The new year means new opportunities for financial marketers to help bring in more business for banks and credit unions. Consumers will be thrust to the forefront, as financial marketers focus on making meaningful connections with customers and members. At the same time, financial institutions will begin to differentiate from their competition by humanizing their brand, and delivering interesting, valuable information to consumers with a consistent voice that they can relate to.
1. Getting back to basics with better branding
With more and more consumers doing their banking online instead of at the branch, the year 2015 will see financial institutions differentiating themselves more digitally though effective branding. CEB found that 58% of consumers have tried a new brand in the last three months that they didn’t even know about one year ago, so the importance of brand awareness and engagement is paramount. Whether rebranding entirely or refreshing the current brand, financial marketers will be tasked with making their institution stand out in an industry that promotes many of the same products and services.
Typical branding efforts include logo design, corporate identification and style guide development that will extend across all marketing channels for increased visibility. As the online hub for financial institutions, the corporate website will seek to deliver on the brand promise with customized images, consumer-centric messaging, and personalized user experiences (UX). Financial marketers will emphasize unique brands, and position brands by extending the bank or credit union’s mission and values throughout web content in a manner that is truly felt by the consumer. In a cluttered online space where financial institutions compete over consumer attention, banks and credit unions will seek to convey brand continuity with a distinct look and feel across all marketing channels.
Key Takeaway: Today, differentiating your brand is mission-critical to distinguish your institution in a highly competitive industry with more distribution channels and less consumer loyalty.
2. Fitting the mobile experience with responsive design
This year, financial institutions will seek to redesign their corporate sites using the technique of responsive design. 60% of all Internet use is now via mobile devices, according to InMobi. Because consumers expect the same type of experience on their handheld devices as they do on their desktop computers, financial institutions turn to responsive design as a mobile-friendly solution. Utilizing HTML5 technology, responsive design offers a “one size fits all,” seamless user experience (UX) for consumers, whether viewing the site on their desktop or mobile device. With today’s advances in responsive design, banks and credit unions will be able to offer robust, app-like functionality to consumers on all devices through one browser-based mobile site. Taking mobile banking to the next level, these complex functions include advanced animations, 3D-graphics and phone-enabled functionality.
Financial institutions will realize overall savings in time, budget and management by delivering a single site optimized for mobile using responsive solutions. Catching up to the mobile-friendly, marketing-focused frontend, the third-party, Internet banking sections of the institution site will also utilize responsive design in the near future. The ultimate goal of financial marketers is to deliver a seamless experience to users, whether the consumers are logged in or out of the institution site. Assisting with version control, financial marketers will increasingly take advantage of responsive design as a smart technique to consistently reach consumers on their preferred device.
Key Takeaway: Responsively designed sites will be the default choice for financial institution site redesigns, with seamless third-party integrations following suit.
3. Catering to the consumer with mobile banking
In response to increased consumer usage, financial institutions will keep rolling out additional mobile banking options this year. Financial institutions will need to listen to their audiences to deliver banking how they want it. This could mean offering mobile-only, online and mobile, or online-only banking. An important decision for financial marketers is whether to offer a native app or mobile site — or both — for consumers to conduct their mobile banking. There are perceived security and capability advantages to the native app, but responsively designed, secure mobile sites can provide much of the same functionality with a reduced investment in budget and version control. StatisticBrain reports that 19% of people used mobile phone banking at least once in the past 12 months with 90% checking an account balance or recent transaction. Whether accessing via a native app or mobile site, consumers — particularly Generation Y — will count on mobile solutions to bank with their financial institution.
Innovations in mobile banking will be focused primarily on making transactions through the smartphone or tablet. Virtual deposits, direct transfers, and electronic payments will be made more available to consumers via mobile banking. Additionally, mobile banking will permit access to eStatements and finance tools, helping consumers to manage their money on the go. More leading-edge financial institutions will offer totally web-based eAccounts, accessible online and via mobile devices, that give consumers special perks and incentives over traditional banking accounts. On an ongoing basis, financial marketers will work with digital agencies and Internet banking partners to improve their mobile banking capabilities, allowing consumers access to pre-login account information, credit and debit card management, and card-less ATM withdrawals.
