Financial services and digital transformation post-Covid

 

Compared to other sectors such as marketing and media, the financial services sector has been relatively slow to digitally transform. There have been good reasons for this, from customers’ resistance to change in how their money is dealt with, to the security challenges of doing high-value business securely via digital channels.

But Covid-19 has made the imperative to go digital stronger and more urgent. According to the recent Deloitte report, Realizing the digital promise: Covid-19 catalyzes and accelerates transformation in financial services, 35% of customers have increased their use of online banking during Covid-19. A similar story seems now to be playing out in most cases where a customer has a choice between using a financial service in-person or digitally.

Customers’ rapid shift to digital is cause for financial services companies to move fast too. This guide will help you do exactly that. We’ll take you through the current state of digital transformation in financial services, before moving on to provide actionable guidance on how to implement aspects of digital transformation at your own business, Our aim is to help you navigate to the right side of the digital divide, post-Covid.

The state of digital transformation in financial services

The financial services sector has tended to embrace digital more cautiously than other sectors such as media and manufacturing. According to Forrester, 19% of financial services businesses are still unsure what to do about digital transformation, while another 14% mistakenly believe they have already digitally transformed successfully. In other words, about a third of financial services businesses could arguably do to brush up on their digital transformation strategy (assuming they wish to digitally transform).

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was still an argument to be had over whether digital transformation is right for financial services businesses. For many players in the sector, face-to-face contact has always been a central feature of work and workplace culture. But in 2020, this convention was turned on its head, as UK ministers asked all workers to “work from home if you can”. Doing things the old-fashioned way has become controversial, at best.

Against this background of disruption, we’re unsurprised to note Accenture’s Banking Technology Vision 2020 identifies a connected post-Covid customer experience (CX) as one of the key tech trends of the year.

The big question for financial services businesses: how do we close the digital transformation gap and deliver that connected experience?

Common digital weak spots of financial services teams

Regular visitors to the Target Internet website may be familiar with our Benchmark tool. It’s a free online test that measures your digital marketing skills and provides guidance on how to improve your digital weak spots.

From time-to-time, we look at anonymised data from Benchmark to gain insights into the people who use it. Interestingly, people who work in financial services seem to have areas of relative weakness in the following subjects:

  • Content marketing
  • Analytics & data
  • Social media

If your business follows the same pattern as others in the sector, these digital marketing proficiencies could be fruitful focus areas for your digital skills training. Indeed, the entire marketing element of digital transformation looks set to become especially important for financial services providers, as the risks of insolvency and problem debt (paywall) loom amid today’s uncertain economic conditions. There is a need to reach new clients via the digital channels they are using to an ever-increasing extent for work and everything else.

Digital transformation of financial services marketing

We can’t tell you how to digitally transform your customer experience. In most cases, it will involve setting up digital services such as online banking or consultations via secure web conferencing – but the specifics will depend on what exactly your business does.

What we can teach you about, is how to digitally transform your team’s marketing function. We recommend you approach this process with a twin focus: on training and tech.

In terms of digital skills training, there are plenty of options available. Popular methods include:

  • e-learning
  • Courses and qualifications
  • Seminars and webinars
  • Tailored tuition

These methods can all be incorporated into each team member’s continuing professional development (CPD). Providing this opportunity for advancement can be a fillip to employee satisfaction, as well as expanding the team’s digital marketing capabilities.

In order to do digital marketing successfully, the team may need access to marketing tools, such as:

  • SEO tools
  • Media monitoring tools
  • Social media scheduling tools
  • Content editing/creation tools
  • Website analytics tools

Every business that’s serious about digital marketing should be ready to allot a share of its budget to digital marketing tools. We recommend choosing a selection of tools that best support your digital marketing strategy.

If you want to take the digital transformation of your marketing team to the greatest possible extent, having the right skills and tools won’t quite be enough. You’ll also need to instill a digital culture into the team, using digital-focused methods such as agile working.

How content strategy plays into digital transformation

In a digitally transformed B2C relationship, the business’s online content is an especially important touchpoint between business and customer or client. It needs to convey the same useful information, and deliver the same value, as your representatives would put across in a face-to-face setting.

