Financial Services: The Mobile Vertical to Watch

I have long been a proponent of watching the retail vertical for innovative marketing practices, regardless of what business you’re in. Recent research led me to the financial services vertical, and now there are two must-follow categories. Here’s why.

Similar to retailers, the competition is stiff and the stakes are high for financial services. Mobile functionality is a “make-or-break” offering for many of their customers, particularly younger ones. Gen Y, representing about one-third of the nation’s adults, is the age group most likely to bank online, bank on a tablet, and deposit a check remotely. This is not life stage behavior; it is a convenience behavior that will not change. As a KeyBank senior VP stated in the indispensable eMarketer article, “Bigger Money on the Small(er) Screen,” financial institutions must be channel-agnostic because consumers are adding rather than switching. “Throughout the evolution of our channels we’ve found that customers will use all of them – no matter what new channel comes along, no one abandons any one of them.”

Our Channel Preference Survey showed that while email is the preferred channel for most marcom, financial alerts via SMS had one of the highest “acceptability” ratings. So let’s look at what financial institutions (FIs) are doing well.

Many FIs have stellar preference centers. If you want to see an excellent example of managing a huge amount of information clearly, look at an FI (USAA’s is particularly good). They clearly spend a lot of time on the user experience (UX). One thing they do particularly well is allow the customer to choose delivery methods for different types of information: what do you want to get via email, SMS, push? This is On-Demand Marketing at its best.

FIs have sophisticated app functionality. They did not create an app for the sake of having an app (or two, or 10). Although most customers use them to check a balance or transaction, there is also super cool functionality like depositing a check by taking a picture of it. About one-half of a financial institution’s customers have downloaded their app, which speaks to its value and ease of use. It’s a percentage retailers can only dream of. On that note, why is it that my bank can remember my username, reducing that arduous task of accurately typing on a touchscreen, but most other apps require entry every time?

The big players in the FI vertical are also sophisticated social media participants. According to The Financial Brand, the majority of large FIs have a formal, enterprise-wide social media plan, use it for customer service, and listen to their customers. A smaller, smarter percentage have integrated social into their CRM systems and call centers.

FIs do have room for improvement in a few key areas. They are plagued by the same marketing and business unit silos that cripple effective cross-channel marketing for us all. With virtually unlimited customer data, they aren’t effectively targeting offers or cross-selling services. Email messages appear to be an afterthought, with weak brand presentation and no mobile optimization. Security is a concern for potential mobile banking users, but FIs do not do a great job of reassuring customers about security and liability.

Benefits abound for financial institutions that do mobile well. Forrester Research found that mobile banking users are more loyal, more likely to make referrals, and more likely to purchase additional products and services from their FI. FIs are well beyond the initial stages of mobile marketing sophistication. So be smart, mobile marketer: watch and learn from finance, no matter what business you’re in.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.