Banks seek balance of interpersonal relationships, online convenience

May 20, 2014
3 min read

Drawing the digital line – purposely staying offline – seems counterintuitive in today’s world, especially in financial services. Most companies are now focused on technology that makes banking faster and more intuitive with conveniences like online banking, advanced ATMs, and mobile banking. To a large degree, everyday banking has evolved to a “self-service” experience, because it’s faster and more convenient than waiting for someone else to do what they can do themselves. 

Yet despite the focus on technology, marketing messages in financial services do also focus on the idea of experience for two main reasons. While customers overwhelmingly want to self-serve, they also want to feel that they are more than an account number or IP address. Similarly, while banks also want customers to self-serve for a number of reasons, they are also seeking to expand customer relationships to something that is more than just a transaction. It is seemingly impossible to do that without being able to first have a conversation, especially for more complex, profitable products. In marketing efforts, the messages highlight the customer’s experience with the bank, which is primarily tied to customer service or fousing on how the right financial services firm can help customers gain life experiences.

One major theme represented is the idea of speaking with a person. For example, TD Bank is using the slogan, “Bank human again”. The bank uses that tagline across many channels, including print, mobile advertising, and online. The messaging focuses on how the bank “humanizes” the customer experience through free coin counting, long banking hours, instant-issue debit cards, and the ability to talk to a live person 24/7. The bank purposely focuses its messaging on branch activities to highlight the personal connections, rather than focusing on its technological solutions such as online or mobile banking.

This idea of offline connections is also merging with technology. Bank of America unveiled a new approach mid-2013, characterized by a new slogan, “Life’s better when we are connected.” The goal of the campaign was to switch the focus from the bank to the customer, and to connect customers to what is important. Digital ads feature people “experiencing” life – enjoying dinner out or spending time with family – but highlight the online and mobile tools that make those experiences possible.

Today’s technology has led to a demand for instant gratification on the part of consumers. Yet given the complexity of planning financial futures, customers want to talk to experts in order to plan, make decisions, and purchase products. Financial service firms know that they cannot cross-sell and up-sell customers if they have no relationship with them. As much as they want customers to self-serve for transactional activities, they are also attempting to maintain a dialogue with customers in situations where it matters the most.

Susan Wolfe is the VP of Financial Services at Mintel Comperemedia, focusing on the banking and investment industries.  Susan brings over 20 years of experience in marketing and research to her role at Mintel.  

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