Key Takeaway: Financial institutions will need to evolve their mobile banking offerings, as the adoption and functionality of smartphones and tablets increase in 2015.
4. Pulling in the consumer via mobile marketing
With users spending the majority of their time consuming digital media on their smartphones and tablets rather than desktop computers these days, financial institutions must invest heavily in mobile marketing in 2015. Mobile marketing is a cost-effective, easy-to-implement way to reach lots of younger consumers in an immediate, interactive way that builds brand loyalty and leads to higher conversion rates. 95% of marketers who did integrate mobile marketing into their overall program said it was at least somewhat effective, as reported in Exact Target’s 2014 State of Marketing report. Consequently, financial marketers must plan for a mobile marketing strategy to reach consumers through popular native apps and enhanced mobile sites. Catching up to leading consumer brands, financial institutions will need to create immersive digital experiences on mobile devices.
Banks and credit unions will look to take advantage of the native functionality of phones and tablets to deliver more actionable information to consumers. Text messages (SMS), multimedia messages (MMS), push notifications, geolocation marketing and more mobile-centric tactics will be used by financial institutions to reach consumers on their handheld devices. Financial marketers will be able to target consumers on their smartphones and tablets with banking account updates, transaction alerts, exclusive offers, new products and more timely, personalized information. In a practical sense, a bank or credit union can text a consumer to increase a credit line, transfer a balance, open an account or apply for overdraft protection based on time of year, currents funds or transaction patterns.
Financial marketers must be mindful for how content is consumed on mobile, tailoring the format and functionality for different devices. This means optimizing images for mobile, designing responsive sites, making sure video can be viewed on iOS, and more. Because consumers are increasingly engaging with companies through their smartphones and tablets, financial institutions will need to make sure that promotions are appropriately sized for various screen resolutions. So, while a digital ad or infographic might read well on a desktop computer, dynamic display technology or customized formats will be needed for consumers to view on smaller screens without a lot of pinching and scrolling. Familiar marketing tactics such as promotional emails, social media posts and blog articles must scale down for mobile users, ensuring fast-loading times and an optimal experience.
Considering an interconnected promotional plan, mobile marketing efforts must plug in seamlessly with traditional, social media and content marketing strategies. Financial marketers will need to be more mindful of the mobile experience when plotting omnichannel strategies, ensuring that content is customized for all devices in the coming year.
Key Takeaway: Mobile marketing is crucial for connecting with consumers on the go, engaging them from offline to online touchpoints as part of an integrated marketing strategy.
5. Attracting more consumers with content marketing
Content marketing will continue to flourish this year, as financial institutions seek to make their content stand out across multiple channels to attract and convert new consumers. A key insight from the a survey on digital marketing trends found that most marketers felt that content marketing is this year’s most important digital trend. Writing, storytelling, editing and publishing valuable content across multiple channels, financial marketers will focus on content marketing as a prime initiative. Two key areas of focus for financial institutions conducting content marketing in 2015 will be creating sticky content that distinguishes from the competition and scaling content efficiently across multiple channels.
With so many banks and credit unions churning out similar content, financial marketers will be faced with figuring out new ways to reach consumers through different, distinct messaging. By further humanizing their brand voice, financial institutions will strive to connect in a real and meaningful way with consumers. Financial marketers will utilize branded content — such as case studies, testimonial videos, and whitepaper research — that feature thought leadership and success stories to position banks and credit unions singularly in a crowded marketplace.
In 2015, financial institutions must also effectively staff and support their content marketing strategy. Plotting content to perform natively on each platform, financial marketers will need to figure out how to efficiently customize content for the channel in which it will be published. This requires becoming more agile in rewriting, reformatting and disseminating the same source material for different audiences, platforms and devices. Successful financial marketers will modify content to be more conducive to the nature of each channel, such as writing concisely for Twitter and optimizing images for mobile platforms. Because consumers engage more with visual content, financial institutions will need to source for custom photography, stock images, illustrative graphics, as well as various types of video marketing.
In order to resource content marketing initiatives, financial institutions will rely on internal marketing teams, as well as digital agencies to plan, curate, create, post, monitor and adjust content, while exploring new channels and tools for distribution. Budget previously allocated for more standalone strategies will shift towards content marketing, as many of these traditional and online marketing activities will be incorporated seamlessly into an overall content strategy. Content marketing will be the major driver of search engine optimization (SEO), while social media marketing will fuel content marketing efforts.
