The article below was published on December 4, 2017 on The Financial Brand, written by Jeffry Pilcher.

1. Smashing Silos: Cross-Departmental Integration

The financial industry has long been plagued by org charts built around departmental silos. In banking, everyone works on their own initiatives with separate goals. Seldom is there collaboration between teams. Sometimes, the competition between departments can be downright adversarial.

But marketing today is about the customer experience — one that’s integrated across multiple channels and touchpoints. To find success in the modern marketing landscape, CMOs will have to build bridges across multiple departments and link multiple disciplines together — CX, data analytics, sales. The lines between IT, Operations and Marketing will become increasingly blurred. And for community banks and credit unions where there is no Chief Experience Officer or Chief Data/Information Officer, CMOs will need to step in and fill the role.

2. Omni-Channel Measurement & Marketing ROI

CEOs and CFOs have always wanted CMOs to answer one simple question: “What’s the ROI on our marketing?” Until as recently as the 90s, many marketers didn’t have an answer. They could burn their entire budget on traditional marketing media like TV, radio, billboards and print advertising without knowing what worked… if anything.

But digital channels redefined everyone’s expectations for marketing accountability. Everything can now be tracked. Every action can be quantified, and every consumer behavior can be measured. Going forward, high-performing marketers will figure out who to link all this data together into a cohesive narrative — the customer journey. This will tell marketers what messages work best at each point in the consumer’s path to purchase, and where marketing dollars should be concentrated in the sales funnel for maximum impact.

3. Investing In New Skillsets: The Rise of Digital and Data Specialists

Banking is facing a talent crisis. In research fielded by Capgemini, over half (54%) of the respondents agreed that the digital talent gap is hampering their digital transformation programs, and that their organization has lost competitive advantage because of a shortage of digital talent. And half of all financial institutions say they keep talking about the widening digital talent gap but continue to do nothing about it.

A study from LinkedIn looked identified the top 10 roles where competition will be fiercest among employers, including titles like Chief Digital Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Analytics Officer, Chief Data Officer, Digital Project Manager, Data Architect, and Data Architect.

There is no doubt: the era of quantitative-based marketing is upon us. As Entrepreneur magazine notes, big brands like Unilever and Kraft are now taking queues from the tech world by building data-science teams that work hand-in-hand with marketers. In 2018, the intersection of data + digital marketing will continue to surge. Those banks and credit unions that focus their resources in these areas will find it easier to grow.

4. Content Creation

The talent crisis in banking isn’t just limited to techies, digital wizards and number-crunchers. There is an insatiable appetite among marketers today for content — blog posts, videos, how-to guides, educational materials, eBooks, infographics, videos, etc.

Content marketing has matured to become a staple of the financial marketer’s diet. Indeed, marketing in social media channels is nearly impossible (and largely fruitless) without a strong content foundation.

But where does all this content come from?


People with degrees in English, Journalism, and Mass Communications will be in high demand. And corporate America’s unquenchable thirst for content only means that employers will be facing a sellers’ market.

Banks and credit unions will need to make significant investments in content creation. In 2018, there will be an emphasis on finding and hiring individuals who can generate a consistent stream of content for multiple platforms and purposes. Expect more financial institutions to hire content strategists, copywriters, digital storytellers and the like.

5. Data Integration

Financial marketers hoping to find success in 2018 must leverage the mountains of data they generate — across every channel, department, and product line —e.g., social media platforms like Facebook, marketing touchpoints such as email and websites, sales channels, service/support interactions, and transactional information.

We now live in an “algorithm economy” where the only two factors that really matter in marketing are (1) the data sets you work with, and (2) what you do them. Google knows this. In fact Google’s algorithms are guarded almost as closely as the gold in Fort Knox. Amazon knows this (think: “Products Recommended for You”). NextFlix knows this. In fact, every billion-dollar company in the tech sector today knows this.

Financial institutions must figure out how to generate rich insights gleaned by stitching data together from multiple sources — both from within their organization, and from outside third-party data streams. In 2018, marketers who have the best data sets (input) and the best algorithms (output) will win.

6. Predictive Analytics & Machine Learning

Predictive analytics and machine learning have the power to completely redefine marketing. For instance, consider lead scoring. Using predictive lead scoring, marketers can identify those prospects that are most likely to convert to customers, or those that are most likely to respond to a specific offer.

Marketing automation software allows for the continuous scoring of leads based on the probability of the lead becoming a valuable customer. This scoring not only considers the demographics of the household, but also the level of interest in your products/services, and how close the prospect may be to making a purchase (i.e., what buying stage they are in). Lead scoring helps determine if a message should be sent as well as what type of message.

7. Data-Driven Personalization

Tech giants like Amazon and Netflix have completely redefined consumers’ expectations. In a typical day, consumers use and rely on services that consistently demonstrate how well they understand consumers at the individual level. But banks and credit unions today are falling way short and deliver an experience that can only be described as “inferior.”

