Retail Banking: Putting 2015 in Context

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, when advertising professionals and their agencies got heavily involved in Presidential campaigns, traditionalists saw it as the coming of the apocalypse. Sell the future leader of the free world the way you would sell a bar of soap? The same response accompanied ads for doctors and lawyers, and there are still industry guidelines in place for what’s acceptable promotions in place for these honorable professions. At the same time, we’ve become accustomed to banner ads for doctors, attorneys and yes, candidates for high office, in everything from subways to sporting events.

Essentially, this is the reality for businesses of a retail nature. We need to capture consumer attention, and we can only do that by going where consumers are and doing what consumers do. Staying above the fray simply doesn’t work.

Which brings us to retail banking in 2015.

Yes, of course we already see ads for financial institutions everywhere, but consumers today aren’t only on the subway and at sporting events, they’re online. They’re deeply immersed in the digital universe, and that means an entirely different kind of interaction. They’re not just seeing what we put out there. We can now see who they are, and what they’re doing, and what they want to be doing.

At this time of year, it’s good to look forward—make predictions for the new year and hypothesize where we’ll be when we’re about to enter 2016. One issue covered in the Financial Brand that’s potentially fascinating is the idea of using analytics to drive greater personalization in every aspect of customer interaction.

Think of it as consumerization with context. It’s no longer only about marketing, or only about particular transactions—we now know enough, or should know enough, to ensure that every contact with every customer can be done very specifically in that customer’s context.

So how does this work? In his book “Mobile Ready: Connecting with the Untethered Consumer,” author Scott Bales makes the case that it’s time to get past the Information Age and move into the Age of Wisdom. It might sound lofty, but the truth is that seeing mobile shift purely in terms of technology is a mistake—it’s more about utility, behavior and yes, context. Just as the consumer is always on, always connected, brand engagement must be a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour undertaking.

The unending hype over Big Data is surely exhausting, but it will become more relevant, not less so. By mining it accurately, and constantly, we can identify scenarios, where the financial institution can emerge unexpectedly to offer welcome assistance via the mobile device.

Imagine automatically analyzing spending patterns to make recommendations for saving money. Imagine an app or the ATM screen reminding the customer of a friend’s birthday and making it easy to send a gift instantly. Imagine service delivery that specifically cites past transactions with thanks and identifies improvements.

Almost all of this already possible, but much of it exists at the margins, and only a relentless focus on it will bring it front and center in the customer consciousness. Some advances, meanwhile, have yet to take hold in our industry. For example, geo-location capabilities have the potential to drastically alter—and done right, drastically enhance—many aspects of customer engagement, yet it’s still on the fringes of the retail banking industry.

The battles over privacy are still being fought, and some consumers will definitely see some of these initiatives as unnecessarily intrusive. But there’s no question that an entire generation of consumers out there expects every element of outreach to be personal and contextual. Thanks to the wide-scale adoption of mobile and social technologies, and the behavioral changes they induce, we now have the data needed to revamp our entire approach.

 

Written by Jack Dougal