How to Improve Data-Driven Personalization in Banking

Financial marketers know the importance of personalization in their digital communications, but most still do not feel confident in their capability to do so. The good news: complex technology isn't required to change the picture. But good data is.
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Personalization is key in successful digital marketing. Sure, virtually every financial marketer knows this, yet most banks and credit unions still struggle to deliver a truly personalized experience to customers and potential customers.

In fact, a majority of marketers overall say they are not confident in their personalization efforts, according to Salesforce data shared in a webinar discussing how marketers view personalization.

That’s a worrisome finding because personalization is a fundamental of modern marketing practice, and more important now than ever.

“Everyone is unique, and everyone wants to be treated differently based on what their interests are,” says Leigh Price, senior product marketing manager at Salesforce. “Historically, it was very easy have a one-on-one conversation with a customer at a bank branch. But now there are so many digital channels, and the experience is very different.”

Price notes there have been different evolutions to how marketers approach marketing. First there was a shift from brand-centric marketing to segment-based marketing. Now marketers must be “virtual centric.” And everything must be in real time.

“All the ways the customer interacts with you, whether it’s in-store, taking money out of an ATM, contacting customer service, website and app, it all has to be in real time,” observes Price. “And you have to ‘listen’ to all those interactions. Listen to what someone is trying to do and then deliver the next-best action to them.”

Marketers Still Struggle With Personalization

Price shared some key trends around why this is important. A Salesforce survey of marketers across industries found that while 95% agreed that personalization is important to customers, only 37% said they were confident in having a solid personalization strategy. That figure is up from 15% the last time Salesforce took this survey, in 2020, so that’s significant progress. Still, it’s a shocking disconnect between recognition and implementation of such a foundational marketing concept.

There are several things marketers can do to create a more personalized experience, Price states. These include orchestrating experience and communications, understanding how people flow between touchpoints throughout their purchase and retention lifecycle and creating a consistent experience across all channels.

Data Is Essential, Not Complex Technology

Taking advantage of and using data is the key to doing all these things and more. In banking there are frequent references to the vast quantities of data institutions have on hand, albeit often contained in disconnected sources. And so in theory marketers possess all the data they need to deliver truly personalized, unique experience to consumers.

In fact, though, the Salesforce survey found that just over half (55%) of all marketers agree they have access to enough data to effectively do personalized marketing. Looking at that in a positive light, Price notes this was the first time in the history of the survey that figure exceeded 50%, which he called a “tipping point.”

Some marketers may be worried that utilizing all this data may mean investing in new technology requiring larger budgets and IT staffs. But that is not necessarily the case, says Joshua Riley, a technical architect with Accenture and fellow panelist on the webinar.

Anticipating Needs:

Relevant data is the key to driving personalized marketing messaging and understanding the next thing customers are going to do.

“Delivering data-driven personalized experiences doesn’t imply using new technology or processes, but really moving to a new way of working.” Riley states. “And it all starts with data.”

Gathering all the necessary data is the first step, and Riley acknowledges that this step can be very difficult. “We have all this data somewhere but struggle to find it,” he adds. “Maybe it sits behind third-party cookie walls or is not aligned to a unique identifier.”

Once all the necessary data is gathered, gleaning insights from the data is the next step. There are no bad ideas, Riley states. But there are limited internal resources, so marketers must look for what could be potentially the biggest value drivers and go from there.

“Identify high value ideas and then move quickly into a process of selection and refinement,” Riley suggests.

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Perpetual Personalization

In order to save time and money, roles and rules should be clearly defined. There should be an internal champion for the project and key stakeholders should be clearly delineated. It’s also important to note this is not a “set it and forget it” process, says Riley, but must be continuously refined based on results.

“Even failed experiments give you good data,” he adds. “It is about learning and adjusting quickly to ever-changing customer demands.”

Ultimately, bank marketers want to get to a point where they can quickly launch campaigns across channels and then analyze how consumers are responding to those campaigns, Riley said.

“That then leads into capturing individual insights, then you start using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve models and test and learn different strategies; then toy can start to create a running roadmap of how and where that user is engaging,” he added. “Then trigger a campaign that is based on a consumer’s behavior.”

However, financial marketers need not jump into the deep end of the pool right at the beginning, Price states. You can start small and build capabilities from there.

“If you are looking at personalization for the first time, it can be overwhelming,” Price acknowledges. “Start simple: take your website or an email campaign and personalize that.”

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