Research conducted by The Financial Brand reveals that the number one retail trend for banking providers is to “remove friction from the customer journey.” Unfortunately, many financial institutions equate “the customer journey” with “the website funnel” — what happens after a prospect has already evaluated their options. But in doing so, banks and credit unions are missing the bigger picture.
The consumer’s decision-making process starts long before consumers ever visit a website, and friction must be removed from these early stages of the journey. Here are three ways financial marketers can better court and capture their most important prospects in digital channels.
Friction Point 1: Financial advice is abundant, complex and difficult to evaluate.
The Solution: Niche curation sorts information, easing cognitive burden on consumers.
“Consumers find themselves awash with more information than has ever been available before, and we simply can’t process it,” says Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder of Influence-Central in an interview with Forbes. “As a result, we’ve increasingly come to rely not just on curated information, but on the people we most trust to curate this information, in ways that resonate with our lifestyle, interests and values.”
Nowhere is this more applicable than in financial services. At best, sifting through all the online content out there offering financial advice is utterly bewildering. At worst, the material can be misleading, biased or downright wrong. How can people tell what’s credible, accurate and relevant to their situation?
Financial marketers can reduce this friction by leveraging available data to determine what advice and insights they want (e.g., traffic on your website, Google search trends). Who better to provide consumers with reliable information and educational materials than the primary financial institution they already trust?
Friction Point 2: Consumers expect a personalized experience, but financial institutions offer a one-size-fits-all message.
The Solution: Micro-segmentation that goes beyond the basics like age and income.
Social media platforms like Facebook are driving new levels of personalization, resetting the standards and expectations for online experiences. Think about it: Facebook’s increasingly sophisticated algorithm can turn my personal and behavioral data into a steady stream of content that I actually care about — even the ads!
Well… not all the ads.
Ads in the financial industry — for banks, lenders and investment services — are significantly less aligned to my interests. Why? For starters, they lean on the predictably generic “life stage” tropes that have formed the crux of financial advertising since the 1950s. But beware: Irrelevant advertising has always been a friction point that turns people off early in the customer journey.
Facebook’s head of advertising, Andrew Bosworth, warns that they can only take a brand so far with its predictive systems. He says brands need to do a better job customizing creative to take advantage of Facebook’s copious audience data. What’s the point of mining Facebook’s vast database for to target likely prospects with look-alike campaigns if your are going to run a generic ad with unsegmented messages?
“At the end of the day, our ability to drive results is only as good as the creative we get and only as good as the audience we’re given to target,” Bosworth says.
To deliver a more personalized marketing experience to consumers, financial marketers will need to look beyond conventional segmentation criteria (e.g., age, income, gender, ZIP code) and instead develop “micro segments” that include behavioral and motivational data that can be translated into relevant creative, then targeted with precision on digital platforms.
Friction Point 3: Financial brands aren’t there when consumers signal interest.
The Solution: Move away from calendar-driven “campaigns” to always-on programmatic marketing.
If consumers told you when they are interested in your product, you would listen, right?
This is the premise of programmatic media — targeting advertising based on people’s behaviors and consumption of digital content, optimized with targeting over time to increase fidelity. The level of exactness by which an individual can be persistently identified and tracked throughout the digital universe would probably shock and excite financial marketers all at the same time.
To maximize the potential of this approach, banks and credit unions must keep their marketing programs up-and-running at all times. That’s the only way to get your message in front of consumers when they signal intent. Yet, many financial services companies are missing the full opportunity of this approach by limiting online display advertising (much of which is now programmatic) only to support calendar-drive campaigns.
Other financial services marketers limit digital marketing to a lift-over-control approach to measurement. However, this approach can require pausing marketing to accommodate the test methodology. These marketers will miss consumers who enter the market during campaign gaps. As an alternative, savvy marketers practice rapid test-and-learn cycles by optimizing media to diagnostic KPIs.
By embracing a programmatic, always-on mindset for digital marketing, rather than calendared “campaigns,” financial services brands can resolve a key friction point early in the customer journey: not being there when consumers indicate a need for them.
Jay Wells is a digital strategist at Merkle, where he advises financial service and insurance clients on people-based marketing. Follow Jay on LinkedIn.