Paul O’Donoghue, VP solution engineering, Uberall reveals some of the best digital practices from online shopping.
Internet surfing and the widespread adoption of smartphone technology have revolutionised how consumers buy products and services, not just online but also in store. Instead of hopping in their cars and heading to the high street, people are turning to their mobile phones and digital devices first to search online for what they need. And in a pandemic world, they have come to expect a smooth customer experience from online search to in store visit. It’s no different when it comes to consumers who are in the market for financial services from personal credit and loans, to insurance and investing.
Retailers have recognised the growing alignment between digital search and offline transactions, and a considerable number are leveraging those channels to build a more streamlined online-to-offline customer experience. However, many financial services companies haven’t shifted their digital marketing strategies to fit this new paradigm.
Success in this new commercial landscape means creating a better customer experience that ensures consumer interactions are positive from the moment they search for “financial planner near me” to when they evaluate online reviews, visit the business and beyond.
Importance of online visibility
Today’s customer journey often begins with a ‘Near Me’ search for what they’re after, and in fact, 53 percent of all Google queries today are ‘Near Me’ searches with local intent. Given that 92% of people choose a business from the first page of search results, it’s vital that banks and financial service firms maximise their online visibility for each of their locations, so that when a consumer is searching for products and services nearby, their listings will rank at the top.
While most financial services marketers are already familiar with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – the practice of optimising a website or webpage to increase the quantity and quality of its traffic from a search engine’s organic results – fewer are aware of the importance of optimising the online visibility of each of their outlets for search queries with local intent.
When marketers talk about online visibility, they are really talking about rankings. For Google searches, when a consumer types in “best insurance agency London,” they are presented with the top three results, known as the Google 3-pack. Research by Moz shows that the 3-Pack receives the majority of actual clicks on a results page, so if a business isn’t listed there, its chances of being seen fall significantly – meaning far fewer users will find their way to that business.
How to stand out online
Given its significance, what can financial services firms do to improve online visibility? The first step is to create accurate business listings, for each of a business’s individual physical locations, on multiple online directories. Oftentimes, finance and insurance brands don’t understand that quality matters more than quantity when it comes to online listings.
The accuracy and consistency of online business information directly impacts search engine rankings for ‘Near Me’ searches. Yet, an Uberall study found that 96% of business locations had inconsistencies across Google, Bing and Yelp. These inaccuracies include errors like different iterations of a business name on different directories – e.g., House of Shoes, House o’ Shoes or Shoe House – missing information, or no listing at all on key directories.
While these inconsistencies may seem small, search engines like Google consider the accuracy of business information – such as address, opening hours, phone number, business name, website and postcode – a trust factor in determining rankings. The more precise and correct business information is, the more likely Google will rank a business in one of the top three spots.
By managing data accuracy in online business listings, financial services firms can directly impact their search rankings, not to mention improve consumer engagement. Especially during the pandemic, nearly everyone has experienced the frustration of looking online for store information, only to turn up and find out the online information about opening hours or services offered was wrong or out of date.
Managing online reviews as a marketing strategy
Once a finance firm has optimised their local search visibility, attracting new customers also requires showcasing what great deals or unique services are on offer. By sharing relevant content at every step of the customer journey, businesses can connect with consumers with strong buying intent before they ever step into a branch.
The next key customer touchpoint is good online review ratings and responsiveness. Retailers have long understood that strong review ratings are vital for establishing trust and helping consumers make their purchasing decisions. This is also the case for financial services consumers, with 75 percent of them agreeing that positive consumer ratings would make them more likely to become a customer of a bank, per Trust Pilot.
Even though 86 percent of consumers are more likely to shop at a store that responds to reviews, per Uberall research, established global brands respond to just 9% of online reviews. This isn’t entirely surprising, given the sheer number of locations and respective reviews to manage and respond to, and the need for brand consistency across the brand. Yet, businesses of all sizes are missing a trick when it comes to online reviews.
Consumer conversion rates – measured by the number of clicks on phone number, driving directions, and website – climb sharply when businesses engage with and reply to online reviews left by customers. For instance, a brand with ten plus locations that responds to 32% of customer reviews will enjoy 80% higher conversion rates than a similar sized company replying to just 10% of reviews.
These results are well-worth the investment in the review management time and technology tools needed to be responsive across multiple locations. Without a review management strategy for every one of a finance firm’s locations, businesses run the risk of missing out on prospective customers at the precise moment they are ready to pop into a local branch or speak to a financial advisor.
In today’s competitive marketplace, financial services stand to benefit tremendously by taking a page out of the retail-marketer’s play book and creating a seamless online-to-in store customer experience. By ensuring data accuracy in online business listings, providing relevant content, and managing online reviews, financial services firms can put themselves in the best position to not only increase online and offline visibility, but also to lead customers with a high inclination to buy right to their front door.