How Banks Can Improve Digital Marketing by Using Their Own Data

New policies from Apple, Google and others are cutting the flow of third-party data banks and credit unions use in their digital marketing. Maximizing use of 'first-party' data has become essential. However, the change could bring benefits that exceed what is being lost.

The detailed marketing data available from third-party cookies, information services and email tracking has been a staple of bank and credit union digital marketing for years. That flow of information has begun to slacken and could soon become a trickle as tech companies offer consumers more ways to protect their privacy.

Google’s Chrome browser, for example, which controls two-thirds of the browser market, is set to phase out cookies by 2023. Other browsers have already imposed restrictions.

As this major data policy shift unfolds, bank marketers are scrambling for ways they can capture and use first-party data — data companies collect directly from their customers. By using email and phone numbers as the universal unique identifier (UUI) and learning to better manage what they already have access to, they can start weaning themselves from third-party data.

Bank marketers have been using third-party data to target broad audiences with ads framed around creating brand awareness. Marketers typically obtain this information from providers like Infogroup, which gathers it from various platforms, apps, and websites.

Additionally, third-party data is often integrated into personal finance management (PFM) and other platforms to filter accounts and transactions. ESPs (email service providers), which enable bank marketers to see who is opening and interacting with their emails, are another valuable source of data.

The Third-Party Data Reckoning

Cookies were invented in 1994 to help improve the user experience, but marketers soon began to rely on them heavily. So much so that the loss of cookies will be a “reckoning for the advertising industry,” according to McKinsey.

“Advertisers and publishers will now need to depend primarily on their own first-party data, or on data from walled gardens, contextual targeting, and greater support from data platforms,” McKinsey states.

Game Changer:

Without a substitute for third-party cookies, up to 90% of all display ad impressions will have no user identifiers attached to them, leaving financial marketers in the dark.

“For a financial brand to target ads at scale in a cookie-less world, they will need to adopt a portfolio approach to ad placement that provides a path to target ads without clear user or device identifier,” says James Robert Lay, Founder and CEO of the Digital Growth Institute, in an interview.

Another concern is Apple’s iOS update that disables cookies from emails within its Mail app. Google and Microsoft are likely to follow Apple’s lead, Lay predicts.

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Your Own Cookies May Actually Be Better

Adapting to a world without third-party data may be a tough hill to climb, but banks may find more opportunities on the other side, says Shayli Lones, Vice President of Go to Market at MX, in an interview with The Financial Brand. While banks have used third-party data to plan marketing, build personas, and create campaigns, this data can be expensive and is often inaccurate, she observes. “You can’t always find a good ROI when you don’t know if the data is accurate.”

It’s typically the large banks in bigger markets that have relied on third-party data, Lones points out. Many of these banks are likely already exploring workarounds, basically a new form of cookies. For example, Merkle launched Merkury, an identifier that lets marketers target audiences without using third-party cookies.

“There’s more value in first-party data because you can be more targeted when looking specifically at your customers.”

— Shayli Lones, MX

The good news is that bank marketers will still be able to rely on first-party cookies with consumers’ permission. First-party cookies are generated by websites for the site owner’s use, such as streamlining logins for repeat visitors, and for their own marketing. Banks and credit unions will have to put new processes, people, and technologies in place to collect, manage and make the most of their first-party data.

As mentioned earlier, financial institutions should start by looking to emails and phone numbers as the universal unique identifier. Bank marketers will have to use these UUIs with other first-party data to learn what they can about their markets, says Lay. “Make ongoing email acquisition and reengagement of unengaged emails a strategic priority for marketing, sales and even service teams,” he emphasizes.

Additionally, banks and credit unions will be better able to use customer transaction data as a result of open banking. “With the rise of open finance, you are getting access to more data than ever before,” says Lones; “your customers are aggregating their services into your accounts. It gives you a view into where they hold their loans, where they are shopping, what their behaviors are.”

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How Banks Can Use First-Party Data Effectively

Many banks are using first-party data for “in the moment campaigns and messaging,” says Meredith Olmstead, Founder and CEO of FI Grow Solutions. For example, when a known person visits the bank website, that can trigger a “nurturing campaign” to immediately follow up with an email and additional information.

The low-hanging fruit of first-party data is often right in an institution’s website, including what pages consumers are looking at and what products they are interested in.

With that data tied back to an email address, bank marketers can use that information to proactively offer customers help and guidance on their financial journey, says Lay. He recommends banks and credit unions develop simple, proactive, evergreen content for key product lines that can be triggered by first-party data insights.

The decline of third-party data will also increase the importance of search engine optimization (SEO), Lay advises. As a result, bank marketers should use internal publishing teams to drive content production for SEO purposes.

Financial institutions can even use their first-party data for prospecting by creating more solid affinities and segments of consumers to target, Lones observes. In one example she knows of, a bank created 19 different affinities based on its first-party data and then used that information to target prospects based on specific demographics.

“You already know who your customer is, and you can use that demographic data to go out and find ideal customers based on your real ones,” says Lones.

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