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Why it Pays for Financial Brands to Personalize Their Online Customer Experience

Guest Author

In a recent article from Fox Business News, Brett King, author of “Bank 3.0” and “Branch Today, Gone Tomorrow,” stated: “The number of transactions in branches is plummeting. Customers don’t visit branches as often because people do so much more of their day-to-day banking without them.” As we continue to move into a digitally influenced and improved world, consumers are increasingly turning to their laptop/desktop computers, smartphones and tablets as the primary method for banking.

ComScore estimates that 423.5 million people worldwide accessed online banking sites during April 2012, reaching 28.7 percent of the Internet audience. Additionally, over 45 percent of the Internet audience in North America accessed bank sites – that’s an increase of 1.2 percentage points, making it the top region for these sites. Although in a relatively nascent phase, mobile banking is also on a steady rise with nearly 44 percent of bank customers expected to use mobile services on at least a monthly basis by 2015, according to a report from Capgemini and Efma.

Because banking is no longer ruled by the old school practice of walking into a banking institution’s branch during “business hours,” filling out long, time-consuming forms and standing in line to meet with a teller behind a glass wall, financial brands cannot afford to be clumsy or haphazard with their personalization strategy across all devices and channels. Here are some surefire ways to personalize the online customer experience for prospects vs. existing customers.

Don’t use the same messaging for prospects and customers.

Messaging, when crafted well and relevant, will not only increase engagement and conversions, but it will also increase revenue and customer Lifetime Value (LTV). For instance, a new customer would be more receptive and engaged by a “Sign up for a new account and get 25 free trades” message.

If you serve up that message to an individual who already has a financial account/product with your brand, you could frustrate them and cause them to leave and go to a competitor’s site. Instead, it’s more personal and more authentic if an existing customer visiting a financial website is served up a message that reads, “We know you have an account and these products. Would you be interested in this complimentary offer?” This creates upsell as well as tells the client/user that my banking institution knows me and understands my needs.

Smart navigation reduces abandonment and creates personalization.

We all know what it feels like to type, click and land on a website only to be met with confusing, cluttered navigation bars. You have a short time to capture a user’s attention and direct/deliver them to their end destination or goal (i.e. education about services and products or account opens). The more time it takes for a user to find what they’re looking for, the more likely it is that you have increased their frustration and caused them to abandon their activity.

Once a user is engaged with a Small Business navigation bar, they should be served up content relevant to their financial business needs, such as “Compare Business Credit Cards,” “Compare Business Services,” and the like. On the other hand, individuals looking for personal finance offers, credit cards and the like wouldn’t be engaged with these types of navigation bars. These navigation best practices help create simple audience segments and, in turn, enable the banking institution to create a more personalized, relevant customer experience. It also allows the banking institution to increase conversions and learn about who their customers are by creating profiles/segments that can be manually or automatically created.

Translate real-time financial market information into actionable conversions

Think about the following scenario. The business and financial news are all pointing to the bonds market being on fire and primed for growth. Then you have a consumer who has purchased fixed income products from your financial institution previously. The smart tactic here would be to serve up a very targeted, personal message with content about the bonds market.

Now take for example how consumers search for and apply for home loans. If specific web visitors are interested in purchasing a new home and financing will be a key element of their home-buying process, doesn’t it make sense to show content that specifically highlights just how low home loan rates are? Seeing content that says, “Home loans are at 2%, apply now” seems simple, but if it’s served up to users who are deep within the home buying/searching process, it’s personal, relevant and tremendously useful.

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