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Four ways financial organisations are evolving to become more customer-centric

By  Michael Plimsoll, Financial Services Marketing Director, Adobe.

If there is one sector where digital disruption is consistently in the spotlight, it’s financial services.

From challenger banks like Monzo and N24, fintech start-ups, and spin-offs from established players, the industry is experiencing a wave of innovation that is completely reshaping the way companies and customers interact.

The biggest change this wave of innovation has brought is an entirely customer-centric approach – something that has not always been easy to achieve on a large scale.But, thanks to technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics, financial services brands are finally able to create customer experiences personalised to the audience of one.

Taking this customer-centric approach is critical for any financial services brand that wants to remain relevant today. As Craig Corte, CDO of Barclays Africa says, “Banks have never taken enough time to really think about whether they are solving customer problems… As we move into much more competitive arenas, where competitors are less likely to be other banks, this realisation that we are fundamentally now working for customers, ironically, is starting to land.”

In fact, it’s an approach that Switzerland’s Raiffeisen has successfully taken on. By using customer analytics to optimise its web experience and deliver more targeted messaging, the brand has seen a 300% rise in conversions.

But how can financial services brands adopt a customer-centric mindset of their own? Here are the four biggest trends that marketers in the financial services sector need to know about:

Trend 1: Banking hard on an improved customer journey

More than 35% of financial services institutions are working hard to improve their customer experience, seeing this as a primary differentiator in the year ahead. In particular, they are exploring ways to make their owned properties easier to use, more fun, and more valuable.

Barclays, for one, has set itself the ambitious goal of becoming the best digital bank in South Africa by 2020. The industry stalwart has reimagined its entire digital experiences, adapting its mobile app, owned channels, and website to the habits of digital customers.

Trend 2: Inspiring customers with more engaging content

Great content is essential for any brand looking to deliver customer experiences that are both engaging and consistent. From email and social promotion to web copy and display advertising, digital content needs to be more than just functional. It needs to grab people’s attention and inspire them to act.

Other industries have been quick to realise this, using ambitious content programmes to grow a strong community of fans, financial services organisations are still behind in this regard. Without the right content that enables engagement with customers at each stage of their journey, companies risk missing opportunities to build relationships as they move from touchpoint to touchpoint. It is with this rationale in mind that companies such as Loyalis have digitised their online journey to deliver more personalised experiences to each customer they serve.

Trend 3: Mastering data-driven marketing and exploring AI

It’s no secret that customer data is the key to delivering more impactful customer experiences. Nearly 40% of financial institutions say better targeting and personalisation rank among their top three priorities this year. However, many are still migrating from manual data collection to a modern, digital approach.  One business leading the way is BNP Paribas Wealth Management, which uses deep analytics to understand which of its digital channels are most successful and inform the way it shares thousands of pieces of content across each of these.

Building on their investment in analytics, financial services institutions are also leading the way in their use of AI. More than 60% are using AI already, or plan to do so in the next 12 months. At the volume and scale that banks collect and analyse data, AI will play a growing role in helping them to crunch this information quickly and extract the insights they need.

Trend 4: Investing in technology to support modern customer experiences

As is often the case with major transition periods in the financial sector, legacy technologies are still holding many businesses back from achieving their ambitions. The gap between top performers and slow movers continues to widen, and tellingly the former are three times more likely to have invested in an integrated technology system. Wealth and asset management firms are particularly sensitive to this challenge, with 61% admitting that new technologies are “difficult to master”.

Together, these trends reflect a commitment across the financial sector to become more customer-centric. There is more work to be done, especially in an industry where most companies need to untangle a complex web of legacy processes and contend with work practices that have endured for decades as part of their transformation, but with the right mix of people, skills and technology the progress we have seen so far will only accelerate.