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Optimize Your Financial Services Marketing To Meet New Consumer Demands


by Bridget Fletcher
Director-Suite Marketing
Adobe Systems

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Article Highlights:

  • A well-tuned optimization strategy allows financial institutions to connect with consumers in ways that deliver for the bottom line.
  • Financial institutions are playing catch-up with social media strategies.
  • A fully optimized digital marketing program allows financial institutions to win the hearts and minds of consumers in this highly competitive and strictly regulated landscape.

The proliferation of digital channels, along with the ubiquity of mobile devices, has redefined how consumers interact with financial institutions.

Financial institutions have been forced to keep up with a new set of demands from consumers who expect to conduct business and transactions online and via their mobile devices—with ease. All of this creates challenges for financial institutions, particularly in the wake of increased regulatory scrutiny, reduced fees, and privacy concerns among a consumer base that is increasingly price conscious in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

In response, financial institutions have embraced the shift to digital by providing online and mobile-enabled applications, which not only improve customer satisfaction but lower the cost of servicing customer transactions significantly. Not only are consumers expecting to conduct business online, their demands have increased for relevant, engaging, and personalized experiences.

A well-tuned measurement and optimization strategy allows financial institutions to connect with consumers in meaningful interactions that deliver results to the bottom line, allowing them to maximize the return from their investments in digital marketing and advertising. And, more importantly, a fully optimized digital marketing and advertising program allows financial institutions to win the hearts and minds of consumers in this highly competitive and strictly regulated landscape.

Financial Services Trends
The following trends define the high-tech landscape today:

1. Shift to digital channels: Consumers love the convenience that digital channels afford them when conducting business with financial institutions, whether they are authorizing a bill-pay transaction, transferring funds, trading stock, or applying for a mortgage. Whether consumers are on the go and want to conduct business on their mobile devices or from the convenience of their homes, financial institutions have to meet customers where they spend their time. Keeping up with the proliferation of digital channels has been an enormous challenge for financial institutions, who are rapidly shifting budgets to create more streamlined Web and mobile sites and applications. Ad dollars continue to shift to digital channels, allowing financial institutions to reach and attract consumers with online advertising (paid search, display, and social). In addition to facilitating these digital experiences, financial institutions need to measure and understand consumer behavior across a multitude of channels to understand the return on their digital marketing and advertising investments.

2. Increased demand for personalized experiences: Consumers not only expect to be serviced across channels but they demand personalized, relevant, and connected experiences. From the customer’s perspective, a financial institution is one entity, regardless of whether the customer is online, at a branch, at an ATM, on a mobile app, or on the phone. That customer expects to be viewed as a single entity as well, even if the data representing his interactions is distributed across multiple systems. Financial institutions, therefore, need to understand each customer’s fragmented set of interactions and leverage that data to create a more streamlined and relevant experience. For anonymous consumers, financial institutions also have an opportunity to leverage past behavior—whether searching for a loan product or new checking account—to deliver consumers information that is relevant and aligned with their recent interests and inquiries.

3. Emergence of mobile and social: Financial institutions are learning quickly how to leverage mobile and social channels to provide better, more streamlined experiences for their customers. The financial services industry was quick to adopt and understand the value—both to the customer and to the financial institution—of providing mobile apps to conduct day-to-day business and transactions. The customer enjoys the freedom to do business on his time, and the financial institution benefits from decreased cost of servicing customers—a win-win for both the financial institution and its customers. However, financial institutions are playing catch-up with their social media strategies, as they determine how to best leverage social in a highly regulated industry. Financial institutions have seen value in building communities via social channels, such as Facebook, and leverage these channels to offer promotions, showcase their philanthropic efforts, and improve customer service.

Challenges For Financial Services Business
The trends described have created a number of challenges for marketers at financial institutions. Because of the digital explosion, financial institutions now have a wealth of information and data about how consumers interact with their digital and offline channels, what advertising channels drive the most engagement, and how customers interact via social, mobile, email, and more. Managing this data and leveraging it can be a powerful tool, but financial institutions are confronted with the following hurdles when building out their digital marketing and advertising programs:

· Highly regulated landscape: The global financial crisis has created an increase in consumer protection through stricter regulations, reduction in fees, increased protection of consumer privacy, and price sensitivity among consumers. Managing these shifts, along with the explosion of digital channels, makes it difficult to service a generation of consumers whose expectations exceed those of the past.

