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4 keys to digital ROI in the financial services industry

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4 keys to digital ROI in the financial services industry

by Dave Michela


When it comes to engaging audiences via digital screens, the financial services sector has historically lagged behind other broad industry verticals.   

Why? Perhaps more so than any other industry, successful customer relationships in the FinServ space require a rock-solid foundation of implicit trust and a hypersensitivity to security and privacy. (We’re talking about people’s money here, after all.) Historically, these relationships have been largely built on interpersonal interactions — whether it’s the teller you talk to every Friday when depositing your check, the adviser a retired couple trusts with their investments, or the team developing an asset management strategy for a large enterprise.   

But times are changing, and the industry is catching on to macro trends that are shifting these paradigm and mindsets:   

“Check” and “teller” are words that millennials and gen Z-ers don’t even know.   

The once-clear lines differentiating a best-practice B2B digital experience from a B2C experience continue to blur.   

Highly individualized digital experiences are both table stakes and a solid proxy for the interpersonal interactions that used to dominate.   
Businesses that get digital personalization right are rewarded with measurable ROI: higher customer satisfaction scores, less churn, increased upselling and cross-selling rates, and reduced reliance on high-cost operations like brick-and-mortar branches. However, the path to personalization in this industry is no walk in the park. From legacy software to organizational silos to regulatory realities, the world of Financial Services is full of hurdles that challenge the industry’s digital dreams.  

Financial services firms looking to reap the benefits of personalized digital experiences need to consider the following:   

Take an ROI-driven approach to personalization 

Digital transformation isn’t cheap. And in financial services, we’ve seen a tendency to view digital as a cost center. That’s why we help our clients focus on their digital content strategy through an ROI lens. A properly architected strategy absolutely can — and should — turn your digital experiences into sources of attributable revenue.  

To accomplish this goal for our clients, Horizontal takes an experience-forward approach. This means we put the end user at the center of everything we do. Content strategy and personalization tactics purposefully match prospective clients with relevant products and value propositions, and we establish measurable goals for the outcomes we intend to achieve. Next, we test and measure. We consistently prove that the operational costs, strategies, and resources needed to create and manage personalized content can deliver net profits for our clients.  

If your firm is new to the world of personalization, it may make sense to start with a low-risk, low-cost approach that focuses on one audience segment and doesn’t require heavy lifting from a technology standpoint. If this foray is a success, it can convince leadership to take on larger personalization efforts down the line.  

Get your teams and technologies on the same page 

Many leading Financial Services brands have established their positions over the course of many decades, building on longstanding reputations of consistent, reliable performance. With those legacies come some common drawbacks: reliance on outdated operational silos, dated technology, and disconnected data.   

Customers engage with these firms through an ever-growing number of channels — making it difficult to pull together a 360-view of their content consumption. Plus, since the teams and technologies that oversee financial offerings are often isolated, business lines operate in a vacuum and banks miss out on opportunities to cross-sell and bundle products.  

These roadblocks are underscored by a growing sense of urgency. Since FinTech startups don’t have to deal with tangled legacy systems and organizational complications, they are able to achieve personalization on an accelerated timeline and cut into the customer base of traditional giants.  

To get a holistic view of their customers, banks must prioritize the construction of a central data repository, i.e., a CDP. Salesforce Data Cloud seamlessly aggregates and unifies data from multiple sources, enabling banks to build individual 360-degree customer profiles safely and securely. 

We help our clients connect their technology platforms and implement the organizational change management strategies that financial institutions need to unify their teams, integrate their data, and drive connected experiences.  

Content: It’s not just for marketers anymore!  

When digital was new, it mostly meant things like websites and email, and often by default fell under the purview of a marketing department. Today, we know that digital technology, data, content, and experience permeate all aspects of the enterprise. Successful transformation requires a holistic approach.   

Case in point: we work with a firm that offers financial instruments like insurance products in multiple states. Let’s say one of their product managers identifies an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by adjusting a rate on a product from 5% to 6%. Today, making a single change to a single product requires dozens of steps and hundreds of people to adjust, review, approve and implement that change across the avalanche of internal- and external-facing systems, data stores, and associated documentation.   

By the time the rate change is implemented, the window of opportunity may be gone — and the firm could lose its competitive advantage to industry disruptors (FinTech firms) that can more readily turn on a dime.   

Fortunately, technology platforms like Sitecore’s Content Hub can drastically streamline this drawn-out process while maintaining and even improving compliance workflows and governance. With the click of a button, you can make a rate change once in Content Hub, and the change will instantly show up across every channel and piece of documentation for immediate review. This empowers FinServ firms to be much more nimble when it comes to launching, managing, and adapting products based on market conditions at any given moment.  

Unlock the power of AI 

Historically, enterprises have struggled to bring truly individualized experiences to life because doing so can be a lot of work: even the best technologies on the market require significant manual effort to set up personalization rules, crunch the numbers, re-optimize content, and so on.   

Today, artificial intelligence can accelerate your path to personalization by serving the best content to customers and helping you gain valuable insights on their behavior. AI might sound intimidating or overwhelming, but when applied properly through tools like Sitecore’s auto-personalization, it can be an easy way to crunch data and convert it into predictions and suggestions.    

Say goodbye to guesswork — machine learning can auto-segment user clusters so you don’t need to spend hours on data analysis to manually create customer segments. Via tracked behavior data, Sitecore AI can predict which content is best for new visitors vs. returning customers — providing 1:1 personalization in real-time. AI can also automate tedious operational tasks, eliminate maintenance bottlenecks, shorten the time to campaign launch, and let marketers quickly adjust to campaign changes.  

The future of the Financial Services industry 

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation that was already happening in the financial services industry. With a growing focus on Millennial and Gen Z customers, emerging technologies, and new FinTech disruptors to take into account, traditional banks and credit unions have been slowly but surely evolving for years. As the industry increasingly prioritizes digitization, getting personalization right can give you a massive strategic advantage.  

Want to learn more about personalization in Financial Services? Let's chat. 

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