We’ve seen surveys stating that as many as 70% of digital marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy. For ambitious businesses, this situation represents an excellent opportunity to outperform the competition. Our current, complicated moment in history could be a smart time to increase your focus on content, as lockdown and other restrictions have driven people to increase both their consumption of traditional media and their use of social media

The first questions to ask when approaching your content marketing afresh, are:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What type(s) of content does the target audience tend to consume?
  • What is the target audience’s objective when reading/watching/listening to content?

These questions can be answered through market research and competitor analysis. The answers should give you a strong starting point for your content planning. For instance, you may find that your target audience are first-time buyers who like reading long-form articles, and who want to learn about how to secure a mortgage on their new home-to-be. It doesn’t take too much additional effort to turn this kind of starting point into all sorts of content ideas.

A provenly successful content marketing approach for financial services brands is to focus on producing engaging educational content, which takes a ‘customer first’ rather than ‘sales first’ approach. This means the content is focused on solving a customer’s requirement, and makes little or no reference to the publisher’s products or services.

An exemplar of the customer first approach to content marketing is the NatWest Business Hub, which features guidance on business topics such as marketing, cybersecurity and HR. Here’s an example of the site’s content, featuring Target Internet’s own Daniel Rowles.

Here are some additional starting points to explore in your content planning:

Digital content + digital marketing tactics = digitally transformed synergy

Your digitally transformed content marketing activity should be implemented in conjunction with digital marketing tactics, in order to get the best results.

A particularly important point is distributing your content via social media. Using your social channels to share articles, videos, podcasts or other content can be a highly effective way to reach an audience. Furthermore, there can be significant side benefits to your content’s SEO and your social channels’ engagement figures.

Financial services businesses should aim to have a strong presence on all the social media platforms their target customers use. For example, if millennials and members of gen z were among the audience segments your content marketing will target, we would strongly recommend that you build your brand’s presence on the social media channels those groups are using – especially Instagram and TikTok.

Accruing social media engagements (i.e. likes and comments) creates social proof, which is something many people will want to see before they become customers. If a person can see that others have engaged with and bought into the brand, they will be more likely to do the same themselves.

Of course, social media isn’t the only area of digital marketing that can add value for financial services providers. Other areas to focus on include:

  • Reviews management: stimulating positive online feedback and handling bad reviews professionally are important requirements for building trust in the brand. 
  • Influencer marketing: the right influencer could be key to building rapport with a target audience group.
  • Personalisation: this digitally transformed marketing discipline involves the use of customer data to provide each customer with a tailored experience. For example, if your customer buys a certain service from you, this could trigger a specific sequence of marketing communications to be sent to that customer.

Here are some examples of excellent financial services marketing in action:

  • BBVA’s Covid-19 focused marketing campaign encouraged customers to engage with the brand’s digital channels. This would be a great approach to replicate for brands which are digitally transforming their CX.
  • Lloyds Bank’s “By your side” campaign shines a spotlight on mental health effects of the coronavirus pandemic. So long as due care is taken, raising important issues of this sort can be a great way for brands to do social good through their marketing. This will resonate with some audience segments.
  • BeGambleAware’s “BetRegret – Tap Out” campaign brilliantly combines video with a social media marketing campaign based around the Twitter hashtag, #TapOut.

In digital transformation, the only true destination is improvement

As any team that has put a great deal of work into digitally transforming will tell you, there’s no real destination point in digital transformation. Technologies and customer behaviours and ever-evolving, and as such, the true challenge for financial services businesses is to keep evolving and improving with the times.

In a post-Covid world, we believe this will mean taking the excellent personal service for which the best financial service providers are known, and translating that into a digital product, with digital marketing to match.

Colin Chan, the managing director for group marketing at Great Eastern, put it well in a recent interview with The Drum:

“It is key that organisations, regardless of the industry, reorient their mindsets in this new future. Marketing has long been much about pushing a brand in front of as many people as possible. Rather, it is all about engaging with the consumer with insightful and relevant messages at the right place and right time on the relevant channels.”

We hope this guide has told you something useful about the digital future of your business. There’s a lot of detail here, but the message is simple. Financial services providers have access to a world of digital tools, knowledge and marketing tactics – and using these resources together will be key to providing a digital CX that moves with the times.

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