We are living in an era where hyper-personalized service is a table-stakes expectation from consumers, and they are willing to share more and more personal data with brands in exchange for this personalized service and attention. The amount of data that is being created is staggering. Over 90% of the world’s data has been generated over the last 24 months alone. As a result, financial services firms have collected more data than they know what to do with. Despite the inordinate amount of data they have about their consumers, many financial services institutions (FSIs) struggle to provide a consistent brand experience across digital and physical channels.

According to a McKinsey study, the top challenges brands face to build true omnichannel experiences are: lack of customer analytics across channels (67%), having a siloed organization (48%), poor data quality (45%), and inability to identify consumers across brand touchpoints (45%).

When I speak with those in the financial services industry, most organizations cite technology as a barrier to creating personalized experiences. But I believe that creating narrative-based experiences is the biggest challenge they face. Traditional FSIs have a very well-defined product, but lack the ability to recognize customers and communicate effectively across channels. As more customers engage with FSIs across touchpoints, this capability becomes essential.

Cross-Channel Personalization is a Must

Cross-channel personalization — the ability to create consistent and relevant experiences across multiple channels (web, mobile, in-branch, etc.) — can move the needle on the metrics that matter to FSIs including conversion, revenue, increased share of wallet, and customer retention. But realizing the benefits of personalization takes more than simply purchasing a shiny new marketing technology product. Successful personalization requires three foundational elements:

  1. Unified customer data and segments
  2. The ability to activate segments across channels
  3. A messaging framework that targets the right offer and creative to the right customers

Each one of these components presents its own challenges for marketers, but by approaching personalization in a planned, incremental manner, you can start capitalizing on its benefits sooner and avoid the analysis paralysis that results from trying to boil the ocean.

FSIs Will Turn to CDPs to Deliver Cross-Channel Personalization this Year

In my view, 2019 will see the rise of the customer data platform (CDP) in the financial services industry to help FSIs solve for the first challenge in my list above. It will become the basis of a clean, well-defined and complete customer profile across channels.

CDP for financial services

A customer data platform (CDP) allows you to bring data sources together, unify data in a single customer profile, create segments from the data, and send that information to outside sources for activation and analysis (some CDPs can also collect and take action on data at the individual level, which is not shown in this image).

This customer data profile in combination with a personalization engine will be the key to activating the type of hyper-personalized experiences that customers expect.

FSIs will need to focus on the following key areas to ensure they can utilize these platforms effectively — without adding tremendous overhead in the creation and management of personalized content.

  • Create smart content stored in a centralized content management system that can be delivered in various contexts. While this may sound like too much content for a team to reasonably produce, exponential variations of every content asset is not necessary for effective and impactful personalization. Content for specific customer segments or prospects in specific stages of the research process is a good start. For financial services and other regulated industries, it’s important to focus on these high priority content assets, as the content approvals and legal reviews can slow down the content creation process.
  • Review GDPR regulations while requesting, collecting and using the data collected on your customers to activate personalized experiences. When requesting any additional information from consumers, always make sure you’ve made the value they will receive from providing that information very clear. 
  • Use the right platform for the right purpose instead of force-fitting a solution. As Scott Brinker has depicted in his annual martech landscape graphic, the technology landscape is vast. It’s worth it to spend the time to find the solutions that best meet your company’s needs. Look across your solution architecture and ensure you have the right platforms at each layer and a sound integration approach to share key information like customer attributes, segments, attribution data, and behavioral data in a bidirectional fashion.
  • Build an agile marketing team that is made up of a core team that addresses the day-to-day marketing operation tasks and an extended team that supports other aspects like approval, reviews, product ownership and marketing strategy to improve customer journey planning.      
  • Use “crawl, walk, jog and run” maturity model to improve your personalization efforts at a regular cadence and introduce emerging capabilities with a well-thought-out plan.                                                                                                              

Final Thoughts

In summary, financial services companies — and brands in general — need to focus their efforts around building a sound marketing technology investment strategy in key capabilities like a CDP, CMS, personalization engine, etc., along with a well-defined customer journey map that outlines all critical customer touchpoints supported by rich and engaging content.

Credits: Contributors to this blog include colleagues from the Slalom Boston Customer Strategy and Digital Experience Management teams.

Ajay Lodha is a seasoned digital marketing lead with Slalom. He has 20+ years of digital marketing experience in helping fortune 500 organizations with their marketing transformation journeys by analyzing their customer journeys, legacy enterprise systems and intricacies and defining an effective marketing technology solution that works in concert to create highly agile and streamlined marketing operations.