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How Banks Can Prioritise the Connected Consumer in Light of Shifting Cultural Norms

By Sam Holding, Head of International, SparkPost

Over the course of 2020 we’ve seen countless new social norms arise in light of the spread of COVID-19. People have adapted to new restrictions to stop the spread of the virus by wearing masks, standing at least six feet apart from other people, and dousing their hands with hand-sanitiser every chance they get. In fact, it would not be surprising at all to observe all three of these new norms in a single trip to a retail bank branch. While consumers take tangible steps to safely visit banks, we can’t ignore the vast amount of people who have opted to forgo in-person banking experiences altogether to avoid unnecessary exposure. While consumers make necessary changes to their lifestyles to keep themselves safe, financial institutions have had to adapt to safeguard against customer churn during this turbulent time.

With more people doing their banking from the comfort of their own couches, financial institutions have had to shift gears and focus more explicitly on their digital offerings. In such a highly regulated industry, creating new digital experiences is no easy feat. Historically, the financial services industry has been a laggard in adopting marketing technology that would be commonplace in nearly any other sector. In an industry known for stringent security and privacy controls and conservative decision-making, it’s no surprise that banking institutions have been slow to adopt new digital solutions. However, with the rise of more dynamic digital experiences in less regulated sectors consumers have grown accustomed to flawless apps, fully optimised desktop experiences and virtual assistants…everywhere. This inconsistency between the technology that financial services organisations are able to offer versus what consumers expect has been a tenuous situation for years and has been crystallised in 2020 by customers’ explicit need for online services during the pandemic.

Sam Holding

Sam Holding

While many associate this preference towards streamlined, personalised, and interconnected digital experiences as a Millenial phenomenon, it actually correlates with a much broader persona: the Connected Consumer. With over half of the world now using mobile devices, an incredibly broad swathe of people have become accustomed to seamless digital experiences. The prevalence of the Connected Consumer has, in many ways, forced the hand of the financial services industry. Retail banks can no longer drag their feet on adopting new dynamic technology, particularly as less regulated FinTech companies create financial solutions that more closely mirror the Connected Consumer’s experience with ecommerce and social media sites.

When the Connected Consumer interacts with a retail bank, either digitally or even in person, they not only know what they are looking for but also reciprocally expect the financial institution to know what they want as well. Consumers are used to having highly tailored digital experiences across a multitude of platforms so why would they expect any different from their bank, a company that houses their financial future? Because of this, retail banks should take an added interest in their email strategy in order to reduce customer churn and optimise the customer experience. Email is the backbone of customer communications for financial institutions. For many customers, staying attuned to updates regarding their accounts is as easy as checking their inbox. Even if a customer has opted out of marketing communications, they may use email to perform simple tasks like resetting passwords, logging into their account or viewing recent charges.

With the importance of email in mind, there is some low hanging fruit that retail banks can make to their digital offerings that cater to the Connected Consumer without fundamentally changing their tech stack. For instance, banks can opt to place deep links in their email communications that direct the recipient back to their apps rather than desktop sites. Because there is such a high app adoption rate by financial services customers, having a mobile-first attitude shows a deeper understanding of the consumer – someone who is likely checking their email on-the-go (or during COVID-19, from the couch). Another important way retail banks can cater to Connected Consumers is by looping their customer support teams into all customer communications. When a customer calls or writes in for help, it’s imperative that the support agent assisting them is familiar with all of the personalised and/or segmented email communications the customer has received. This allows the help that the customer receives from the support team to feel as personalised as the digital experiences they are used to across all industries.

While the Connected Consumer has existed for years prior to COVID-19, the global pandemic has shed additional light on those who largely interact with financial organisations from their phones. With less people entering physical branches, retail banks cannot afford to skimp on digital experiences that can boost their strongest asset: customer loyalty. A great and reputable brand is certainly important, but in 2020 the way to bolster an organisation’s reputation is through innovative and easy-to-use technology. We may not know what new social norms are around the corner in light of COVID-19, but during these times we can count on consumers becoming even more connected.

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