ADA's Keith Lee believes that despite restricted budgets, financial services marketers must still invest time and resources to smooth out the digital customer journey and leverage data-driven communications for better outcomes.

In the financial services industry, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing progress and change in a security-conscious field, with banks such as JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley seeing the rapid uptake of digital tools from centralised customer databases to secure document sharing platforms.

The sudden changes wrought by the outbreak has not only tested the industry’s operational resilience but also their agility and willingness to adopt digital tools and creative workarounds to overcome the following challenges in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. For financial services institutions (FSIs) that get it right, it can also potentially open up new business avenues.

Customer personas and personalisation

In this new challenging world, businesses in the Financial Services industry need to redefine the process of how they define and reach customers. The effects of COVID-19 have made it such that firms now need to strategically re-engage with their customers, as their needs, values and attitudes have all evolved.

Understandably, it is a perennial frustration for customers who feel as though customer outreach from businesses and brands can be impersonal and boilerplate – with KPMG’s Customer Experience In The New Reality report highlighting personalization and empathy as two key pillars in engaging customers post-COVID, firms should be taking on an increasingly anticipative approach with personalization.

For example, ADA identified nine consumer personas which have emerged a result of COVID-19, to provide marketers with insights into how they can more effectively engage with their target audiences. With a changing consumer landscape, it is imperative that companies use the data they have on hand to develop tailored messaging to different customer segments and shift towards data-driven communication strategies.

Meeting customers at their digital destinations

Data is also key in reaching customers where they are and where they spend their digital time. While social media constitutes a big portion of this, leading to behemoths like Facebook and Google being mainstays – it is worthwhile for FSIs to consider where the target audience for specific services sit, to capture quality leads.

This involves taking an audience-led approach to finding customers, with data-driven segmentation allowing for an in-depth understanding of each consumer slice. This will enable FSIs to drill down, expand and optimise customer outreach, focusing efforts on platforms that are best suited to certain customer profiles. This includes not just social media, but also entertainment platforms like YouTube and Spotify.

Mobile gaming platforms have also recently developed into an emerging new platform to which consumers are flocking to. Mobile gaming activity shot up during the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, with over a billion gaming apps downloaded across APAC and 45% of consumers reporting increased consumption of mobile games.

Taking a data-driven approach to seeking out consumers will also help identify emerging platforms and enable FSIs to build an omnichannel consumer journey and attribution strategy the maximise the impact of their marketing budgets.

Smoothening the customer journey

Once customer attention has been secured, the next step is in successfully channelling them down the customer funnel. This is where FSIs must make headway into smoothening the customer journey and the acquisition process. This involves undertakings such a UI/UX evaluation of customer-facing platforms like the company website to reduce the drop-off in the consumer journey. For example, one of ADA’s insurance clients saw a 92% bounce rate in the consumer web journey, addressing this can reduce the attrition of valuable consumer leads. The integration of options such as apps and even chatbots can also smoothen the customer acquisition process.

Another source of friction can be slow Know Your Customer (KYC) processes and credit documentation. By adopting technologies like optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning to automate this, FSIs can identify and extract data from sources and aggregate them into meaningful insights to streamline and speed up verification. This ensures due diligence and verification are conducted remotely with minimal effort from the customers, effectively reducing abandonment.

This digital-first process will ensure customers are smoothly onboarded while still following the necessary due diligence protocols.

While marketing budgets and ad spend may be tighter now because of the pandemic, there are significant benefits to taking the time to nurture a customer through the entire funnel or exploring ways to win customers via alternative acquisitions models. With the challenges facing the FSI industry, digitalisation is a must to access untapped customer bases and offer a seamless brand experience for customers, to secure their trust and long-term loyalty.