Key Takeaway: This year, financial institutions will focus on not only creating compelling content, but also how to cost effectively shape and disseminate it, while measuring its impact on business goals.
6. Making the most out of social media
While historically late in embracing social media, financial institutions will catch up to other major industries in 2015, focusing on social media marketing, service, and advertising. In fact, Marketo found that financial service firms saw a 31% year-over-year growth in social media marketing, which is significantly above average. Financial marketers will seek to build brand loyalty by engaging consumers on the most popular social media channels, leveraging each platform strategically to maximize effectiveness. Facebook will be used primarily for community outreach, communicating the corporate culture of the financial institution, while conveying philanthropic efforts and offering special promotions. Twitter will act as a social news feed for most financial institutions, used for posting blog articles, press releases and other timely information. Some banks and credit unions will also employ Twitter as a social service channel, actively responding to customer issues with the assistance of social listening devices, such as Sprout. LinkedIn will be leveraged to show thought leadership, attract new talent and promote business banking solutions. Acting as a hub for video marketing, YouTube will serve up videos, featuring how-to tutorials, leadership interviews, and promotional commercials for financial institutions. Furthermore, banks and credit unions with the expertise and resources for more social media will integrate image-based networks, such as Pinterest and Instagram into their marketing plans to attract specific demographics with eye-catching visual content.
As with all contemporary marketing tactics, content is king, so financial marketers will be wise to follow best practices for social media, including the 80/20 rule of educational vs. promotional posts. Combating the stigma that financial information is dry and boring, financial marketers must find creative ways to make the subject matter interesting and informative for consumers. Financial institutions can be positioned on social media as helpful purveyors of finance tips, industry insights, and wealth opportunities that can align to savings and checking, loans, mortgages, guidance, and more.
Creating a vibrant online community via social media serves to increase brand loyalty and adoption of services for banks and credit unions. Staffing for social media will be a major challenge for financial institutions, identifying the appropriate internal employees and external resources necessary to plan, create, execute, promote and measure these activities. Social media affords banks and credit unions a nimble communication vehicle for timely updates, crisis management and customer satisfaction that assists in maintaining a strong reputation in the financial marketplace.
Key Takeaway: Sooner than later, financial institutions will go from “checking the box” on social media to actively marketing on these channels, increasing brand awareness, building customer loyalty and converting sales opportunities through effective two-way communication.
7. Promoting content with paid amplification
2015 will be the year of paid amplification for financial institutions to assure online visibility with consumers. As noted by Shoutlet, digital ad spend is poised to surpass TV advertising spend by 2016, with social ad spend increasing by 40% last year. Leading to this surge in paid amplification is the financial marketer’s ability to specifically target consumers based on granular attributes, such as interests, job titles, locations, and more.
Content marketing will not only require financial marketers to create compelling content, but also to effectively distribute content. As banks and credit unions compete to cut through the clutter of content, paid and sponsored placements will be a necessity to be seen by consumers. Financial institutions will be forced to spend on paid media to augment their owned content, particularly with native advertising. In addition, paid amplification will be necessary for financial marketers to reach consumers on social media through sponsored and promoted content. Facebook Advertising will be an absolute must in 2015, because Facebook restricts the type of content that users see organically in their feeds. Sponsored Tweets on Twitter and Promoted Posts on LinkedIn will both allow financial marketers to boost content reach. Instagram, Pinterest and Whatsapp advertising will also be available to promote and sponsor content this year. Financial institutions will need to earmark dollars for social media advertising, buying and placing content on the various networks.
Paid amplification touches search engine marketing (SEM) too, as pay-per-click (PPC) is another form of online advertising. Promoting paid search results, Google AdWords is the most popular platform for PPC, where financial marketers invest in paid amplification of keywords and phrases.
Financial institutions will need to appropriately budget to advertise content across channels. Often times relying on digital agencies to buy media and optimize campaigns, financial marketers will experiment with ad spends and placements to discover the right paid media mix.
Key Takeaway: Through paid amplification, financial marketers will need to “pay to play” in order for their content to be noticed by consumers in 2015.
