Show Me My Money: Personalization for Banking Consumers in the Digital Age

July 23, 2015


The banking industry is constantly evolving based on legislation and regulations, a changing competitive field, and changes in the expectations and needs of the customer. One of the most dramatic changes has been the digital revolution, resulting in more and more consumers expecting the same quality of experience across channels in all categories of products and services.

The pressure is on for banks to live up to the contextually relevant connected experience consumers have come to rely on in other categories such as retail and ecommerce. And with increased usage of banking features, such as mobile and online banking, delivering an exceptional and relevant connected experience across the marketing, sales and customer service continuum is fast becoming table stakes. These are now the challenges financial institutions face and the expectations they need to live up to.

According to a 2015 McKinsey and Company Retail Distribution Report, banks have three to five years at most to become digitally proficient.

While offering mobile banking is a great first step, banks should think holistically about the customer experience, the buyer journey and the customer lifecycle. The reality is that the branch is no longer the focal point of the customer experience, and is declining as customers leverage third party financial services such as PayPal. Mobile applications can even provide a real-time visual experience with tellers. This combined with digital distribution also means that the competitive field had expanded to offer more options. Banks need to act quickly to embrace the holistic customer experience and to prevent a decline of sales similar to other industries like the home video rental industry. Remember when BlockBuster Video was your source for home entertainment? You get the idea.

There is a huge opportunity for financial institutions to capture mindshare, drive engagement and be more relevant when they interact with banking customers through digital channels. This is especially important for millennials who are the first generation of smart phone-enabled consumers. And the really good news is that this relevant digital connection can start with something as simple as your email channel. A channel you already use.

Here are a few thought starters.

Outsmart the Competition

Competition in the banking industry is as fierce as it has ever been—and it’s changing daily. The industry can be broken down into three key player categories:

  • The Big Four (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and Citibank)
  • Other financial services firms like insurance companies, credit unions or regional banks
  • New entrants like Amazon, Apple Pay, PayPal, etc.

There are more players than ever before creating pressure from every angle, particularly the new digital entrants. It’s very important to connect more personally with your customers to keep them loyal. It is also crucial to provide a relevant and meaningful experience to prospects to lure them away from this vast field of competitors. Digital engagement through email can help you deliver a real-time relevant experience that makes a difference to the consumer and help you fend off your competitors.

To Win, You Must Think Like Your Customer

Silos within lines of business and disparate channels inhibit most retail banks from having integrated, meaningful conversations with their customers. Many banks have episodic, product-centric campaigns rather than consistent, relevant offers based on proven next product-to-buy models. The opportunity to provide integrated communication experiences is huge. But banks should establish business rules for communication with their customers outside of product silos. They can do this by mapping out their customers’ journeys.

Meanwhile, consumers actually have come to expect proactive relevance and personalization from their bank in the digital age. And for banks to be successful, customer centricity requires them to be there when the customer needs them. The consumer now drives the buying cycle and timing around purchases, creating a communications model that encourages interactions when the customer is “in market” and that should be activated very quickly.

In order to succeed and drive sales, banks should focus on becoming increasingly digital and customer-centric in all forms of communication. This includes personalization and highly relevant content in all touch points. Delivering a personalized conversation whenever and wherever the customer is connects them to you, on the device of their choosing. Anticipate the customer’s needs and be one step ahead in order to be effective in today’s banking climate.

Email: Great Place to Start Making Your Interactions Smarter

A properly executed email campaign can be a great starting place. It’s cost-efficient, quick to execute—often within a four to six week timeframe—and it’s a green-field for meaningful dialogue. For an email campaign to generate leads and drive sales, it must be personal and relevant. We recommend a three-step process to get this party started:

  • Improve contactability: Audit, clean and grow your email lists
  • Improve deliverability: Get through your customer’s inbox by auditing recent join and engagement rates, ISPs, review of emails and subject lines and KPIs against industry benchmarks, etc.
  • Improve relevance: Become more customer-centric through audit segmentation, data, content, offers and assets to make content more personal; Assess platform readiness and review prior campaigns

Taking these three simple steps can lead to high conversion rates and pushing your customers further through the sales funnel, which can expand across your product portfolio.

The key takeaway is that financial institutions must become more digital, more personal and relevant in communicating with and engaging effectively with customers. Staying one step ahead of their customers will keep them in the game and help grow their business. In fact, Harte Hanks recently helped a large regional bank execute a successful integrated customer experience campaign, of which email was a huge part—resulting in 303 percent ROI in the first year.

Through a better understanding and anticipation of customers’ needs, more consistent communication throughout the process and a shift in focus from brick-and-mortar to online, banks can stay relevant in the digital era. And a great place to start is through a strategic email program that delivers a dynamically relevant customer experience throughout the buyer journey and across the customer life cycle.