In recent years there has been considerable hubbub among marketers prognosticating about the “future” need to engage customers across the many channels they frequent versus hoping they will find their way to a brand via existing marketing and delivery silos. All the trends and signs have been building and demographic changes, coupled with rapidly evolving channel behavior are now putting pressure on CMO’s to rethink the way they attract, serve and retain customers. This issue is no longer a can to be kicked down the road a few more years. The moment has arrived.
The last of the millennial generation are in high school and most have already been educated and are in the work force as young adults. This is the largest generation in history with 85 million people compared to its predecessor Gen X with 50 million people and the once largest generation of Baby Boomers with 75 million people. While there are some decidedly different channel usage patterns among these three generations (particularly the older half of the Baby Boom), what is clear is the millennials are pushing brands to engage them where they are – which is everywhere – all the time! Yes, millennials are more digitally inclined and demanding than prior generations but what’s also true is they have put pressure on brands to deliver more integrated online/offline customer experiences – and the X’ers and Boomer’s now want it too! To varying degrees – most of the U.S. adult population now expects a coherent customer experience from initial touch-point, trial, sale, usage and ongoing brand interaction. Delivering a seamless experience is no longer a “nice to do” it’s a “have to do”.
This behavioral shift has created a challenging new reality. Brands that are not able to execute a choreographed online/offline experience are at a vast competitive disadvantage from the ones that can. Why? The answer is simple and straight forward. If your brand cannot engage customers when and where they want to engage – you will never even have a chance to sell them. You will be like the angler obsessing about the pole, line, bait and hook while fishing in a spot where none of the fish are! If one looks at the traditional Four P’s of Marketing (Product, Price, Promotion, Place) many marketers are still very focused on the first three P’s while still paying only lip service to the “Place.” Yes, Product, Price, and Promotion are clearly important, but only if you are certain you are fishing where the fish are. And that’s only the first half of the equation. Once a new customer is sold and on-boarded they also expect the product/service will be delivered and supported across multiple channels as well. Consumers are now demanding to be engaged, sold and serviced where THEY prefer to be. Ignore this reality to the detriment of your brand and enterprise.
In Cards/Banking there are disparate levels of competency in managing multiple channels in marketing to; and servicing customers. If you believe your bank is a leader – seek to maximize the brief competitive advantage you have but get ready for an environment where this is no longer a differentiator but table stakes. If your bank is behind – it has never been more important to “up” your game in order to stay relevant, let alone compete with the leaders. And while the leaders in the Cards/Banking categories are increasingly adept, they are by no means the best at this. For example, the leaders in specialty retail tend to be better at managing the customer experience than even the leading banks and card issuers. This is also true when comparing financial services leaders versus online product/service marketers. Notwithstanding significant competitive dynamics within financial services, forces from outside the industry are generating pressure to deliver the experiences customer’s desire. Just because Amazon’s legendary ability to auto-suggest relevant products and services comes from outside the financial services category, doesn’t mean that card or retail bank customers wouldn’t like to enjoy this level of engagement.
Note: This cart illustrates the disparity between the average and leaders in the capabilities required to do multi-channel marketing. So it begs the question to the reader: are you average or a leader? If only average you’re at a big disadvantage.
Digital/Mobile: The New Customer Engagement Lynch-Pin
While branches and other traditional marketing and delivery channels will continue to remain important (multi-channel not uni-channel, right?) digital has become essential. According to an Accenture study, consumers view online banking as the area they would like most to see banks invest in and develop. Eighty-percent of them use this channel at least once a month. Mobile banking activity has increased nearly 50 percent since 2012, with approximately one-third of customers active at least once a month. The most active online and mobile banking customers use these channels at least weekly. This will only continue to increase as Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers follow the digital/mobile channel behavior being blazed by Gen Y. Is Apple Pay just another mobile application albeit from a very adept marketing company or is it evidence that the fourth “P” of marketing (Place) is now more important than ever to earn business and loyalty from an increasingly digital/mobile consumer? All I know is the most successful fishermen are always the ones that fish where the fish already are!
Mobile Customers Tend to Be Highly Attractive Customers
In addition to delivering a mobile experience because it’s what many customers demand, financial institutions should also focus on acquiring and retaining mobile banking users, as one study shows they are:
55% of mobile banking users are between 18 and 34, vs. 25% for non-users
- More affluent:
Average income for mobile banking users is $71,000, vs. $59,000 for non-users
- Buy more financial services products:
Mobile banking users hold 3.1 products with their bank, vs. 2.8 for non-users
Catching Up? Where to Begin
If your organization is in catch-up mode it can be challenging to figure out where to begin. While there are a host of important issues such as technology infrastructure, media attribution and the optimization and management of customer offers – you need to focus first on managing your information/data. That is because it is foundational to achieve multi-channel marketing and product/service delivery. Without having your data in order it’s impossible to deliver the experience the customer now demands.
These information/data competencies include:
- Collecting Data – Known and Anonymous
Does your organization presently collect data to effectively support marketing and analytics, using all available data sources?
- Integrating Data – Online/Offline
What is your organization’s ability to integrate all available data, whether offline or online, across the company?
- Customer Recognition – Known to Anonymous
There are collections of data, some of which are entity-based (e.g., mobile devices, iPads, PCs) some are people-based. Have you done the best you can within legal boundaries to connect all that at the individual or segment or pseudo-anonymous (aka cookie) level? Can you recognize the customer no matter where they are or what device they are on?
- Information Governance
How well does your organization mitigate the risk that exists from lack of controls regarding information storage and usage? Can you manage all these data sources in a compliant fashion?
More than ever, customers now expect you to find them and serve them in their channels of choice. Hoping they will somehow conform their behavior to a haphazard array of one-off marketing and service channels will make is increasingly difficult to achieve success in this new era. Because data is the fuel that makes all 1:1 marketing possible, the first step in the multi-channel journey is to ensure you are able to collect, store and analyze data in a compliant manner so you can begin to meet your customers where they are.