8. Staying consistent with email marketing
A tried and true marketing tactic, financial institutions will reinvest in email marketing this year. According to eMarketer, 56% of digital marketers cited email marketing as the most effective program for retaining customers. As financial marketers become frustrated with the lack of organic visibility on social media networks and the ever-changing complexity of search engine algorithms, they will turn back to the consistency, reliability and measurability of email.
Financial marketers will build their email lists with consumers opting in from multiple online sources. These e-lists will be segmented, targeting audiences based on income, location, life stage and demographics, with promotions, product offerings and other useful information. Types of email marketing will vary in terms of format and intent. Promotional messaging will communicate new product offerings to consumers, such as mobile banking and person to person payments. More concise email alerts will be sent to communicate timely information, like branch closings. Educational emails in the form of ongoing e-newsletters will inform consumers with interesting financial articles.
Email marketing will continue to serve as a critical component of institutions’ content marketing strategy, allowing financial marketers to routinely target specific audiences, driving consumers to click through for more information or to apply for a product offering. As consumers become less likely to buy a product or service directly from an email, financial marketers will be tasked to create more valuable, two-way engagements with audiences via email marketing, building trust and authority.
Key Takeaway: Financial institutions will realize a resurgence in email marketing as a controllable, linkable and measurable method of communication.
9. Telling visual stories with video marketing
Video marketing will stay hot in 2015, with financial institutions focusing on producing and posting engaging videos for public consumption. According to Video Statistics: The Marketer’s Summary 2014, 74% of all Internet traffic in 2017 will be video. As such, financial marketers will be wise to incorporate video marketing into their digital strategy. An attractive form of media for financial institutions to adopt, video marketing is an interactive content type that yields a high ROI, as borne out by sophisticated video analytics. Moreover, the versatility of video allows it to be used for public relations, online marketing and consumer education, converting users from strategic placements in emails, social media networks and websites.
Financial institutions will create branded video content, such as how-to tutorials for online and mobile banking, thought leadership videos from C-level employees, promotional commercials, as well videos showing community involvement. Financial marketers will focus on visual storytelling to educate and entertain consumers with video content that remains true to the brand of the bank or credit union. Maximizing the SEO value with descriptive tags and meta data, videos will be hosted on the corporate site and uploaded to video-sharing platforms.
Additionally, video will fuel social media marketing initiatives for banks and credit unions, as they will be featured and shared on community-based networks. With over 1 billion unique users per month, YouTube represents a tremendous opportunity for financial institutions to reach Millennials, with 70% of this coveted demographic visiting the video-sharing network at least once a month, according to Forbes Online. Furthermore, Facebook Videos recently overtook YouTube for share of number of video posts, as brands posted 20,000 more videos on Facebook than they did on YouTube in December 2014, according to Socialbakers. Other social sites, such as Vimeo, Instagram and SnapChat, will allow financial institutions to promote concise videos to consumers with short attention spans. Increasing online engagement, brand retention and conversion rates, video marketing will give financial marketers an edge in connecting more with consumers in 2015.
Key Takeaway: Perhaps the most dynamic tactic with a financial institution’s digital strategy, video marketing will positively affect content marketing, online marketing, mobile marketing, inbound marketing, social media marketing, as well as search engine marketing.
10. Appearing as contextual content with native advertising
As the click-through rate of display advertising continues to dwindle, financial marketers will rely on modern online advertising to reach consumers in 2015, namely — native advertising. Commonly referred to as “sponsored content,” native advertising consists of content-based ads that play to the rest of the editorial on the page. Whereas display ads consist of standard ad sizes and placements, native ads appear contextually to match the page content as digital advertorials. As a result, consumers tend to notice and connect with this organic advertising more than typical display ads, which still suffer from “banner blindness.”
Publisher-produced and sponsored by the financial institution, native advertising is found both on corporate and third-party sites. Types of native advertising include promoted posts, images, videos, articles, comments, rich media, and more. A component of content marketing, native advertising appears as branded content within a site’s editorial, as well as recommended content that relates to the information on the webpage. Connecting to consumer interests, native advertising appears on social media platforms, seen as Promoted Tweets on Twitter and Sponsored Stories on Facebook. Search engine marketing (SEM) is another form of native advertising, because the ads appear next to relative search results. Hexagram Labs cites in its State of Native Advertising 2014 report that brands expect to be spending 24.3% of their budget on native ads.
