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Search to Social Media Trends - Banking & Financial Services

In the face of changing times, Banking and Financial companies might encounter some rough patches in the near term– largely owning to the fact that customer expectations are at all-time high, un-sure digital strategies can be really un-forgiving, channel flux is extreme and speed to market is frankly become ‘maddening’. Today, consumers expect their banking, financial or insurance organizations to address their needs preemptively; know, engage & educate them in a seamless and non-branded way and have developed complete blindness to un-inspiring digital content. Addressing these expectations, BFSI organizations need a substantial transformation within digital tools/technologies, financial technology (Fintech) & platforms with a goal of delivering personalized and immersive digital experiences. An experience that helps consumers improve and enhance their day to day financial operations e.g. transactions, money transfers, buying a new policy, opening a bank account online, etc. and at same time feel connected to the brand more than ever.

In other words, it’s safe to say “Technology and Life are now inseparable and go hand-in-hand”. The boom in adoption of financial technology (Fintech) along with digital transformation, allows BFSI organizations to offer financial planning, trading applications and other products/services via a seamless Omni channel mechanism, spanning mobile, social media and possible hi-tech digital channels, like connected devices. Also, with the marriage of Fintech and digital transformation, every BSFI organization is now competing to be more effective and efficient (empowered) in their digital marketing efforts-right from search to social, mobile to display, video streaming to OTT Devices. 

So, where do you start changing the game? We strongly feel that your super active presence on Social Media and the ability to engage with your customer innovatively will drive the scales to tip. According to a study, almost 80 – 85% people use the web to do an initial search and ~70-75% of these customers, have profiles on social and expect some part of a brand or product discovery to happen natively.  Their ability to engage and learn organically on Social from a brand – will drive loyalty and absorption!

Talking about the current journey, the BFSI sector had been relatively slower to catch up with the social media marketing fever until 2016, but in 2017, we have seen evidence of some companies establish a firm and stable online presence – the basis for a solid step towards a long term strategy. According to eMarketer study, the Banking industry has the third largest share of 12.2% in digital ad spends in 2017, showing how readily this industry is investing in new digital marketing channels. Generally, digital ad spend mix for any brand, enterprise to small, largely includes search and social channels as primary drivers, wherein search is considered more effective in terms of ROI as the returns are high and instant (people have an intent to buy/invest when they search). But trends are shifting now with adaption of Fintech, Internet of Things (IoT) and Social Media.

Social media, now, is the second highest driver in digital marketing mix for any brand, creating ‘Intent’ and ‘connect or a bond’ between consumers and brands. However, the initial outlays from BFSI have been limited to advertising and page promotions across Social – which does lead to awareness, but sadly not enough focus on engagement. For the tide to turn, BFSI needs to start observing and segmenting their customers a little more non-traditionally. So, for instance, banking and insurance brands can educate prospects via social channels, talking about what insurance or investment plan they might need based on which stage of life they are at. Age group of 25-35 years might be looking for a home loan / small business loan etc., 35-45 age group might be interested in health insurance or retirement plan. But the spin would be to understand that there are multiple individuals within these segments who have requirements that are currently targeted to the other segments. Social media can really help in identifying these hidden characteristics of traditional segments and targeting them specifically based on needs –creating “Intent  and Connect”.

However, this is best executed with a long term strategy – where BFSI organizations treat Social as a long haul ROI channel, rather than a short-tail conversion channel like Search and Display. So, with the above arguments, we find it imperative for BFSI to re-jig the mix between Search and Social – Decide the ideal bespoke spend distribution for each product and brand factored on their channel’s awareness and engagement indices. Currently that spend is close 50-70% on search, with an outlay of 10-30% on Social media advertising.

So, how do you move to really establish a rocketing strategy from that base on social media? The Question to ask there is – “How do we choose my channel mix within Social and what do we do engage and aid discovery for our customers?”

We see new channels emerge almost every three to six months, but we also know that any new channel has an ‘establishment curve’. The social media market is majorly driven by Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram and if an organization has strong presence (size of consumer base, fans, followers etc.) across 3-4 of these channels, the presence is covered approximately by 90%. Banks’ top preferred social media platforms are Facebook (90%), LinkedIn (69%) and Twitter (52%), followed by YouTube (38%), Instagram (22%) and Pinterest at 5%. But presence is half the story – it’s imperative to ask yourself the quality of engagement you are driving with this presence – organizations need to check the last time, they had a content series, designed to inform and invoke response? Have they been using Videos across these platforms to aid discovery? Have they shared the brand’s persona on an Instagram story and made it a continued strategy? Have they used test and control on Facebook to discover hidden traits of their customer’s persona and understand needs? If the answer to these questions is ‘Yes’ – the second step of Social is on solid grounds! But from our experience, BFSI hasn’t really moved towards engagement as a key driver for customer success as yet.

Conclusion: Turn your explorations in Social, into a serious long haul strategy – invest in engagement

Social media marketing can no longer be only a advertising channel from any BFSI organization’s overall marketing and digital marketing strategy; a focus on engagement and astute measurement of native channel performance will force them to adopt ‘customer centric/driven’ approach. Large, complex and highly regulated entities are now being forced to learn how to innovate and roll out new ideas in agile ways to test and iterate quickly via social media marketing mix.

Until last year, Social Media fell in the ‘good to have Experiments’ category for BFSI, but with better understanding of the optimal marketing mix (both – Search (with intent) and Social (creating intent)) and importance of engagement and personalization to create a bespoke customer centric approach, these organizations face a major decision – spend higher on social channels and bring it within a “Must Have” spend category. Refocus on content being a champion driver of engagement and use native means within social media channels to address varying needs of the customers – from discovery, to interest, to consideration, to conversion and finally leading to a loyal relationship with the brand!

BFSI can only create seamless experiences across channels and devices by harnessing consumer insights and through each channel’s inherent engagement levers. Imagine a future where a customer’s full circle of financial actions – need identification, discovery of product, validation, deposits, payments, remittance, investment and all other financial operations are managed within ‘One Network’.

We feel strongly that the role of organizations engaging with their customers at the right moment with the right products, will not only improve trust & loyalty, but also play a big role in revolutionizing that ‘One Network’ .


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