Consumer digital use and customer service expectations are higher than ever. Here’s how you can keep up and stay ahead of the competition.
- Consumer use of digital channels continues to grow, but it’s hurting customers’ personal connection with financial institutions.
- Bridging the gap means continuing to evolve your financial services digital strategy — including using digital capabilities to improve the customer experience.
- Leveraging customer data helps by allowing you to provide greater personalization and understand which digital features your customers use.
- Knowing what your customers want to learn from you and which channels they want to interact on can increase engagement and response.
Having a financial services digital strategy is more important today than ever, even as pandemic restrictions recede.
By some estimates, we saw digital adoption by consumers make 10 years of progress in just two months during the pandemic.1 And while financial institutions are expanding in-person interactions, consumer use of digital channels shows no sign of slacking and, in fact, is poised to continue growing.
Unfortunately, as we’ve traversed the pandemic and moved to more remote, digital interactions, we’ve lost the customer connection. Consumer faith that financial institutions care about their financial well-being dropped from 43% in 2018 to just 29% in 2020.1 And 59% of customers today feel companies have lost touch with the human experience.1
To survive and thrive, financial institutions must bridge this divide — offering the digital experiences consumers want while retaining a caring, human connection. By doing so, they can begin to rebuild engagement and trust — the first steps toward increasing customer loyalty, which in turn helps drive revenue.
Mastering digital marketing and the digital customer experience is also vital to staying competitive — not simply with other traditional financial institutions, but also with fintech, shadow banks and non-bank organizations.
Here, we share insights and ideas on digital strategies for financial institutions to explore, test and implement.
Create a foundation for an effective financial services digital strategy.
When done well, an effective financial services digital strategy can increase bank revenue and decrease costs while having a positive impact on the customer experience. Despite progress, though, many banks are still playing catch-up while confronting common barriers that prevent their organization from undergoing a seamless digital transformation.
While it doesn’t happen overnight, addressing the areas below can put your financial institution on the right path.
- Start at the top. It’s crucial for senior management to see the value in digital marketing and prioritize an organization-wide commitment to a digital strategy.
- Get all departments and employees on board to create a cultural shift within your organization, focusing on innovation and cross-department collaboration.
- Redesign operations to automate and streamline workflows rather than simply trying to digitize existing processes.
- Focus on a multi-channel approach with ongoing measurement of results.
- Make the customer experience a priority. Work toward meeting the higher levels of customer expectation by taking advantage of digital opportunities to engage consumers when — and where — they want to engage.
With these essentials in mind, you can move forward in evaluating and updating your financial services digital strategy. The insights, ideas and advice below will help you get started.
Look for ways to improve the customer experience through your financial services digital strategy.
Even as branches re-open and face-to-face interactions increase, you need to continue using your digital channels to maintain and enhance personal relationships with customers. And that means more than having a mobile app or posting content across a range of digital channels. It means taking a comprehensive customer-centric approach.
Simply put, you should use your digital capabilities to make customers’ lives easier and banking more convenient at every touchpoint.
This may mean offering digital basics, such as online bill payment, online loan applications and mobile deposit. It could include customer service enhancements, like digital assistants, or chatbots, and interactive video that can give customers answers to routine inquiries. In fact, to stay competitive, it’s crucial for your financial institution to be accessible 24/7, across digital channels, or you’re likely to lose customers to other banks offering the access they crave.
Your financial services digital strategy for improving customer experience might also include:
- Offering customers the ability to meet with lenders via video or online chat
- Creating a personalized digital onboarding campaign for new checking account customers
- Making it easy to check current interest rates on your website
- Sharing information about popular personal finance topics, like budgeting and retirement planning, on your website
Also, while more consumers are more comfortable banking in a digital world, it’s important to remember that some are still less than tech-savvy. You can help them — and strengthen relationships and trust — by sharing a variety of how-to information related to digital banking.
For instance, you might add these features to your website:
- Quick tips explaining how to check account balances remotely and how to deposit a check via mobile banking
- An infographic with step-by-step instructions for downloading and navigating your bank’s mobile app
- Answers to FAQs on digital banking
Along with strengthening customer relationships, providing a higher level of customer experience through digital marketing can also be a differentiator: Today’s consumers don’t compare products as much as they compare experiences.
Use data to define audiences for your financial services digital strategy.
Leveraging data for your financial services digital marketing strategies lets you move away from the “one size fits all” approach to deliver more personalized and timely information. And the more you’re able to tailor communication to individual customer needs, the more likely those customers will feel valued and understood — and the more likely they’ll be to respond to your messages.