Most marketers know artificial intelligence can substantially impact their capacity for personalization. More than half (57%) of those already using AI say it’s “absolutely” or “very essential” in helping their company create 1-to-1 marketing across every touchpoint. And most say AI will substantially impact social media interactions using automated chatbots and similar interfaces.

Using data-driven insights, financial institutions can personalize their marketing three different ways:

  • Level 1: Marketing Optimization – Structured experiments, like A/B Testing or Multivariate Testing that are applied across a broad audience.
  • Level 2: Audience Segmentation – Target groups, each one with specialized content to increase relevance and conversion.
  • Level 3: 1-to-1 Personalization – Using artificial intelligence to deliver an individualized experience to each customer.

In 2018, offering a personalized online experience will be essential. In fact, marketers are so convinced of its value that two-thirds expect a 6% increase in annual revenue from their personalization initiatives, with those in financial services anticipating increases of 10% or more.

8. Chatbots

Chatbots functioning solely on AI are proving to have an increasingly larger role when it comes to customer interactions. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2020, 85% of consumers’ interactions with brands will occur via chatbots.

Banks and credit unions looking to grow relationships with Millennials and Gen Z must embrace chatbot technology. With AI evolving at an exponential pace, the adoption of automated chatbots is set to take off. Data can now be combined from many different sources, analyzed, then directed back to chabots.

Artificial-intelligence-powered chatbots work in real-time and provide personalized and contextual answers to customer questions. It can tell your current account balance, transfer money to a friend, pay a bill, and report recent spending activity. And since chatbots can engage with consumers in a variety of settings — websites, mobile apps, social channels — they can provide a personal, authentic and purposeful experience that’s able to break through where other marketing methods can’t.

Because of its ability to always be available, predictive, understand compliance, and work autonomously, a chatbot can become a critical — if not an exclusive — channel for customers interacting with their banks. At the end of the day, if a customer receives excellent customer service, they won’t care if it comes from a human or a chatbot.

9. Voice Search and Digital Assistants

Modern speech recognition systems, combined with almost pristine text-to-speech voices that almost indiscernibly resemble human speech, are ushering in a new era of voice-driven computing.

Last year, one fifth of all mobile searches were conducted through voice search. By 2020, that number is expected to increase to 50%. Just as marketers have optimized content for mobile, they will have to start optimizing content for voice search as well. For example, because voice search is easier than typing, searches tend to surface more long-tail content.

Voice searchers ask questions typically with Who, What, Where, When, Why and How — and they’re looking for quick fixes to their search problems. Marketers should have a page for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that begins with each of these adverbs, and then answer them conversationally and informally.

Financial organizations will soon move from basic dialogue and account inquiries to transactions using voice commands. This can include being able to execute payments using voice commands, as well as account transfers and account alerts. In fact, half of all banking interactions could be voice driven in the next 10 years.

With the vast majority of consumers having banking relationships spanning a decade or longer, the integration of voice, long-term transactional analysis, geolocation, and current contextual preferences and behaviors is where the power of AI and voice technology becomes really exciting.

10. Micro-Moments

Micro-moments occur when people turn to their devices to act on an immediate need — to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. In fact, 96% of users reach for their smartphones to conduct research on the spot. The most successful financial brands will be those that have the ability to correctly anticipate and address these impulsive informational splurges by providing the right information at the right time.

With consumers checking their phone an average of 100+ times a day, these micro-moments are crucial. More people will be making on-the-spot decisions than ever before — even big, significant ones — based on their mobile micro-moments, and mobile-first websites will be pivotal in offering consumers instant information.

11. Video Advertising

Did you know that 90% of all content shared by users on social media is video? And mobile video ad spending is forecast to grow 49%, to roughly $18 billion in 2018.

The demand for video is growing at an incredible rate. In fact, more than half (52%) of marketers around the world believe that video offers the best ROI compared to other media, and 43% of consumers say they want to see more branded video content. By 2020, video is projected to make up 80% of all online consumer internet traffic. That’s why Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter have embarked on a massive land grab for video content.

Video really is future of content marketing. Brands that are not yet using video need to start. With the younger consumers viewing more video and on a wider range of devices, video advertising will be an essential component in bank and credit union marketing strategies. The big challenge is figuring out how to capture your audience’s attention in the first three seconds.

12. The Rise of Gen Z

Millennials are still the most important generational segment for financial marketers, but Gen Z is right around the corner.

Think about this… The oldest members of Gen Z are 22 right now. That means they are graduating from college and entering the workforce, and they have some disposable income and buying power. They will also be relocating — moving out of the house, moving away from college. And all that means two things: (1) they will be looking to open new checking accounts, and (2) they will be looking for credit (e.g., credit cards, used car loans).

Banks and credit unions spent the better part of two decades trying to figure out the Millennial market. Financial marketers had better start wrapping their heads around Generation Z in 2018, lest they repeat their mistakes.


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