Key Takeaway: Financial marketers will invest more in native advertising, working with publishers to serve up content alongside site editorial in the most natural and non-promotional ways possible.
11. Optimizing and marketing for search engines
In 2015, financial marketers will need to evolve their search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) strategies to keep up with the how consumers search for information. Optimizing the financial institution’s website with SEO in mind will be vital, from both a technical and content perspective. With the help of SEO specialists, financial marketers will research and implement branded terms and strategic keywords into the site’s meta data and content, carefully constructing the page names, header titles and more to attract search engines.
Keyword research will be heavily influenced by newer technologies, such as Apple’s Siri and Google Voice Search, which offer semantic search based on natural language, rather than traditional keyword strings. Planning for SEO, financial marketers will need to keep up with the constant shifting of search algorithms. Contextual factors, such as authorship, location, social networks, browsing habits, and mobile usage will affect search results. For example, to avoid being penalized by search engines, financial institutions must offer a fully accessible, fast-loading and secure mobile site.
Because search engines surface the highest quality, most relevant and freshest content, SEO is heavily influenced by content marketing. The savvy financial marketer will boost organic search rankings by including branded, business-related terms in public relations, social media marketing, traditional marketing, and other integrated marketing tactics.
Financial marketers will continue to utilize SEM, especially as changes to pay-per-click (PPC) make sponsored results seem less like ads. Paying for prime placement on Google AdWords and Bing Ads will be more worthwhile to financial institutions, as they will be more difficult to distinguish from organic listings. More budgetary and targeting options will give financial marketers added flexibility in reaching consumers via paid search. Because SEM is highly measurable, it will remain an attractive paid amplification tactic for financial institutions in a fiercely competitive marketplace.
In 2015, the sweet spot for search engine success for financial institutions will be the combination of organic SEO best practices and paid SEM tactics.
Key Takeaway: If banks and credit unions expect to be ranked highly on Google, Bing and other search engines, it will take optimizing their sites for search, as well as an investment in PPC advertising.
12. Getting more personal with personalization
In the coming months, financial marketing will shift further from homogenization to personalization, providing more individualized, contextual experiences to consumers. Just last year, a report titled “Bridging the Digital Divide” indicated that “16% of CMOs focus on using web personalization frequently, but 50% of CMOs plan to use web personalization in 2014.” Expect this trend to continue in 2015, as the one-size-fits-all approach of advertising will be supplanted by localized, consumer-centric content.
Demanding the same level of service on the web that they’ve become accustomed to at the branch, consumers will clamor for a more customized experience online. To meet this demand, financial marketers will need to perform advanced market segmentation, utilizing consumer data and market research to create buyer personas — representative customer profiles comprised of lifestyle, motivations, needs, and more. These personas identify specific audiences based on user activity, serving up appropriate content along the consumer journeys throughout the financial institution site. Made possible by the built-in functionality of a sophisticated content management system (CMS), website personalization puts the consumer in greater control, programmatically displaying desirable content based on geographical location, form data, site usage, and other captured information. For example, a user arrives at the site from a certain ZIP code and subsequent personalization shows promotions for a new branch opening in the visitor’s town. Another instance of personalization might be a site visitor identified as a “working class,” small business candidate by location, previous form submission data and a visit to the small business loans page. In this scenario, the visitor’s next session will include targeted, useful content that links to a small business planning section of the site. Consumers will be treated to real-time alerts, timely offers and important notifications as part of this type of activity-based marketing.
Key Takeaway: In 2015, banks and credit unions will implement website personalization to offer advice, announce openings, promote products, suggest services and serve up more custom content to consumers online.
13. Reminding the consumer to convert with retargeting
Due to its effectiveness in cross-selling products and lead nurturing, retargeting (also known as remarketing) will rise in popularity with financial marketers over the course of the coming year. 68% of agencies and 49% of brands are moving dollars from traditional display advertising into retargeting, as noted by Wishpond. Retargeting serves up online ads to consumers after visiting the financial institution site without converting. For example, the user ends a site session without actually applying for a loan or opening up an account. When the visitor reaches the financial institution’s website, a pixel or cookie is placed on the user’s browser by the third-party retargeting provider. Upon leaving the site, online ads from the financial institution appear on other sites according to the media buy and placement. Because most visitors do not convert on their first visit to a site, retargeting them in a subsequent ad increases the chances of getting a consumer to take action.