· Gaining a holistic view of customers: Managing the customer’s expectations for relevance and personalization through connected and cohesive experiences across channels creates challenges for financial institutions that need to bring together data from multiple channels to obtain a 360-degree view of each and every customer. Once that view is obtained, however, financial institutions are poised to optimize each and every consumer interaction, regardless of channel.

· Understanding social: Although still in its infancy for many financial institutions, social media is proving to be a critical part of their engagement strategy. In addition, tying consumer behavior via social media channels to key business objectives is difficult for financial institutions but will ensure that investments in social are delivering value.

· Leveraging mobile to drive revenue: Consumers are increasing the amount of time they spend on their mobile devices and therefore the number of transactions they perform with their financial institutions. Consumers are tapped for time and love the convenience of being able to pay their bills while waiting in line at the grocery store or selling stock on the train ride home from work. Financial institutions need to meet consumers where they spend their time and provide opportunities for increased convenience via mobile devices.

· Measuring ROI on sales and marketing spend: Marketers are under more pressure than ever to prove the effectiveness of their digital marketing programs and their contribution to the bottom line.  A solid measurement and optimization strategy allows marketers to understand the return on advertising spend across channels—on-site investments to drive conversions, email programs to drive retention, and investment in newer channels, such as mobile and social media, to drive acquisition.


How Financial Services Businesses Use Digital Marketing to Address Challenges
While the digital explosion, global financial crisis, and increased regulatory scrutiny of the past decade have created challenges for financial services businesses, there is opportunity to measure and optimize every digital interaction with consumers. A solid digital marketing strategy not only drives revenue for the financial institution, but it creates efficiencies regarding how advertising and marketing budgets are spent. Every campaign can be measured for its effectiveness and optimized to yield the highest returns.  

Financial services businesses, therefore, must consider optimizing their digital marketing programs to yield the following benefits:

· Maximize return on advertising and marketing spend: Financial institutions can leverage digital marketing technology to deliver the highest ROI from their advertising campaigns. Understanding which advertising campaigns—whether paid search, display, social, or email—deliver the most site visitors and yield the highest conversion rates allows financial institutions to invest more heavily in those advertising mediums that perform best. In addition, a solid measurement and optimization strategy allows financial services businesses to apply this same logic to all of their digital marketing investments, including on-site investments, testing/targeting technologies, email marketing programs, social media programs, mobile apps, and optimized sites. This helps ensure that marketing investments are aligned with a firm’s business goals to yield high returns.

· Personalize customer experiences: A proliferation in marketing data is proving to be a tremendous challenge for financial institutions, all of which are confronted with the issue of “big data” and how to manage and tap into that data. By making use of the wealth of information available to a business about its consumers, financial services businesses can create a relevant and engaging experience that builds upon a consumer’s previous experiences each and every time that consumer interacts with that business. A connected and interesting experience helps drive increased conversion, higher revenues, and improved margins.

· Tapping Social Media: Financial institutions have the ability to leverage and understand the effectiveness of social media for their customers. Not only can financial institutions  measure customer sentiment, they can understand specifically if social media is driving traffic to the Web site and increasing the number of accounts opened by tying popular social media channels (such as Facebook, and Twitter) to on-site conversion.

· Multi-device communication: Consumers will decide when and where they want to interact with a financial institution, whether via traditional Web, at a branch or ATM, or on a mobile device. Financial institutions can—and must—deliver differentiated and device-specific experiences. Financial institutions, for instance, have an opportunity to create mobile-optimized sites for smartphones and tablets that take into consideration the attendant form factors and navigation requirements, as well as the consumer profile, to deliver a personalized experience.

· Reduce operational costs: Financial institutions can leverage digital channels to make customers more self-sufficient by moving customer support online and to community forums. In addition, connecting the dots between customer interactions prior to a call being placed to customer support allows representatives to more effectively service customers and reduce call times significantly.

By embracing the host of changes that have defined the business landscape in recent years, financial services businesses can now create fully optimized digital marketing programs that offer engaging experiences for customers and prospects, while driving revenue.