OPINION: Why financial services must build customer-first experiences

Alex Manly

By Alex Manly, Movable Ink’s Associate Director of Strategy for Financial Services, UK & Europe

With the financial services industry and consumer expectations continuing to change at a rapid pace, it is no surprise that personalisation has stuck out as a major theme for the sector.

Consumers now expect tailored, omnichannel personalisation; and getting personalisation ‘wrong’ within marketing communications comes at a high cost for brands, according to a recent Movable Ink study. 26% of consumers surveyed said they would unsubscribe from emails if personalisation wasn’t spot-on and 27% would call customer service to share their poor experience – which, no surprises here, becomes a costly exercise for any brand. If one in four customers are costing the business when personalisation goes wrong, it’s more critical than ever before that brands invest in the right tech stack to support consumers’ growing demands.

In parallel to this, it’s no secret that challenger banks have gained a reputation as leaders in customer personalisation and pioneers of what the financial services experience of the future should look like. We’re also observing an acceleration of tailored experiences in sub-verticals beyond banking, like insurance; with consumers looking for more flexibility, and insurtech brands filling the gap with hyper-tailored approaches such as usage-based insurance models.

As competition heats up, personalisation will become even more paramount to ensure each customer is shown the right product offering, at the right time.

In this article, I will zoom in on three ways financial services marketers can leverage personalisation to drive higher engagement and stronger customer value.

• Personalising your customers’ experience from the outset

First impressions count. The welcome journey is a critical moment in the customer lifecycle to set the tone with customers that their individual needs will be met. A great way of doing this is by introducing zero-party data capture within the welcome or onboarding journey. Zero-party data is where a customer intentionally and proactively shares information with a brand that improves future marketing communications. This creates the opportunity for a brand to take a truly customer-first approach in their communications, no matter their level of data maturity.

For example, interactive polls can prompt customers to provide individual preferences, such as which type of offers they would like to see from their bank; or perhaps even a way to ascertain the customer’s level of financial literacy, which enables the brand to tailor the level of support that may be required.  Enhancing engagement and tailoring communications by leveraging zero-party data doesn’t have to stop at the welcome journey. Brands can extend this approach to create a win:win across the lifetime value of a customer relationship – for example, understanding financial goals such as ‘saving for a rainy day’, or approaching a life event such as planning for a wedding or a family. Ultimately, understanding customer needs is the first step to creating a truly customer-first experience.

Delivering a tailored rewards program

In a world of unprecedented choice, a misalignment of rewards (when a product’s benefits don’t match spend behaviours of the customer) can seem like a minor issue, but it can prompt customers to start looking elsewhere. There was a laser focus on this during the pandemic, where rewards programmes focused on travel or dining needed to curb attrition by creating alternative rewards options while these benefits were off the table during lockdown. Global pandemic aside, rightsizing customers to the proper proposition is key.

Offering rewards unique to each consumer’s needs allows brands to recognise their most devoted customers effectively and engage them in a way that resonates. Leveraging exclusive offers, personalised products, and VIP events are powerful ways to connect with consumers outside of promotions and help build a fruitful relationship. In fact, Antavo’s Global Customer Loyalty Report found that 53.6% of survey respondents who plan to launch a loyalty program in the next two years envision their future program as more emotional than rational.

There are plenty of ways to drive engagement and tailor exclusive offers for customers who opt into a loyalty programme. Along with email, an in-app mobile message could deliver a scratch-off experience, for instance, giving customers the chance to earn an exclusive reward with their monthly spending. Gamified experiences motivate consumers to engage with your brand, while bringing an element of excitement to the campaign.

Rewards summaries celebrating their loyalty points milestones or how far off they are to their next milestone is another great way to keep customers engaged. Especially if your brand’s programme is ‘right-sized’ and delivering great value (whether emotional or rational) to your customers, don’t forget to remind them about it – this creates a stickier experience and helps move your logo to the top of customer wallets.

• Daily Digests and Market Alerts

The retail investment space has also seen a digital renaissance in the last two years with more and more consumers taking the leap to invest their personal finances online. We know that many people are finding that the support they receive from their digital provider is lacking. In fact, in a recent NASDAQ survey , a whopping 51.5% of consumers said they weren’t satisfied with the research and insights from their provider. However, we know that many investment brands are working hard behind the scenes to position themselves as leaders in the industry, creating a host of written content, events and videos. So why don’t customers seem to know about it?

Arguably, the most successful way to bring thought-leadership content to your customers is to scale it with an omni-channel approach.  When it comes to sharing editorial or ‘expert’ content, this can be displayed based on the customer’s previous behaviour and selected preferences, or even ranked in order of popularity. Crucially, this should be considered as ‘evergreen’ content which is updated regularly and a hub for customers to go back to on a daily basis.

Beyond providing informative content, brands can also point customers to nearby events in digital communications like email or mobile and thereby not only personalising but also geolocalising content – a great opportunity for brands to develop credibility as thought-leaders in the industry.

With the array of possibilities offered by zero- and first-party data, offering a personalised experience is not necessarily dictated by a brand’s data maturity. The brands that convert their customer data into a compelling personalised story, prioritise convenience, and foster an emotional connection with consumers beyond the purchase cycle will be the ones that successfully hold onto and grow a loyal customer base.


About the Author

Alex Manly is Associate Director of Strategy for Financial Services, UK & Europe

at Movable Ink. In her role she works hand-in-hand with some of the world’s leading B2C fintech brands to formulate forward-thinking digital marketing strategies. She joined Movable Ink from American Express and brings with her a wealth of financial services marketing expertise from 10+ years in the industry.

Image Credit: Galeanu Mihai

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