To succeed as a financial marketer now, you need to be adaptable, because marketing has never been more complex or more fast-moving than it is now. To stand out and gain mindshare from today’s consumer, financial marketers will have to be creative, agile and rely on data to ensure campaigns are hitting their mark.
To assist marketers in achieving that, The Financial Brand distilled five key trends from reports, observations and data from consultants, vendors and financial institution sources.
Trend 1. Moving Beyond Digital Engagement
All financial institutions know the importance of digital engagement. Whereas ten years ago it may have been novel for a bank or credit union to have a mobile app, today’s customer now conducts their life — financial or otherwise — largely in the digital realm. eMarketer put the number of U.S. digital banking users in 2021 at 75%
So digital engagement is a given, but what’s the next step? It’s a key question for marketers now that financial institutions are seeing the Covid-driven boom across digital channels hit a plateau. They’re looking for the next wave of digital banking growth, according to a report on financial marketing trends from London Research and personalization software firm Movable Ink.
What will follow the digital disruption of the past two years is what’s most interesting for financial marketers, Alex Manly, associate director of financial services strategy for Movable Ink, observes in the report. “We’d expect that, with more digital competition than ever before, top of the list will be to create a stickier customer experience, with more high-touch automated digital journeys.”
Simply being on digital channels is no longer a differentiator for banks and credit unions — they need to use digital to create a stickier customer experience.
An example of this is real-time help in digital channels. Accenture notes that 49% of bank customers say receiving instant support is a factor in building brand loyalty. Another example is analyzing customer data to identify the most relevant offer.
Further, consumers no longer merely want to conduct transactions digitally but are looking for proactive advice and ongoing financial planning. Automation will be a key in achieving this.
Trend 2. Harnessing the Marketing Power of AI
The term “artificial intelligence” is used so often today that is has almost become a meaningless. Many companies talk about how they use AI, but only in a vague, amorphous way. For marketers at banks and credit unions, however, there are many practical applications for using AI to attract and retain customers, and implementing these applications will become increasingly essential.
One example is applying AI to customer service, to offer customers a more personalized and helpful experience. By seamlessly integrating AI within customer service, while still offering in-person services, financial institutions can better satisfy customers and resolve customer issues much more quickly, according to financial marketing agency The Dubs.
This can mean using AI to make front-end customer interactions run smoother, such as enabling a teller or call center rep with all the customer’s relevant info before the conversation begins.
“Not only can AI be useful for the customer service sector, but it can also be utilized to help optimize customer acquisition channels, better protect clients’ data, and improve operational efficiency within your organization,” the agency notes.
AI can also be used to help drive more targeted advertising. In a world where consumers are engulfed by digital ads, this can be a real differentiator.
AI’s Helping Hand:
Artificial intelligence and machine learning should be used to drive more targeted, personalized advertising and marketing messaging.
“Consumers and business to business (B2B) buyers are overwhelmed every day with advertisements,” says Jason Hall, CEO of brand awareness firm FiveChannels, writing in Forbes. “Most of them are irrelevant, so they simply close the ad or move on to their next task.”
“With AI, businesses can optimize their return on investment by only placing ads in front of relevant viewers,” he adds.
Harnessing AI properly will allow financial marketers to deliver highly personalized messages at an even greater scale.
Trend 3. Brand Authenticity
Consumers today want all businesses — not just banks and credit unions — to be authentic in their messaging. They are not looking for marketing or advertising that tries to get them to buy a product, but rather that tells a genuine story about a company’s values and mission. They do not want to be simply sold to.
Financial institutions must first define what their brand values are, and then let those values define their messaging. But — and this is important to note — they must not change that message based on the latest consumer fads and behavior, which only comes across as inauthentic.
“As you stay true to your brand values, it’s also important to create a place for consumers to engage with your brand as their authentic self,” states a Merkle post.
A couple of ways brands are creating communities for their audience are through Instagram subscriptions with influencers and subscriptions on the content creator platform Patreon, according to Merkle. “It creates a safe space where everyone has opted into the conversation and, on top of that, they get exclusive access to your brand.”
Some of these ideas may seem more appropriate for other types of consumer brands, but financial institutions need to get out of this mindset and recognize they also are a direct-to-consumer brand like any other, observes Richard Dedor, marketing communications director for Iowa’s GreenState Credit Union in a BAI op-ed.
“If you want to win in today’s shifting environment, you cannot view yourself as a financial service that people need,” he says. “Prominent direct-to-consumer brands like Warby Parker and Casper understand that, before consumers need them, they need to understand consumers.”
Trend 4. Environmental and Social Issues
More than ever, people today want to know where the companies they do business with stand on a range of social and environmental issues. Consumers — especially those in Gen Z and Millennials — want to align with businesses that share their values. Financial services marketers cannot ignore this trend.
One noteworthy point highlighted in the London Research/Movable Ink report was the low level of consideration given by financial services firms to environmental issues. In a world where customers demand authenticity, this is something to seriously consider.
Save the World:
Nearly half of banking customers report they would switch to a financial institution that was taking visible action for a positive societal impact.
“As the purchasing power of [Gen Z] increases over the next few years, there will
be a renewed expectation of the impact financial services should have on our communities, well-being and the planet,” the report states. “The question is, will the industry be ready?”
To underscore this trend, 44% of banking customers reported that they would switch to a financial institution that was taking visible action for a positive societal impact, according to Accenture.
Trend 5. Rise of the Metaverse
At this point, many consumer brands — not just banks and credit unions — may roll a skeptical eye over the idea of operating in the metaverse. But what financial services will look like in a virtual world is something that financial marketers should start thinking about now.
One reason for this is that people are already spending money in the metaverse and are likely to continue to do so in much bigger numbers in the future, Euromoney notes.
“While we think the metaverse is more conceptual than fait accompli at this point, it is also clear that neither investors nor companies are waiting on the sidelines,” says Jon Gordon and Sundeep Gantori, strategists at UBS, as quoted by Euromoney.
Some forward-thinking banks have already started laying the groundwork for metaverse plans. South Korea’s Kookmin Bank in 2021 created a “virtual town” on a metaverse platform. JPMorgan Chase in early 2022 opened a “virtual lounge” on a platform called Decentraland, a virtual world based on blockchain technology.
While the metaverse may not be a fully formed concept at this point, financial marketers need to plan now for how they will reach customers on these virtual platforms, if, as expected, they continue to grow in popularity.