It is critical that financial services marketers understand and take advantage of the impact of platforms on the marketing landscape. When we use the term platforms – think about real estate, car buying, and shopping for deposits and personal loan products. Platforms (in the sense of the business model) are creating a plug-and-play environment for financial services providers to connect with consumers and create value. Today, more bank and non-bank providers are working together to improve the way consumers shop for and use financial services. We are seeing an increased focus of banks aligning consumer experiences with their preferences, and that includes creating new third-party relationships.
As these consumer interactions are transformed, a new challenge for marketers has emerged. The customer journey has become more complex and difficult to map. Loyalty generated by positive consumer experiences is rising, but how does a bank insert itself in the process and create a personalized experience when the consumer is on multiple sites evaluating options across multiple financial services providers. This new reality creates challenges for financial services marketers. The marketing landscape has changed, and we believe a new activity-based approach to marketing must be developed to address the changes.
Taking a New View to Banking
There are numerous examples of the use of platforms generating success.
When shopping for a home, consumers can use a platform like Zillow to make it easier to identify and compare homes that are for sale. Integrated into that process is the ability to obtain financing, which disrupts the traditional mortgage research, shopping and application processes. As the way home buying and mortgage decisions changes, lenders must inject themselves into the process to provide advice and relevant offers.
Similarly, the emergence of car buying web platforms creates a new customer journey. Consumers can easily shop for the car of their dreams and gain valuable advice on financing options. This eliminates the undesirable experience that often occurs in the finance department at a car dealership.
Deposit products, credit cards and investment products are also becoming more prevalent on web-based platforms. The days of visiting a bank branch to pick up a brochure and spending time with the new accounts representative as part of the shopping process is largely a thing of the past. The customer journey is typically multi-channel and much less branch-dependent. Marketers must find ways to connect with consumers and create a consistent experience across channels with personalized content, creative, and offers.
Other examples include Money Supermarket in the UK., a website-based business that specializes in financial services. Consumers who go to the Money Supermarket site can compare more than 40 products across insurance, deposits, and lending. The site also provides education to help with the shopping process and advice to help consumers worry less about money. This shopping process is shaped by advice on the site and not influenced by a financial services provider’s direct marketing efforts.
Don’t let me forget Amazon. With a huge and devoted customer base, this is the ecosystem a consumer may never leave. Amazon’s experimentation with financial services initiatives demonstrates the potential of creating an online marketplace by working with banks. Amazon can clearly build a financial services business outside the regulatory-charted space, and with its universe of customer data create positive experiences and loyalty with consumers, that will be difficult to match.
What Does This Mean to Financial Services Marketers?
For years, bank marketers have depended on direct mail and more recently digital marketing (email, digital advertising, social media) to promote their brand, products, and services. Long-established processes leveraged traditional data sources (credit, demographic, other) to inform their analytical models to improve targeting, response, and measurement.
Marketers need to make an essential shift that changes their marketing practices. This includes the ability to utilize new sources of data and altering existing marketing analytical processes. Consumer behaviors and preferences are identified though new sources of data as they move across channels, creating the need for change. Marketing programs must evolve and become activity-based to effectively reach consumers and create impact throughout their journey.
In April, Acxiom and Cornerstone Advisors will release a research report that takes a close look at how platforms are transforming consumers’ shopping and buying habits and forcing banks to build a new activity-based marketing capability. This research initiative includes in-depth interviews with leading experts in the banking industry, fintech providers, platform providers, and other technology firms.
Acxiom recently hosted a webinar titled “How the Platform Economy Impacts Financial Services Marketing.” This recorded webinar can be watched now. It provides insights into our findings and our view of how marketing is being transformed.