Meeting Customers Where They Are

By Jean Feingold

Mobile devices are a driver of industry change, profoundly impacting the way financial institutions interact with their customers. The key for banks, perhaps, is keeping up with technology’s rapid pace. As customers increasingly turn to digital outlets to conduct much of their banking business, banks can keep step by using the same technologies to increase customer engagement.

In an era where few can be found without a phone, laptop or tablet, banks must acknowledge and utilize customers’ preferred communication methods, says Josh Redel, digital marketing director at Central Bancompany in Jefferson City, Mo., which operates banks throughout Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Oklahoma. “The majority of a consumer’s decision to bank with a particular financial institution involves digital media in some form or fashion,” he says. “Social media is exploding, and we believe these online conversations are becoming the new marketplace.”

mobileAnd even when these conversations aren’t happening face-to-face, the customer must remain at the heart of the strategy. “We need to make sure we are adding value to the lives of our customers and they are engaging with our brand, whether it be through a calculator about retirement savings or an infographic about what to expect as a first-time homebuyer,” Redel says. “Never lose sight that customers always come first—even on digital media, where it is a little tougher.”

Careful timing

When it comes to customer engagement, timing is everything. Micronotes, a digital marketing firm, offers a banking service for both computers and mobile devices that engages customers after they are finished with an online banking session. This way, communication does not interfere with the customer’s banking experience.

No additional signup beyond online banking registration is required. Upon logging out of a banking session, the customer is simply “interviewed,” or asked one or two targeted marketing questions, which are provided by Micronotes.

“We apply analytics to qualify each user for a particular interview based on what we know about that user,” says Micronotes CEO Devon Kinkead. “We process the bank’s data on the user, [such as] demographics, transaction history and product holdings, and take into account interview responses the user has already made in selecting the correct questions to ask.”

Based on the user’s response to these questions, an appropriate product offer is made. If a customer accepts the offer, the program sends the information to the bank’s front lines for follow-up. Using this interview procedure, Micronotes is able to zero in on the customer’s needs. “It’s difficult to sell relatively complex financial services using the same techniques used to sell consumer goods,” says Kinkead.

In the first six months of 2015, Micronotes found that between 26 to 40 percent of unique customers each month clicked on at least one interview, with a corresponding 9 to 13 percent campaign click-through rate. The brief nature of the interview, in which only one or two questions are asked, increases the odds that consumers will respond, and about 25 percent of interviews are converted to leads.

But others operate on the motto that earlier communication is key, such as Orrstown Bank in Shippensburg, Pa. The bank focuses on marketing to customers through targeted ads that are viewed within its webpages.

“The majority of our web traffic is to the online banking pages, so we’ve created a few advertising spaces on those pages,” says Ben Wallace, EVP of operations and technology. “The dynamic advertisement engine that sits behind our website helps us target the most appropriate ads to show our customers. Much like the frameworks that large e-commerce retailers like Amazon use, we can show our customers digital advertisements that make most sense to them.”

The bank recently used online ads to promote its mortgage and loan products as well as its online tool for switching banks. It also utilizes targeted emails to notify customers of new products or special loan rates.

“We try to be very careful about narrowing our email distribution to just the customers who are most likely to need the product or service we’re promoting,” Wallace says. “We feel this helps our customers trust that the emails they receive from Orrstown Bank offer valuable information to them.”

Financial management programs

Time is a precious commodity, and bank customers are logging in to eliminate “the chore of banking,” says Bryan Clagett, CMO of Geezeo, a personal financial management (PFM) program. “Banks need to be there when they are most relevant: when customers are checking their balances and reviewing bills and statements. Your bank’s customers are now using multiple channels, not just to transact business with you but to research and open new accounts.”

Geezeo offers banks an ABA-endorsed PFM that integrates with the bank’s online banking provider. Each bank brands its PFM with a unique name, and customers enroll via a simple, secure procedure after establishing their online banking relationship. Customers can enter information for all of their accounts—even those at other financial institutions not using Geezeo—into the PFM, allowing them to view all of their finances in one place.

“Customers can create a budget, look at cash flow, check their net worth and establish financial goals,” Clagett says. They can also create “buckets” to set aside funds for future purchases and savings plans to reach their goals. The PFM reminds the customer when it’s time to move money into a “bucket,” and allows them to track spending by category using tags.

