Banking has changed. Between disruption from FinTech, advancing technology, and changing norms around personal finance, the industry’s flush with opportunities and threats. There’s also no shortage of opinions on the trend outlook for 2019. But how do you know which trends to pay attention to? We’ve started by identifying eight bank marketing trends to watch this year.
Every industry’s been reforming its operations in light of agile. Banking is no exception. Taking the lead from Silicon Valley, banks are applying principles of software development to how they create digital campaigns.
Agile, also known as iterative development, is a project management style that emphasizes rapid prototyping. Think fast, experimental, and dynamic. In contrast to the traditional waterfall model, the agile workflow is non-linear. The idea is to fashion a proof of concept or minimum viable product that you continually test and revise.
Because agile allows you to iterate up to and even after launch day, it’s perfect for online campaigns that are easily amended. This means brands can reform their strategy as the analytics come in. Accenture even identifies rapid deployment as a pillar of marketing for the financial sector.
TD Bank Group recently made the switch to agile. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Global CMO Theresa McLaughlin noted that agile lets them deliver experiences in real time to reach customers where they are (which is now everywhere, always). Notably agile is cost efficient in both money and time. As a philosophy, it can be deployed as needed. TD chose to introduce “pods” – small, dedicated teams – before rolling out a full shift to agile.
The minimalist design trend has taken hold. Though often expressed as black and white palettes and sans serif typography, it’s now infiltrated copy. Microcopy is the short messaging on websites and apps, often in the form of links, directions, and warnings.
One of the advantages of microcopy is that it speaks to the modern customer who’s chronically short on time. It’s often purely functional, but can also be used to inject personality into onboarding and error prevention. Don’t underestimate the value of these minute details: changes as small as one word have been proven to drive lead generation.
Even if maximalism makes a comeback, it’s unlikely to affect trends in copy. Rather, it would be a return to bold visuals and immersive motion graphics. The need for succinct text, however, will only increase as the market grows ever-more competitive. To keep users’ scarce attention, you’ll need to invest in the power of less.
3. (Not so) deep learning
Because of advances in natural language processing, many brands assume they need a sophisticated virtual assistant for their app or landing page. But banks should question the assumption that deep learning is necessary for onboarding and support.
Support bots are a common customer entry point. Their distinct voice is another chance for a company to convey its brand. So it seems it would be a wasted opportunity not to use the best intelligence to manage customer relationships and promote brand cohesion. But IBM urges that users just want a bot that solves the right problems – regardless of how powerful it is under the hood.
The many chatbots out there generally fall along two lines: skills and contextual. The former is more like a script that replies to different keywords with a preloaded response. (Think Smarterchild from early AIM days.) The latter is in the vein of machine learning. Like your Alexa that learns from talking to you, a contextual bot gets smarter each time you use it.
Banks shouldn’t rush to outfit their chatbots with Watson-like capability. If anything, banking would be better served to follow insurance’s lead and leave artificial intelligence for processing high-volume data. Deep learning’s here to stay, but 2019 is about knowing when to employ it.
If you follow the work over at Richardson Marketing, a company that is dedicated to building smarter marketing campaigns for banks and credit unions, then you know they talk a lot about true personalization in marketing. Knowing your user is essential to an effective campaign, but it’s time to go beyond personas. With the extensive user data now available, there’s no reason to limit your research to a narrativized version of the real thing. Enter segmenting.
Your browsing data goes into demographic and psychographic profiles that aim to predict your consumer habits. Segmentation refers to these discrete audience categories. According to a study by Capgemini, 56% of banking organizations used analytics for targeted marketing as of last year. This number only stands to grow as algorithms improve and more brands discover how to get the leading edge.
You can tell yourself a great story about an entrepreneur who loves getting outside and needs a loan for his new business. But telling a great story is only half the battle: it’s about finding your users in their natural environment to meet an immediate need.
Segmenting needs to be part of any bank’s marketing strategy in 2019.
