By Paul O’Donoghue, VP Solution Engineering, Uberall
In just two years, mobile searches for “financial advisor” grew by 75%, per Think with Google. More and more, when it comes to everything from personal credit and loans, to insurance and investing, consumers are turning to their mobile phones and digital devices first to find the financial service solutions close to them – also known as a ‘Near Me’ search. In fact, more than half of all Google queries are for products and services ‘Near Me.’
With mobile phones at the ready, consumers have a wealth of information at their fingertips. They’re choosing the businesses that stand out online and offer the best ‘Near Me’ brand experience, from initial online search, to exploring and persuading, and eventually buying and recommending.
Yet, most financial services companies haven’t adapted their digital marketing strategies to this new paradigm. By continuing to focus primarily on their overall web traffic, businesses are becoming invisible to their prospective customers at the local level.
Unique marketing concerns for finance and insurance businesses
Whether consumers are looking to sign up for an account online, find an investment adviser, or choose a local bank, attracting new customers requires that financial services firms provide relevant and accurate information to consumers where and when they need it.
One of the challenges finance and insurance businesses face is that a single location may offer multiple services, each of which need individual promotion. In the case of insurance firms, a single business might offer car, life, and homeowners’ insurance, or specialise in long-term care or professional indemnity insurance. Similarly, banks might provide an assortment of services like ATMs, financial advice, mortgages, personal loans, business banking and more. Businesses need to make sure they don’t get overlooked by leaving out key elements of their services in their online business listings.
Add to that, more than 80% of consumers prefer signing with an agent when it comes to high-value or long-term contracts, according to GfK research, and when given the choice, consumers would rather call a local number – perceiving greater credibility and placing more trust in brands that connect with them at a local level. In fact, Google research shows that 1 in 4 investors still prefer to open an account over the phone or in a branch. For finance and insurance businesses, strong local marketing and a personal touch remain vital.
Optimise for ‘Near Me’ searches
Consumers are feeling more connected to their communities since Covid-19, and as Google’s Global Head of Research & Insights, Justin De Graaf, observed as, “[t]he world has shrunk…we are seeing a rapid increase in searches including ‘near me’.”
A whopping 92% of people choose businesses from the first page of search results, per Wordstream. Data accuracy in online business listings, such as Google My Business, has a direct impact on search ranking. Consequently, it’s crucial that banks and financial service firms ensure the accuracy of online listings for each of their locations, so that when a consumer performs a ‘near me’ search, their listings will rank at the top.
Likewise, from a ‘Near Me’ brand experience point of view, if a customer or prospect turns up to a branch after finding it in a ‘Near Me’ search, only to find out it’s not actually open, even though the Google My Business listing says otherwise, there’s a good chance they’ll move on to a competitor.
For brands with multiple locations, this means ensuring the accuracy of their opening, closing and holiday hours, as well as agent and adviser schedules. This requires consistent management on multiple platforms to ensure they are accurate and up-to-date in real time.
It’s important to bear in mind that more than half of online investors don’t have a brand in mind when they start looking, according to BCG/Google research, and as a result, providing relevant and timely online information helps businesses connect with consumers who may never have heard of a brand.
Online reviews count
Once a business has enhanced its local search visibility, a good review rating is crucial for establishing trust and helping consumers make their purchasing decisions. 75% of consumers report that positive consumer ratings would make them more likely to become a customer of a bank, per Trust Pilot.
Consumers rely on online reviews the same way as word-of-mouth recommendations, forming an opinion about a business before ever walking through the door. Consumers also want to see that a business engages with, responds to, and listens to its customers.
Uberall’s Reputation Management Benchmark Report revealed that by responding to one in three, rather than just one in ten reviews, enterprises with ten or more locations can almost double the number of people seeking further information about their stores and services. The report also reveals that online reviews are particularly powerful for smaller firms. SMBs with fewer than ten locations boast a higher average star rating than enterprises, and higher star ratings mean higher conversion rates. For SMBs, a star rating difference from 3.5 to 3.7 stars translates to a 120% difference in conversion growth from one year to the next.
Whilst responding to thousands of reviews for multiple locations may seem infeasible, technology solutions can streamline the process and make it possible for even the largest brands – with hundreds of locations – to review and respond to customer reviews. Responsiveness to consumers and standout reviews are critical for establishing trust and convincing consumers in their purchasing decisions.
In the age of ‘Near Me,’ financial services brands have a huge opportunity to capture more customers by giving them a memorable experience at all the online touchpoints they have with a brand’s local outlets.
Without a strong online presence for all of a brand’s locations, backed by positive reviews, today’s finance and insurance businesses run the risk of missing out on prospective customers at the precise moment they’re looking to find a financial adviser or pop into a local branch. By optimising online presence and implementing an effective review management strategy, financial services firms stand the best chance of tackling the unique marketing challenges presented by – and winning business in – the new ‘Near Me’ world.