Offering a PFM allows the host bank to learn about customers’ financial goals—and help them achieve those goals by offering targeted bank services. “Let’s say someone is saving for a boat,” Clagett says. “The bank can provide an online offer for a boat loan for the difference between what they need and what they have saved.”

“The bank gains, because this is not yet a typical banking commodity,” says Clagett. “Once customers take the time to set up PFM, they are committed to your brand. This creates a stronger, more loyal relationship with the bank, makes the bank more on par with customers’ needs and helps customers manage their money.”

Geezeo’s PFM is marketed by Central Bancompany as “Money Manager.” It is promoted through videos, tutorials, commercials and other marketing techniques, some of which come from Geezeo.

“We see a nice lift in activity and adoption in Money Manager when we market the product and use the materials Geezeo provides,” says Redel. “This program has seen steady adoption since we rolled it out to our customers as a free service. It’s really great to see how some of our ‘power users’ are leveraging the platform to take hold of their finances.”

The bank has had decent success using the PFM to target customers for cross-selling and ‘next best product’ business intelligence.
Orrstown Bank, on the other hand, does not offer a PFM. Instead, Wallace says, the bank provides articles, educational materials, online calculators and other financial planning tools on a dedicated website. Other features include the ability to ask the bank a question via text messages, and a mortgage center website where customers can follow their mortgage loan through the whole process, uploading documents as required.

“All these efforts are intended to help serve our customers, improving loyalty and our internal efficiencies,” Wallace said. “Orrstown is focused on engaging customers on their terms. As banks, we often need to serve a target audience from high school grads through tenured retirees.”

Different strokes

Central Bancompany’s digital marketing strategy also includes employing a content marketing manager and multimedia graphic designer to help run its 13 bank websites, and the approach seems to be paying off. “We are currently outpacing the financial services industry in terms of clickthrough rate and cost per engagement,” says Redel.

The company pushes out fun and educational content through social media and smartphone-accessible email marketing to drive customers to its websites, which are updated weekly. Their mobile apps also house advertising and marketing messages.

“We have found the most success when we approach each digital channel separately,” Redel continued. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Display and video advertising are great for brand building, email and search are great for more action-oriented tasks and social media works best when we are having fun and posting content that is not banking-related.”

Redel says Central Bancompany is moving toward responsive web design, a flexible approach in which websites can adapt to accommodate different devices. “Whether the site visitor is viewing our website on a projector, desktop, phone or refrigerator, we want to optimize that user experience,” he says.

For Brandon, Miss.-based Community Bancshares, which operates 40 branches in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida, it’s all about the right combination.

“The key to increasing engagement is offering the right mix of products and services the customer needs in an easily accessible manner,” says Laura Wilson, SVP of electronic banking. “We have to offer almost an identical experience from both the desktop and mobile environment. What’s the point of using a mobile app that doesn’t allow you to interact with the bank? Customers expect to have the ability to handle their banking needs on any device, anytime.”

In addition to the standard features of mobile banking, Community Bancshares’ customers have access to mobile deposits, enrollment and receipt of e-statements, as well as Geezeo’s PFM product, which Community Bancshares branded “myMoney.”

In the first three weeks after the product went live, 5 percent of the online banking base had already signed up. “We’re excited with the initial response and we like having the ability to assist customers make wise financial decisions based on their individual needs,” Wilson says.

The financial institution’s CellTeller app has the ability to pull in promotions from their website, highlighting new offers to prompt customer interaction. In addition, Wilson says they are in the process of testing digital marketing screens within the branches tailored to more traditional customers.

Orrstown Bank also complements its digital marketing efforts with traditional ones, and has seen increases in web traffic after sending out hardcopy postcards, launching a radio commercial and putting up billboards.

“The ads—online and traditional—drive customers to our website, where we try to make it easy to get the product they need,” Wallace said.

Because Orrstown continues to see explosive growth in the number of customers using mobile devices for banking, much of what they are doing around their online properties is focused on ensuring this experience is fully functional. “No longer is mobile a convenience,” Wallace says. “It is table stakes in the banking business.”

Jean Feingold is a freelance writer based 
in Gainesville, Fla.