by Joseph Sullivan, Multi-domain MDM Sales Manager Europe, Stibo Systems

Recent advances in digital technology have led to rapid growth in the multi-channel retail landscape.

The “Customer 3.0” generation expects products and services that meet their individual needs, to be available at all times, via any channel they choose.

This expectation is true across all consumer-facing industries. Retail banks can’t afford to ignore the fact that their customers now want to purchase banking services in the same way that they buy their music, books and movies – online, at any time of the day or night.

Consumers are increasingly seeking advice and gathering information on the financial products most relevant to them – at the best possible rates and terms – and will use various channels, at a time that best suits them, long before they actually set foot in a physical branch, if in fact they ever do so.

The “Customer 3.0” generation lives life in the fast lane and time is at a premium, meaning that high street branches are regarded as inconvenient.  Instead there is a preference for other faster channels for carrying out transactions, interacting with customer service and purchasing new products. Banking customers in the UK have used mobile and internet banking for almost £1bn worth of transactions a day in the past year, with 15,000 mobile banking applications being downloaded daily.

Acknowledging that its customers now carry out the majority of their day-to-day transactions online, Barclays recently announced its intention to move its 6,500 cashiers into new advisory roles and.  Similarly, as part of its move towards a digitally focused model, Lloyds Banking Group is set to cut around 9,000 jobs, representing a tenth of its workforce.

The high street alternative

Banks should now focus on making improvements to those channels they own away from the high street, such as their online digital channels and their call centres. Particular attention should be given to digital channels which are effectively a bank’s largest branch, and certainly the most influential in terms of customer behaviour. By way of illustration, a recent study found that more than 70 percent of consumers now began researching financial products and services online.

To make the most of their existing customers, as well as attracting new ones, retail banks should be in a position to quickly create and offer services that meet particular customer needs, promoting these with relevant, consistent and timely information across all channels.

By embracing digital transformation, banks will not only be able to deliver the experience increasingly demanded by their customers, but also enjoy a more efficient and effective operating model. In order to support this transition, many banks are beginning to follow the lead of their more innovative retail counterparts by deploying Product Information Management, or PIM, solutions.

Single source of information

A PIM solution provides businesses with a single transparent source of rich, consistent product information that enables them to deliver the anytime, anywhere service customers have come to expect. With all the information held in one central repository, new and updated products and services can be launched in real time, across all channels.

By consolidating and managing the information on a bank’s products, a PIM solution generates valuable insights which can then be used to inform the creation and development of future and current products and services. Such insights ensure that these products and services are as relevant to a particular customer as possible, and can be further used to identify and maximise upsell and cross-sell by supporting next best action initiatives.

By tailoring their offerings to anticipate the needs of their customers, banks will become ever-more convenient to consumers, earning their trust and loyalty in the process. And, in turn, with greater loyalty, not only will these customers remain with their bank longer, but they are far more likely to recommend it to their friends and colleagues.

Increased speed and efficiency

With the ever increasing number and complexity of regulations that apply to financial products and services, it is becoming more important than ever that banks implement and enforce robust governance and compliance processes when creating and updating their products.  A PIM solution supports this through the management of the entire product lifecycle, from new product introduction right through to the distribution across all channels, both digital and traditional.  This process is managed through automated workflow and business rules to ensure optimal efficiency and time to market, whilst ensuring auditability and traceability at every step.

In addition banks will also be able to speed up the time it takes to get new and updated products and services to market. By creating a single source of information, regardless of channel, a PIM solution will eliminate the silos of information held across a bank’s departments. Workflows within PIM can be used to optimise the time-consuming, complex and often expensive processes involved in introducing new, relevant products across all channels, and many of the mundane tasks that may be involved in managing this information will now be automated.

Looking ahead, as society becomes ever more technology and mobile device focused, consumers will move ever further away from the traditional high street branch and engage with their banks almost entirely online. Banks need to ready themselves for this.  The instant access to detailed and up-to-date product information provided by a PIM solution will enable banks to support new interactive technologies such as Siri-like personal assistants, and remote video conference calls with human advisors.

Ultimately, by using a Product Information Management solution to provide a consistent, up-to-date, and relevant flow of information across all channels, banks will arm themselves with a competitive edge. They will be able to provide their customers with the relevant and timely products and services they want, no matter where or when they want them.

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