The 4 biggest challenges facing financial services marketing in 2016

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Financial services marketer - pretty tough shtick that one. At the best of times, bankers are hardly seen as the choicest cuts. Pension providers, investment groups are hardly well-loved, either. Easier for Fintech startups who seem cool and hip, (for now), but let’s face it, they don’t have the budget.

In one sense there is no such thing as the stereotypical financial services marketer.

But whether you’re working with the latest disruptor startup or a lumbering behemoth of a bank, there are probably four key challenges you will come up against in 2016.

Mobile-first

Hardly new - mobile has been booming for 5 years or so. But what is challenging the existing setup is the mobile-first customer operating in the omnichannel environment.

It’s particularly relevant for banks who are already having to respond to new agile players eating into their profits.

So when Javelin Strategy & Research says the number of weekly mobile bankers now equals the number of weekly branch bankers, we need to listen. Now one in four of all customers are so-called “mobile first" consumers - those who primarily use a mobile device to access their current account.

The answer sounds rather simple. If consumers are accessing their services via their mobile devices, we need our marketing to be delivered in that channel. We need mobile-optimised content, but we also need to consider how the technology can work with the marketing activity.

Driving loyalty, not just awareness

Awareness is easy, but loyalty is what matters. In an age when financial services products are highly commoditized, the consumer can visit a comparison site to find the cheapest option. Loyalty is highly prized, but it's an increasingly rare commodity now.

Marketing communications, therefore, need to delve deeper than merely highlighting what your product is and what it costs. It needs to have more appeal - relevant, well-timed and tailored content is invaluable. To achieve this, we need to take a data-driven approach to marketing - we need to know what the customer is thinking, what they are looking for and how we can help them. With data we can communicate the right information at the right time to the customer - helping them to understand we’re on their side.

Consumers want their advice-led financial services. The relationship is no longer purely transactional - the dynamic has changed. For instance, with the bank switching service, it’s as easy to swap banks as change brand of loo roll. It’s also free. So why should anyone stay with their existing provider?

Social conversations

It’s a recurring theme, but one that I feel has no less relevance today than five years ago. Social media is so easy to get wrong and so many financial services firms miss the mark because they don’t understand the technology or the audience.

Banks are particularly guilty on this front - the list of social media marketing fails by banks is long and distinguished. But they’re not alone by any means.

Generating conversations on social is all about building, or sometimes regaining, consumer trust. It goes back to the point about loyalty - it's by no means easy, but it's got to be a priority.

All that’s NEW

Whether it’s new regulations or technology, financial services marketers have to keep up with a fast changing world. Pension rule changes or Apple Pay - conveying the right facts to consumers in an accessible format is essential so they know what’s going on and stay with you.

Case in point - EMV in the US. In this case it’s an industry-wide problem that’s revealed significant confusion over the reasons behind and potential impact of the roll-out of chip cards in the US.

Even the FBI got things muddled and issued a slightly misleading statement about the use of the PIN at retailers’ point of sale terminals (in the US, most of the chip cards are authorised by signature, not with the PIN as in Europe).

Not surprisingly, most people don’t know what to do with their chip cards.

Ingenico found 54 per cent of US cardholders who have both EMV and magstripe cards prefer the old style cards. This demonstrates a lack of knowledge - EMV cards are demonstrably safer and less prone to fraud.

Worse still, a third of people using the new EMV chip card were not aware of the correct way to use it, and had to ask for help. This creates a bad experience for the consumer. Finally, as if to confirm the above, only 27 per cent of cardholders who received educational material along with their EMV cards found it helpful.

It’s worth pointing out that EMV is hardly a groundbreaking technology - it’s been around for 20 years in other parts of the world. Issuers had been preparing for the US rollout for years, so had ample opportunity to communicate with their customers.

With other, more disruptive and emerging technology on the horizon, how can financial services firms expect to communicate effectively with consumers so they continue to get the best experience? If you can’t explain EMV, what hope when the blockchain revolution happens?

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