In every relationship there are moments that matter. Milestones, subtle or monumental, that pull us closer together and shape what we mean to each other.
When we think back to many of these moments — getting a student loan, buying a house, getting married, having kids — financial services and insurance providers are on the other side. Their products give us the green light to go forward in life, and their advice makes us feel like we’re ready to do it right.
The digital world is full of promise for these organisations to enhance customer relationships, but they’re not sure how to take advantage. In a 2018 trends report by Adobe and Econsultancy, 28 percent of financial services advertisers listed optimising the customer experience as their top priority, but just 7 percent were concerned with “creating compelling content for digital experiences”.
These marketing departments are spending billions on digital advertising, and eMarketer’s “US Financial Services Industry StatPack 2018” forecasts that their ad spend will breach $15 billion in 2019. But increased spend means little to nothing without improved strategy, points out Christopher Young, director of financial services industry strategy at Adobe, who notes “in this era, you need to understand the customer in order to better serve them. At bare minimum, this is forcing advertisers to be far more precise, far more personalised, far more contextually aware of the individual.”
Consumers expect convenient, tailored services and messages. But traditional financial institutions continue to lean on cold email blasts, clickable banners, and blanket offerings. These aren’t the foundations for real, enduring relationships — not when those they’re reaching are becoming increasingly savvy toward marketing tactics and are wary of how marketers use their data. Despite this, the current environment is ripe for advertisers to lead transformation within their organisation without losing anyone’s trust.
Make connections while staying compliant
Marketers and advertisers are the bridges between brands and consumers. To build customer-centric services you must start with a customer-centric attitude — and advertisers in financial services are in the position to lead the way.
Compliance with data privacy regulations can hamper these efforts and pose challenges for financial institutions. When advertising is done right, however, you can rise to the challenge and drive change in traditional institutions.
According to Young, “two of the things that are challenging for financial services companies are dynamic creative optimisation and hyper-personalisation…because they have to take their compliance and legal department along with them in this journey.”
But compliance does not rule out personalisation. Nor does it prevent marketers from optimising different advertising channels. Yes, financial institutions are restricted in how they can use personal information or cookie web visitors — and must follow new laws like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). But even with creative constraints imposed by finance-specific regulators, marketers can still collect demographic information. For example, they can offer consumers the option of connecting their social channels and online account services, and then use this data to segment their audiences and deliver targeted experiences.
With powerful tools for multivariate testing, they can identify high-performing ads or audience groups based on behaviour. Almost everyone has a digital footprint, and tools and data sources exist in the public domain that can provide actionable insight into interests and behaviours.
“Using data sources like IXI and Acxiom reveals other traits and hobbies, like investable assets or spending,” Young says. “These data elements can all be used for personalisation without using personally identifiable information. There’s a lot that financial services can do compliantly.”
More alike than you think
Financial advertisers’ goals are not so different from their peers in other industries. “They’re very much focused on impacting their companies in positive strategic ways by driving brand awareness, enhancing personalisation, and increasing cross-sell and up-sell,” says David Perry, sales and business development, strategic accounts, at Adobe.
In other words, they want to create meaningful connections. It then comes as no surprise that many of today’s best advertising practices apply to the financial services and insurance sectors.
Obsess over your customers
At the heart of good advertising is an obsession with the human on the other side. Nobody needs banks or banking products — rather, they need services to safely store and access their money, or they need advice and tools to reach their financial goals. They don’t need insurance brokers and policies, they need to be protected from risk. Ultimately, they need to trust these institutions.
Customer obsession isn’t new, but many organisations still struggle to overcome internal barriers of siloed marketing teams, disjointed campaigns, and unproven attribution which results in interruptive ad experiences.
Financial advertisers can take two steps to overcome this:
• Use centralised, cross-channel ad tech to get a full picture of the sequential paths taken to choose your products or services.
• Employ this same technology to segment audiences based on where they’re most engaged — and what they’re most engaged with — in a wholly compliant way.
Investing in audience segmentation tools means better cross-channel ad visibility and, ultimately, content that reaches consumers with the right message for them in that moment.
Make personal messages scalable
When the cost of creating variable designs is high, it’s easy to settle for a generic ad that doesn’t dare to be better. But a generic ad doesn’t mean it will resonate with the widest audience — it often means it resonates with no one.
