The past year highlighted the growing importance of digital customer experiences in the financial services industry as COVID-19 continued to accelerate the pace of digitization. Unable to connect in person, consumers turned to digital tools. One survey conducted between late March and early May 2020 reported that between 46% and 51% of adults1 in the United States increased social media use since the start of the pandemic. Facebook also reported in late March 2020 that total messaging had increased more than 50%2 in just a month.
While many organizations are welcoming clients back into the branch for in-person service and conversations, it will still be wise for financial institutions not to lose focus on the digital initiatives to put in place during the pandemic.
According to a recent McKinsey & Co. study, consumer trends toward more digital experiences aren’t likely to revert — so neither should your marketing and communications strategies. In fact, up to 20% of bank customers3 expect their use of digital channels will actually increase after the crisis. The point is, while the pandemic may subside, the digital transformation in financial services is no temporary adjustment. Quite the opposite: These trends in consumer behavior are defining the future of retail banking.
The future success of financial institutions will rely on reimagining digital strategies to focus on experiences rather than products alone. And remember, not all technology can be easily customized or implemented to meet federal requirements. Compliance is always a concern.4 Accommodating the increased emphasis on digital channels may also require some reorganization within marketing departments, which will take time to achieve.
Personalization and human connection will be key in the post-pandemic digital world
Relationships have always been a core aspect of success for banks. At first, this idea might seem at odds with digitization, as tech can seem largely impersonal. In the shift from product- to experience-based digital communication tactics, focus on personalization to make interactions feel genuinely helpful and relevant to each prospect.
Consumers today demand more personalization — nearly 80% of consumers5 in one survey agreed that they were more loyal to brands that used more personalization tactics. In fact, 81% of consumers even said they would be willing to share their basic personal data for more personalized experiences in return.
Personal digital experiences encompass the customer journey overall and include specific “routes” for specific target audiences. The journey starts when you get a customer’s attention on social media. This can happen via organic social posting, but because platforms have changed their algorithms to reduce brand visibility, paid advertising on social is often the more surefire way to land a post. When you can strategically distribute messages to the right people at the right time, you create a strong jumping-off point for a personalized journey that will lead your target audience to exactly what they need from you. It’s clear why optimizing your strategy with personalization can increase spend efficiency up to 30%6 and revenue up to 15%.
It’s also important to remember that prospects want to hear from and engage with real people, not brand names. Posting on your brand channels is important, but it’s just the baseline social strategy. Stepping it up a notch to expand reach7 and grow engagement requires having your employees share branded content on their own channels. In an age when 69% of consumers8 make efforts to avoid advertisements, you must foster true connections by putting friendly human faces behind your brand. A humanized approach can help build trust in your employees and the brand at large.
Balancing the personal touch with compliant messaging
Of course, encouraging employees to post branded messaging creates more opportunities for compliance missteps. Regulatory bodies monitor social media just as they do other electronic communications, and one rogue employee post could land the brand in hot water. What’s more, a promissory post that doesn’t deliver could do more than get the brand in regulatory trouble — it could erode trust with clients and prospects. Fortunately, the tools exist to help financial institution leaders safeguard branded messaging even when it’s being shared by many different employees. Software can help build an automated approval workflow, so no employee post goes live without the proper review and sign-off from financial institution marketing and compliance teams. Leaders can also create digital libraries of preapproved content, so employees have easy access to compliant posts to share.
Designing digital experiences for conversion
Think of building consumers’ digital experiences as leading them down a funnel. The top of that funnel is all about awareness. This is where you pique their interest with helpful and engaging social posts. Next, lead them to the middle of the funnel, which is all about consideration. This is where you show them more about what makes your brand in particular the best one to solve their problems.
A link to a landing page from an interest-piquing social post is a great way to take prospects from the top of the funnel to the middle (your website, where you can demonstrate your specific value.) Tailored landing pages for specific campaigns — for example, first-time homebuyers — put valuable, relevant information right in the hands of already interested prospects.
For example, a loan officer can bring prospects into the funnel by targeting a paid ad on social media to land with people looking to secure their first mortgages. That ad should include a link to a landing page on your website for more information. The landing page should include gated resources on the subject, and viewers can put their name and email into a form to receive the download.
When they submit their information, prospects move to the bottom of the funnel, where the sales team can continue to nurture them as leads to guide their decision-making. From landing page forms, sales teams get well-primed leads right in their hands for further conversation. They can craft engaging email drip campaigns or conduct sales calls to keep your brand top of mind for leads as they consider their options. Ultimately, the goal of building digital experiences is to lead prospects closer and closer to the bank’s ultimate sales goal: conversion.
Landing page best practices
When designing landing pages, a few best practices can increase the likelihood of visitors exchanging their information for your content. First, you want to make sure the content on the landing page is highly relevant and valuable to the reader. That means a broad, one-size-fits-all page won’t do. Create multiple landing pages to align with specific target audiences and goals.
Then, remember to keep posts as simple and direct as possible to ensure the specific value offering is clear. You want readers to see as soon as possible why they need the content behind your paywall. Filling a page with too many design elements, multiple offers, images, or other clutter can distract landing page visitors from that focus.
In today’s new digital environment, conversion is the No. 1 metric to track. Likes, comments, and retweets might be nice to have, but savvy financial institution leaders must understand precisely how social media and other personalized steps in the customer journey can help them convert prospects into clients. Even when in-person means of making connections are back on the table, customers will still want tailored digital experiences. As long as you continue putting the human element front and center, digital tools will remain valuable ways to build relationships well into the future.