How to Be Consumers’ Go-To Bank In Volatile Times

When consumers feel anxiety about their finances, it doesn’t just affect their spending decisions. It can also dictate where they choose to save and invest. Here are three marketing opportunities banks and credit unions should consider to gain consumer trust amid economic stress — at low to no cost.
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In times of economic volatility, consumers are naturally concerned about how to make every dollar count.

The change in psychology doesn’t just steer spend decisions — it can also dictate where dollars are stored and invested. A study from J.D. Power suggests consumers are taking action, with approximately 27% of retail banking customers having “shifted some of their money” away from their primary bank to another financial institution, citing reasons like higher interest rates, lower fees or rewards.

Sign of the Times:

Over a quarter of bank customers have moved at least some of their money to another bank because of better rewards, interest rates or fees.

It can be challenging for bankers to adapt, innovate or pivot offerings quickly to meet changing consumer needs.

Instead, simple shifts in marketing tactics and messaging can help a financial institution stand out and demonstrate the value it has to offer to existing and future customers in need.

Below are three areas where banks and credit unions can win consumer confidence in times of economic volatility.

Opportunity 1: Do Consumers See You When Doing Online Research?

Economic changes can trigger consumers to make major adjustments in their financial situations. When making these types of decisions, consumers tend to steer their own ship, with eight of ten Americans “relying ‘a lot’ on their own research,” according to Pew Research Center.

As they conduct their search for optimal solutions, it’s critical for your financial institution to be within their purview. The information they collect through online searches will ultimately nudge them closer to deciding what to do with their money and being among the websites they visit — or present on comparison sites — will be imperative.

Key To Customer Hearts:

People depend on their own research skills to make decisions and what they find online will often determine what bank they choose.

The time to focus on this strategy is now: The most recent Google algorithm update has prioritized “helpful product reviews written by experts” in search results, which means that third-party content will be especially important in getting seen online by customers and prospects.

Here’s one suggestion, based on an opportunity spotted by Credit Union ONE.

Swarmi Seetharaman, chief marketing and payments officer at Credit Union ONE, has seen some traction with customers who were at the end of their car lease, but who faced potential problems with securing their next vehicle. “New car availability is low and used car values have gone up significantly,” he explains. “Our members are finding great value in buying their vehicles when the lease on them matures.”

Financial institutions experiencing an uptick in this type of loan demand could partner with rate comparison websites to reach similar high-intention audiences. These websites may have a loyal readership and/or a high volume of visitors per month that you can get in front of.

Opportunity 2: Are Consumers Aware You Can Solve Their Problems?

People don’t know what they don’t know, and for many who are exploring alternative financial solutions, they might not be aware of all options in the marketplace. This can be especially true for Gen Z consumers, who are navigating a global economic decline for the first time in their adult lives.

For financial institutions, this is an opportunity to provide consumers with guidance when they need it most.

Redirect your content strategy to focus your blogs, articles, and social content on being informational and solution-based, such as “How much of my paycheck can I afford to save?” and “How do I lower monthly credit card payments?”

To expand the reach of your messages — and build more awareness of the solutions you offer — consider partnering with influencers who have captive audiences. Host Instagram Lives for video Q&As, a Twitter Space where one of your staff can share their expertise over live audio, and more.

Focusing on education will reinforce the fact that you are there to provide financial advice and expertise. It will also help instill confidence in your existing and future consumers and to position your financial institution top-of-mind as a viable solution.

Opportunity 3: Are Others Recommending You?

One way to inflation-proof customer confidence in a bank or credit union is through the power of affiliate and influencer partners as brand evangelists. The reason: Consumers often look to validate their financial decisions through third-party resources, especially ones that have done the research for them.

A single stamp of approval can go a long way. A 2021 survey of more than 1,100 people by marketing company Brightlocal found that nearly half of participants weighted their trust of consumer reviews as equal to personal recommendations from friends and family. Millennials especially tend to rely on trusted family and friends to reduce “decision fatigue.”

Consumer reviews on Google are not hard to get. All you have to do is ask. Of the survey respondents who said they’d been asked by a business to leave a review in the previous 12 months, 12% said they always followed through and wrote one, and another 23% said they left a review more than half of the time.

In addition to those Google reviews, third-party reviews via content sites focused on financial-wellness — and even mentions by influencers — can be a powerful tool to showcase the value your bank or credit union brings to existing customers and help ensure it is part of the consideration process.

Beyond Your Own Toolbox:

Third-party reviews in content sites focused on financial wellness can be a powerful tool to showcase the value a bank or credit union offers.

A tactic closer to home is referral programs. Incentivize your long-standing, loyal customers into referring new customers within their social networks. This can come in the form of trackable links that will help you understand and reward those customers who are successfully referring new relationships.

Coming back to financial education, value-add insights can not only attract new customers but also be the source of quality referrals. Chris Murray, vice president of marketing at Island Federal Credit Union, says an “educate and support” approach, rather than one focused on selling, has been well received by Gen Z customers there — “and, surprisingly, Boomers,” too, he adds.

If your financial institution has audiences that respond well to financial literacy, you could partner with financially focused influencers and be mentioned, reviewed or featured in their content.

Influencer marketing can enable banks and credit unions to amplify their values to broader audiences that are struggling with their financial situations. Whether it’s an influencer running a personal savings website, sharing portfolio diversification suggestions on TikTok, or creating Instagram Reels to help people understand cryptocurrencies, these partners can help financial institutions spread education, build familiarity with a wider audience and get broader reach for their financial solutions.

As economic volatility continues, use it as an opportunity to practice your marketing team’s adaptability and see what impact it has on building trust and value for your existing and future customers.

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