is an especially appreciated benefit in the today’s economy. Time savings, as well as financial savings, contribute to a memorable and meaningful customer experience.
Customer perception of a company as innovative is the result of benefiting from the services provided by it. Innovation is an inherent feature of companies in the fintech sector, as they provide financial services in a more convenient way for the customer. The perception of a company as innovative contributes to a relevant customer experience. Our findings complement the results of other studies. Fintech innovations contribute to supplement and enhance customer experience [14
]. To ensure customer experience to all generations, it is important to blend old technology with new technology and innovation [24
]. Fintech innovation might contribute in a higher degree to the customer experience of new customers, for whom innovation is making financial services more affordable [133
All the dimensions of the relevant customer experience contribute to loyalty intentions, namely the cognitive, affective and social experience. The benefits of fintech services must be accompanied by a relevant experience, so that the customer continues to access the company’s services. The positive relationship between customer experience and loyalty intentions is well documented in previous studies [134
]. Our findings consolidate these results and further emphasize the significant association of customer experience with loyalty intentions.