7 Trends That Will Help Financial Marketers Deal With Uncertainty

Bank and credit union marketers can be forgiven for being a little unsure about whether their plans are a good fit in a pandemic-impacted world. Understanding key shifts in consumer expectations and behaviors provides a good starting point to evaluate and refine their approach to products, messaging and channels.

With continued personal and professional uncertainty from the pandemic likely to be with us for some time, it’s hard for financial marketers to know what to expect out of 2021 and beyond. Part of what marketers do is anticipate and react to change, yet preparing for a world that we can’t even imagine seems like an impossible task.

One thing we can get our minds around and plan for, however, is how this pandemic has already impacted societal trends. These trends can be a divining rod for the overall marketing climate, and knowing consumer behaviors and expectations will help you understand when, how and what you should market to your specific audiences.

The seven factors outlined here will assist you to refine, reassess or reinforce your plans for the months ahead.

1. Consumer Priorities Have Changed

The pandemic has given many people time to think and re-evaluate our lives. While some might be re-evaluating their work-life balance, others may have experienced a death, wedding, divorce or another major life milestone. The lasting impact of the pandemic will certainly change the profiles of your customers and members, so be sure to get to know how their lives and plans have changed so you can align your products and services to their current needs.

Marketing to your audiences the same way you did before the pandemic is not only insensitive but also very likely ineffective.

2. Humanized Customer Experience Is Everything

Now that most people have come to rely on digital solutions, their expectations for digital experiences have become more sophisticated. 2021 is the year to evaluate your customer experience across all your digital platforms — including your mobile apps, your website, your third-party applications and more — and understand the opportunities to do better.

“Consumers also want to know there is a human behind the digital curtain.”
— Michelle Brown, ZAG Interactive

Importantly, consumers also want to know there is a human behind the digital curtain. So while the convenience factor is essential, along with being helpful, humanizing your institution’s brand is just as important.

Brands that don’t understand and adopt this strategy will fail in favor of those that prioritize their customers’ needs at every single point of interaction.

3. Messaging Matters – Be Aspirational

While the COVID-19 vaccine is still rolling out, all of your marketing must cater to a socially distanced world, and your institution’s brand must portray the way we’re all still living. That said, be considerate of how you craft your messaging around this, because audiences are growing increasingly tone deaf to the “We’re with you” theme.

In 2021, consumers are seeking hope for a new, changed world. Your bank or credit union therefore needs to balance social distancing and safety with an aspirational component. Using adoptable pets from a local shelter in your advertising, for example, creates an emotional connection to how many people are living, which in turn transfers to your brand impression. When the pandemic is over, the lasting impression will be positive and relatable.

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4. Home Is Where the Heart (and Wallet) Is

People have spent more time at home the past year than ever before, creating a boom across many related industries — from home improvement and décor, to real estate and lenders, and even the pet industry. This trend will certainly continue.

Those gainfully employed might be saving money by not commuting, traveling or incurring other expenses associated with their “previous lives.” Their priorities may also have shifted when it comes to their home lives. Many folks have moved or bought their first houses, milestones that will lead to continued investment for years to come. While the housing boom will most certainly level off in 2021, it is expected to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels, which creates many related opportunities for financial marketers.

5. Fun and Travel Will Rise to a Whole New Level

When it’s safe to do so (which may not be in 2021), nearly everyone will be ready to let loose and have fun. People are craving socialization and some semblance of their old lives, so it’s a good bet to assume that at some point there will be a huge spike in travel and events. Whether it’s planning a vacation, going to an amusement park or scheduling a family reunion, one thing is certain: People are ready to go out into the world when it’s ok to do so. The great outdoors will likely remain dominant as an attraction.

When the time is right, your bank and credit union marketing campaigns should cater to this socioeconomic trend, while also respecting that a new set of social gathering rules may still be in place even after the pandemic subsides.

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6. It’s OK to Not Be OK

While we hope this year will bring us all good news, our collective society has experienced so much uncertainty about life, there’s likely to be a lasting impact. People need each other and their communities more than ever, and your institution’s brand can do its part to help people feel supported and connected.

Social media and email marketing will remain popular ways to reach audiences, so use both tactics intelligently. And be mindful that you are marketing to people who may be on edge and needing support, even needing laughter wherever they can get it — so evaluate how this might play into your marketing messaging.

7. Measure Your Digital Transformation

This last point is more of an institutional than societal trend. Your financial institution undoubtedly went into high gear in the spring of 2020, when digital was just about the only option for both marketing and business operations. This sudden pressure to accelerate your already-in-progress digital transformation should have impacted your 2021 budgeting and plans.

Now is the time to show how digital performs. Nearly everything you do in the digital space can be quantitatively measured. Make sure you have resources in-house or externally that can help you understand how what you’re doing in the digital space impacts your institution and your audiences.

We will all be watching to see how 2021 progresses after a rocky start. Looking closely at how these societal trends could impact the success of your financial marketing programs is a smart way to approach a world full of uncertainty but also full of hope.

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