At a basic level, you can use your existing data to guide decisions about which digital banking solutions will provide the most value to your total customer base. For instance, what tools, products and services are your customers using and not using?
At the next level, you can use data to segment your audiences by life stage, demographics, behaviors and even their preferred communication channels. This lets you create more relevant content for each audience segment and deliver it on a customer’s preferred channels, so they’ll be more likely to engage and respond.
For example, young adults might be interested in receiving links via text message to content on your mobile app about budgeting or paying down student loans. Baby boomers may want newsletter articles that help them learn more about CD laddering or wealth transfer.
Another approach is to segment customers based on the customer journey. This lets you predict customer needs and guide engagement opportunities at every step — for example, whether they are in the problem-recognition, information-search or evaluation-and-comparison stage.
If you’re able to analyze your customer data in real time, you can even predict and react to customer needs in the moment.
Digital marketing strategy for financial services: Focus on value-added content.
In a world where consumers have more choice than ever, building trust is a critical part of building and maintaining long-term customer relationships. And value-added content on topics your customers care about is a great way to build the trust that leads to greater engagement and increased conversion rates.
According to a research study, nearly 50% of consumers subscribe to some kind of email newsletter and report that trust in the publisher encourages them to read it.
Our own research showed that 72% of respondents would be more likely to increase their relationship with their financial institution if it sent them useful content on topics of interest to them. But 75% said they would have a negative opinion of their financial institution if it didn’t do that, or if it sent them content that didn’t answer their questions or provide useful tips.
But how do you know which topics are truly relevant and of interest to your customers?
Surveys — delivered by mail, email, website pop-ups or social channels — are one way to gather that information. In fact, CCG worked with one bank to develop and deploy a customer survey that provided insights on the personal finance topics most relevant to each of the bank’s seven key audiences. By basing its newsletter content on the survey results, the bank more than doubled its click-thru rate.
Another option is to use CCG’s Content Topic Optimization ToolTM. It provides an objective, data-based view of the personal finance topics most likely to engage your different customer audiences. And it recommends specific topic mixes to optimize reach for each audience.
Digital marketing strategy for financial services: Create a customer-centric distribution plan.
Part of your upfront content marketing plan should include determining how you’ll distribute information and value-added content. Naturally, you’ll want to make use of all your digital channels. For example, you could provide access to a digital resource center on your website and app, filled with personal finance articles. Then link to the content through your digital newsletters and social media channels.
But it’s also important to consider which channels are already part of your customers’ daily lives, so you can deliver content to them where they are. And that may vary based on different segments. For instance, Group A might spend a lot of time on Instagram, while Group B communicates largely via text message and Group C is all about the web.
So how do you know where your audience hangs out in the digital world? Asking in your customer surveys is one way. But you can also let customers tell you directly by adding a preference center to your website.
Ideally, your preference center should allow customers to pick their preferred communication channel, such as email, text message or direct mail. And it should let them choose a favored frequency for hearing from you, such as weekly or monthly. You can also include categories of content for customers to choose from, such as loan information, savings tips, debt management, special offers or company news.
Make your preference center page convenient and easily accessible by including links to it in emails, on other areas of your website and on your mobile app.
As you distribute content over multiple digital channels, it’s vital that you maintain a consistent voice, tone and message. Not only will this reinforce your brand, but it will also avoid confusion and help build trust.
An effective financial services digital strategy can boost engagement, retention and ROI.
Digital banking and the need for digital engagement are here to stay. Consumers will always want their banks to be accessible and helpful — and today, that means leveraging digital capabilities more often than not. By focusing on the steps above to develop your financial services digital strategy, you can enhance the customer experience, improve engagement and build more profitable long-term relationships — and stronger ROI.
CCG’s financial marketing experts have more than 40 years of experience helping financial institutions evolve their marketing and customer engagement strategies. We offer a comprehensive array of financial services marketing solutions, including strategy, content creation, data analytics, personalization and segmentation. For a free consultation to see how we can help you, click below or call us today at 303.986.3000.
1 “Breaking Free from the Content Pack,” Robert Rose, Simona Covel, Imagination, published 2021, https://ssl.lvl3.on24.com/event/31/42/62/2/rt/1/documents/resourceList1621433000613/
imaginationcmiwpfinancialservices2021final1621432994311.pdf, accessed June 1, 2021