Instead of spinning their wheels resizing ad after ad, a design team can focus their efforts on a big creative concept for a new product launch or campaign. Assets and design specs then form a library that can be accessed to programmatically create, refine, test, and update ads on-the-fly. In this scenario, automation doesn’t step on creative’s toes. It lets them focus on the high-value work they’re really good at.
We’ve heard it before and we’ll hear it again — a single set of creative just won’t do. Creative must be tailored to the screen, channel, moment, and individual — a monumental task with manual processes where a designer must create each iteration and each change must go through review.
Be consistent to become reliable.
People are increasingly comfortable dealing with their finances online. They’re just as likely to pay their bills from their phone on their morning subway ride or plan their investments from the comfort of their home office as they are to set foot inside a brick-and-mortar branch.
While organisations should adapt their advertising to best suit each interaction, their core messaging needs to be consistent in order to build brand recognition and trust in a world where attention spans and loyalty are ever shifting. Whether your customers are discovering a new credit card plan through a sponsored podcast, hearing about an upgraded insurance policy from mobile ads, or learning about the same offers from an advisor face to face, they expect consistency.
Consumers are research-driven and actively verify offers and messaging across web, video, and offline sources. By connecting these disparate data sources, financial institutions can have a consistent presence across touchpoints — each channel is a new opportunity to connect with clear, relevant messages.
When trust and reliability are core to the value offering, those values must be reflected in every aspect of ad delivery. This means having a holistic view of what’s resonating, where, and why, and using that insight to build a genuine interaction. After all, you don’t want to harass a consumer about a new insurance policy with a Facebook ad if they’ve already rejected it by email.
By using back-end systems that create cohesive cross-channel experiences, financial institutions can achieve consistency without sacrificing value.
Use customer data how they want you to.
As consumers interact with financial service providers across a sprawl of channels and devices, it becomes more and more difficult to get a clear view of how they engage with each ad or touchpoint. That’s why data is more important than ever.
Behemoth social and search channels — like Facebook and Google — can feel like black boxes in terms of controlling engagement and measuring true impact. Between conflicting attribution reports, ad agency performance, and competing internal KPIs, it remains challenging for advertisers to know what’s moving the needle.
Meanwhile, as concerns about privacy, fraud, and brand safety grow, customers have increasing standards of transparency in marketing and advertising. People are willing to provide their information, within reason, but they want to know exactly how and when it’s being used.
Given what’s at stake when handling personal data, financial services organisations in particular must think forward in their efforts to capitalise on data in a way that benefits their end user first.
Legacy financial players have a couple of options:
• Bring attribution and integration in-house with solutions that join siloed data and provide channel analytics.
• Outsource these roles to agencies and tech partners who follow the same compliance frameworks.
• Engage in data-sharing projects with third parties for customer initiatives.
Either way, advertisers can solve the attribution problem by tapping into metrics and analytics that unify disparate data sources and identify which ads, across which channels, are appealing to which customers.
Financial institutions must comply with disclosure and PII protection policies like the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act by clearly explaining their data-sharing practices and keeping all non-public personal information safe. But this doesn’t need to inhibit a great ad experience.
At a time where trust in both finance and advertising is ebbing, forging compliant partnerships to make the most of data is mission critical.
Realising what’s important
Hard numbers, traditional products, tight regulations. These have all come to define financial services, but there’s no reason why we can’t add a couple more to the list: emotional intelligence and compelling advertising.
Advertisers can be held back by a lack of resources, buy-in, or creative freedom, but these challenges are speed bumps, not dead ends. Marketing and advertising leaders can pioneer transformation at their organisations to develop more meaningful relationships, but they’ll need a little help. Partnering with technology providers allows them to take compliant, data-driven approaches to advertising that play to the nuances of each channel and every conversation.
With deep consumer knowledge on their side, and the right technology and tools, even the most established financial institutions can reach a new advertising standard that’s better for everyone. Better for executives, who want strategic success and a growing bottom line. Better for practitioners, who are responsible for everyday execution. And most importantly, better for consumers, who want to feel connected to the organizations they choose to trust.
Financial institutions can use these guidelines to reassess their advertising processes, pushing their organisations forward and, in turn, guiding their customers toward meaningful conversions. It’s all a matter of trust.
Find out what it takes to deliver a connected advertising experience.
“Digital Intelligence Breifing: 2018 Digital Trends in Financial Services,” Econsultancy and Adobe, June 2018.
Patricia Orsini, “US Financial Services Industry StatPack 2018,” eMarketer, July 12, 2018