By Jon Buss, MD of Yext UK
So, let’s say you want to buy a new bike. Chances are, you’d do a bit of research before making a purchase. And because you live in the 21st century, you’re probably going to turn to the internet before quizzing any store assistants.
Depending on your needs, you’ll search all sorts of things. What frame is suitable for your height? What tire treads do you need? Are folding bikes actually any good?
As you edge down the buying funnel, you’ll find yourself drawn to a particular bike. You’ll find forums that recommended it and use online reviews to corroborate.
Finally decided, you search for local bike shops, and the search engine suggests a place just down the road with a four-star rating. Best yet, they’re open weekends. Sorted.
We’re all familiar with the modern customer journey. For example, Google has become so ubiquitous to our lives that it’s become a common verb – “Google it!” In fact, it’s estimated over two trillion searches are made each day.
And yet, there’s a feeling that financial services fall outside the new buying paradigm – perhaps due to the need for expertise from financial experts or the complexity of the systems supporting those decisions, it’s seen as too important to relegate to the realm of a simple online search.
This view is, quite frankly, incorrect.
Today, 89% of customers use online services when making a financial decision. That’s a huge amount of people skirting around traditional marketing channels. So, for those financial services refusing to accept search as the new paradigm, it’s time to get on your bike.
A brave new world
But why do financial services need to embrace search? Well, there’s a number of reasons.
Firstly, the rise of fintech start-ups have disrupted the business landscape. These pure-play tech companies benefit from not having expensive brick-and-mortar overheads, allowing them to pour their resources into advertising.
Financial services providers find it very hard to compete on the paid media front. But the good news is, studies show search outperforms paid by 12 to 1 – making it the ideal battle ground for businesses to stamp their authority.
The second – and most important – reason to embrace search is that, quite simply, it’s what customers prefer.
A recent study from MIT has shown you’d have to pay someone $17,000 a year to give up search, compared to just $500 for social. Search is the most valued digital category for customers.
And it makes sense when you think about how regularly it’s used. Work, home life, finding a job or even looking for a partner – the internet is always the first port of call.
Search isn’t optional. Customers expect to explore financial services options online – and they are relentless in their fact-finding missions. Our own research has found, when using a search engine to find a financial services advisor 82% of customers would ask detailed questions. Things like years of experience, certification, experience and eligibility.
Financial services businesses should be ensuring all this information is available, so that their site is top-of-mind when customers approach that search bar.
Going beyond referrals
Few marketing channels are as effective as referrals. This has always been true in sectors like finance where trust is hugely valuable – and still is in the digital age.
Online reviews are similarly effective. They add a badge of peer approval which is vital in finance. In fact, 74% of insurance customers report that reviews are “very” or “somewhat” important in their journey to purchase insurance.
And online reviews aren’t just important for convincing customers to use a business – they also play a role in convincing Google to include them in the search results.
For example, mobile searches including the word “best” have increased by 80% by 2016. And when a user includes the word “best” in a search, Google pre-filters the results to only include businesses and professionals with ratings of four stars and above.
Reviews therefore play multiple roles in search and are indispensable to businesses.
Ultimately, today’s customers are more empowered than ever before. Whether it be updating their online business listings, ensuring their site is SEO friendly, or encouraging customers to leave positive reviews.
With that in mind, it’s time for financial services businesses to tap into the power of search and transform their online identities.