It wasn’t all that long ago that financial institutions did little more than produce flashy brochures, provide free keychains, refrigerator magnets and pens to entice customers to trust their money to their mostly local institution. Large, heavy masonry structures housed even the most outlying branch offices in an attempt to project organization strength, reliability and safety. Christmas clubs, vacation clubs and certificates of deposits were the new products of the day. To motivate consumers participation a free toaster, set of drinking tumblers or a new cutlery-set was often all it would take to motivate droves of new depositors to those granite adorned houses of finance. Banking choice was limited to a few, mostly local or regional, players who showed their appreciation for customer loyalty by overt sponsorship of things like the local Little League, adult softball team, school band and sports programs and the local charity golf tournament. With relatively little effort, the money flowed and profits soared as marketing was something other businesses focused on and banks didn’t really think too much about. But with the advent of the digital age it became clear that a free toaster and special event sponsorships wasn’t going to be enough to warm the hearts of consumers to financial services in new the technological era.
Financial institutions of today resemble very little the monolithic vaults of monetary exchange of even the most recent past decade as the financial industries appreciation for marketing has surged in the face new competition. While raising brand awareness, attracting new customers and retaining a loyal customer base remains a priority; the process of attracting and keeping customers has even the most traditional of money-houses embracing new innovative marketing tactics.
Over the past several years, financial marketing has experienced a digital epiphany as savvy consumers of all ages and generations develop an affinity to all things internet and smartly mobile. Glossy pamphlets have given-way to user friendly websites, mobile apps and some techy-things called SEO, Email, instant messaging, location specific connections, and social media content. With the ability to gather and analyze large amounts of data about the personal interests and buying patterns of consumers, todays financiers seek to exploit new options to target market segments based on personal interest, life style and finely defined demographics. The future banking experience will likely be defined more by the quality of the banks smart watch app around a customer’s wrist and less by the smile of a friendly teller from behind a counter.
New marketing trends focus more on the banks interactive Automatic Teller Machines (ATM’S), mobile customer service platform and instant access banking capability and less on the specifics of deposit, withdrawal and loan instruments. The competitive story is now told via image-based networks like Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, Vine and Tumblr and less through traditional print/broadcast media, and direct mail as the role of physical retail bank branches appears to be diminishing. With online interactions and consumer technology playing a larger role in the banking experience, physical locations will remain important to engaging customers who still desire to get up close and personal at a bank branch to communicate. Customer-centric physical design strategies that complement all the technology offerings through multiple channels will build trust in both online tools and with the banks brand and sustainable values. An effort to make banking retail centers more comfortable and less intimidating is underway.
Technology is disrupting product and service delivery models across the full spectrum of industry. The once well-established financial industry is not immune from the new market realities. Accepting change and embracing the plethora of new tools and approaches that have been born from the technological era will be required to advance the performance goals and objectives of the once marketing-timid financial industry.
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