The days of small community banks are over. Disruption from FinTech threatens the vertical integration the industry has long enjoyed, and technology’s changing how customers discover and do business. In light of these developments, any bank’s marketing strategy needs to be omnichannel.
People have grown accustomed to cross-channel experiences. A study by Google found that six in 10 users start shopping on one device and complete their purchase on another. Today’s user expects to be able to make an account with you on their phone, begin a task, and access it on their desktop without losing progress. Simply put, if you’re not marketing for mobile, you’re not marketing.
Banks are also rethinking how they package their brick-and-mortar presence. When so much of your life’s transactions can be done online, the physical analog seems ancillary. Capital One Cafés represent an effort to reposition retail settings for how we use public spaces now. Expect to see more innovations like this as the financial sector navigates the redefined physical and digital.
6. (Not just) voice SEO
Everyone’s trying to please the algorithm that will rank your page and help the right people find you. Now the focus is turning to voice SEO as more users rely on dictation to complete searches. But don’t be distracted by the latest shiny thing: any search engine optimization strategy needs to be intentional about what it targets.
Many searches done via digital assistants are posed in the form of a sentence. Therefore it’s advantageous to try ranking for terms that match spoken language. This strategy, also known as long-tail SEO, leads to higher conversions by targeting low-competition keywords.
But MOZ, an SaaS company specializing in SEO products, warns that the growth in voice search isn’t a reason to ignore manual search. Rather, marketers should keep studying absolute search volume. Moreover, the disintermediation of search by Google and Amazon means instant answers – results that don’t lead you to a third party – are on the rise. That’s why you’ll be safer placing value in content marketing, discussed below.
7. Content marketing
We won’t sit here and tell you social media’s necessary to your marketing strategy: that you already know. It’s now standard for brands to speak directly to consumers through social media. As with the aforementioned customer support AIs, these accounts serve the dual purpose of CRM and promoting a singular brand voice. What banks need to be paying attention to now is content marketing.
Content marketing is the practice of generating articles and blog posts to advance your brand. It turns ads into something that customers will want to share. Consider the mailers you get now from the grocery store – a far cry from the coupon circulars of yesterday, these chains have transformed their print marketing strategy to offer reading material with unique value.
Same goes for digital marketing. If the paucity of longform op-eds is any indication, users have a hunger for content. Wells Fargo taps into this social moment by modeling their blog after a dedicated news site. It turns promotion into something that will generate interest and discussion.
A Dartmouth study found that millennials are good at ignoring ads. Being digital natives, they naturally filter out advertising cliches in their field of vision. They’re more likely to discover products through their social network. That’s why it’s imperative to invest in a marketing strategy that prizes engaging, shareable content.
The editorial direction of many brands is trending towards a new kind of language. You know it when you see it: humble, unassuming yet confident. Like a trusted friend – or a really bold acquaintance. Someone who’s willing to tell you the truth about your cable package. The in thing for marketing is a friendly, straightforward, decidedly human tone.
It’s not new that banks would market towards trust when it’s so essential to their business model. What’s new is how they present as trustworthy. As previously mentioned, the consumers of today have a shrewd sense of when they’re being marketed to. Where authority and prestige used to dominate, now it’s about standing out as more authentic than the next. Retail brands do this by fostering an aura of approachability. Expect to see banks doing this too.
Many TV spots for banks emphasize taking the fear out of finance. The same is true of digital campaigns. Common themes are community and self-improvement: BoA has a page dedicated to entrepreneurship that asks “What would you like the power to do?” PNC’s landing page focuses on confidence. And it’s now ubiquitous to use Instagram to showcase your bank’s unique company culture. Now more than ever, financial marketing is about the people behind it.
So what comes next?
In 2019, the competition is steep. Customers expect both next-level service and brand values they can align with. Trends are manifold, but the signs are all pointing to fast, adaptive, and personal. While the specifics are sure to change, the guiding principles behind each trend will endure. Going forward, bank marketing will be about optimization with a human touch.