Financial marketers can get really strategic when adding online ad retargeting to their institution’s online marketing plan. The ad creative should tie into the site visit, so if the user was browsing credit card pages, then the subsequent online ad should be for a balance transfer or low introductory rate offer. Segmenting audiences, financial institutions can target specific consumers based on product lifecyle, life stages, specific interests and detailed demographics. Users with a home mortgage might be treated to a HELOC offer for home improvements in the spring or to pay for a vacation in the summer. Not limited to commercial websites, retargeting can be extended across multiple channels from email to social media platforms for maximum enticement.
Key Takeaway: Retargeting continually reminds the consumer about the bank or credit union, increasing brand awareness with an increased chance of conversion.
14. Nurturing leads automatically with marketing automation
In the months to follow, more financial institutions will adopt marketing automation to market more efficiently on multiple channels, automatically carrying out repetitive tasks through sophisticated software programs. Salesforce recently stated that the adoption of marketing automation is expected to increase a whopping 50% by 2015.
Many financial marketers are utilizing marketing automation platforms, such as HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, Kurtosys, and others that integrate with popular content management systems (CMS) to make lead generation tasks easier to perform. Marketing automation brings content management, data analytics, email marketing, SEO and other common tactics together with one holistic tool. With user-friendly, built-in functionality and robust reporting, marketing automation makes it easier to create trackable campaigns, combining A/B testing, email marketing, landing pages, lead scoring, user profiling, webinar hosting, and more. Programmed to help nurture leads, marketing automation is the software that helps drive inbound marketing, bringing consumers to the financial institution’s site with engaging content. Using these automated programs, financial marketers are able to set up targeted marketing messages to specific audiences, engage and track consumers across multiple channels, as well as capture user data for subsequent marketing.
Key Takeaway: Leveraging one platform for omnichannel marketing, financial institutions are incorporating marketing automation to assist with brand standards, compliance mandates and resourcing issues.
15. Digging into big data and analytics
With an emphasis on digital measurement and metric-based decisions, financial marketers will dive deeper into big data analysis this year. As noted by CMO Survey, spending on marketing analytics is expected to increase by 73% in three years. Data integration will be at the forefront for evaluating traditional and digital marketing effectiveness, informing financial institutions on how to better reach consumers in the branch and online. Analytics will be used not only to measure success, but also to monitor, adjust and inform digital tactics. As financial institutions implement more multichannel touchpoints, the corresponding captured consumer information will grow exponentially. At the same time, digital channels are rolling out more robust reporting options, making it a little easier to collect and review metrics. With the advent of Universal Analytics, Google Analytics offers insightful statistics that go well beyond website tracking. On the social media front, while Facebook Insights provides more useful numbers, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest now display key performance indicators, as well.
The challenge in 2015 will be figuring out how to leverage all of the collected data into actionable intelligence for financial marketers to better connect with customers and members. Analysts will be relied on to sift through disparate, raw data to make logical connections for banks and credit unions. Collected data will also be used as consumer-facing content in the form of familiar, static infographics, as well as dynamic, web-based data visualizations.
Key Takeaway: Big data will help financial marketers turn analytics into profit, minimizing costs, mitigating risks, and recognizing opportunities for the financial institution.
Financial marketing in the year of the consumer
While this year will offer plenty of online marketing tactics for financial institutions to implement, the consumer must remain the focal point of every digital strategy. That means making meaningful connections at every touchpoint of the customer journey from offline activities to web-based interactions between consumer and brand. Today, members and customers want to feel in control, whether in person or online, expecting the same personalized experience from the financial institution. In 2015, financial marketers will be challenged to serve up pertinent content that engages the consumer in an authentic manner, leading to a timely conversion based on brand loyalty to the bank or credit union.
Chris Rinaldi is a Digital Strategist at ZAG Interactive, a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury CT that has built hundreds of bank and credit union websites. To discuss your digital strategy needs with ZAG, call 860.633.4818 or send an email.