Bots, Fat Fingers and Ad Blockers: Why Bank Marketers Should Rethink Digital

A candid assessment of digital marketing investments and the results they generate might prompt financial marketers to reevaluate their strategy.

Fueled by promises of customization, measurability and micro-targeting, the popularity of digital marketing has exploded. Expenditures grew more than four-fold in the last ten years, and are projected to consume 45% of marketing budgets by 2020 according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Despite all this rapid growth, digital marketing isn’t always all that it appears to be.

Global consulting firm Proxima estimates that up to 60% of all digital advertising expenditures — search engines, mobile apps, newspaper websites, video-on-demand services, etc. — are wasted. Somewhat ironically, that would put digital media on a similar level of inefficiency as the traditional media it should supposedly be replacing.

How can that be? Well for starters, an estimated 54% of online ads are never seen by a human although they are still billed to the advertiser. Digital Marketing Magazine says a stunning 35% of all web activity is fraudulent — artificially generated by bots or other similar non-human scripts. Online bots can imitate human behaviors, running up clicks and feigning impressions… that generate ad revenue for the publisher.

Furthermore, the percentage of actual human clicks correlates heavily to the type of content on a website. According to a global analysis of 600 million devices by, the percentage of verified human usage on news sites is 41%, education sites around 64%, financial sites average 30%.

On mobile pages, consumers’ fat fingers cause them to miss the desired target. In fact, one report found that 60% of all banner clicks on a mobile banner ads are accidental.

Another disturbing statistic is the effectiveness of online display ads. Across all formats and placements, the number of readers clicking a digital ad is less than 1/10th of one percent — 0.06% to be precise. One reason for the low click rate is ad blocking software. Consumers are downloading ad blocking software in ever increasing numbers. Adobe says the practice grew 41% last year.

Ramping up your Facebook presence might seem like a smart digital investment, but in a study by Forrester, business leaders said Facebook “created less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity.” Even if you have a large community of fans, Facebook restricts your ability to communicate with them: posts typically reach less than 16% of users. Besides, U.S. adults say they are twice as likely to sign up for emails from brands they want to interact with than they are to choose Facebook as an engagement channel.

So the reality of digital marketing can be pretty sobering, but it’s not all bad news. There are some bright spots.

For instance, financial marketers can count on two options in the digital toolbox that are both effective and efficient: email and remarketing.

Email has a lot going for it. There are three times more email accounts than Twitter and Facebook accounts combined. Emails can drive website traffic, and nurture a lead to a sale. You can pinpoint audiences, and easily track results. One report on email campaigns found an open rate of 24.45% compared to an average read rate of brand messages on Facebook of only 6%.

Remarketing allows you to focus on your top prospects — those who have visited your website, responded to your emails, or clicked on your display ads. The results can be impressive. Retail marketer Kimberly-Clark reports 50 to 60% higher conversion rates among retargeted customers.

The sad state of digital marketing is due, in part, to advocates hyping digital technology and marketers following the herd without asking critical questions. Is it effective?

While retailer marketers invest heavily in digital channels, they don’t necessarily have the same interests (nor products) as financial marketers. They put a higher priority on brand awareness and market share, whereas many financial institutions are focused on cross-selling to existing customers.

The bottom line is that financial marketer should move forward cautiously in digital marketing channels. Apple didn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account until a couple of years ago, and they managed to build one of the strongest, most recognized brands — with physical stores, and without much of a “digital strategy.” They focused on other areas to build their brand, generate sales and fuel growth: innovation, simplicity, elegant design and a stellar user experience.

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