In a post-COVID world, things are changing. Financial institutions are undergoing digital transformation at a rapid rate and customers are expecting a very different experience.

The stay-at-home requirements have forced banks and credit unions to rethink their process.

While the transition to digital was already underway before the pandemic, it’s now unusual for banks to not offer virtual services, like:

  • Mobile Payments
  • DocuSign
  • Electronic Check Deposit
  • Quick TransferLoan Applications

And, the rules are changing too.

People aren’t approaching their financial needs and banking in the same way they once did. The emphasis now is on time and value. People are quick to dump the things that aren’t giving them what they need because there are so many other options.

Financial institutions need to be aware of these changes so they can continue to adapt accordingly.

James Robert Lay sat down to talk with John Oxford, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Renasant Bank, on a recent episode of the Banking on Digital Growth podcast to discuss this very topic.

What are financial brands typically missing in today’s changing consumer climate?

Friction is customer experience is costly.

There is No More ‘Next Time’

Immediacy is huge.

People aren’t waiting around for you to make changes anymore. John noted, “If there's friction in the experience, there will not be a next time anymore. If you can't get what you want right now, it's a ‘Me, Me, Me’ society… If I can't get it at this place, I'm just going to click and get it somewhere else.”

In order to keep up with competitors, brands have to offer the same (or better) services.

Change has to happen fast.

The sluggish brands that are afraid to redefine themselves are getting left behind. John mentions that it’s kind of a “fast forward” of banks. Everything jumps ahead when a major community event like this occurs.

Financial institutions need to see this as a chance to re-evaluate apps, websites and digital interactions.

Banks and credit unions have to understand the customer’s journey in order to bring them in and keep them around. It’s going to be far more cost-effective to focus on what keeps people around than putting the emphasis on lead generation, only to need a continual influx because the bounce rate is high.

They are Bypassing Your Content

Some brands have stopped to pour a lot of time into content.

They are the ones that are blogging and creating the how-to videos. But, content alone isn’t going to cut it either. In the push to produce great content, too many banks and credit unions are missing the big point: their services.

They get hyperfocused on their front pages without realizing that customers are bypassing content completely the majority of their visits.

John tells James Robert, “Look at the bounce rate and hits on your homepage; 85% to 90% of your hits just go in there and log in. They're not looking at anything on your site. You spent all this time doing content... All they're doing is clicking the login, going straight to the core and doing a transaction, and getting out.”

This doesn’t mean content isn’t important. John goes on to explain that getting your content into the right spaces will help draw in new leads. But, the people visiting your site are there for the services. The major focus for the site is accessing those services and then having a streamlined experience.

Customers want to be able to check their accounts and make transactions fast.

A huge focus needs to be placed on user experience (UX) and intuitive design.

Distraction is the Competition

It used to be the four P’s were important: Place, Price, Person and Promotion.

But, digital has rendered them all irrelevant (or deeply changed).

Place and price doesn’t matter when you suddenly have international access to financial institutions everywhere. The person is no longer requiring a face-to-face relationship and the promotion has shifted to content.

Everything has changed to the four C’s:

Content, Connection, Conversion and Campaigns.

That is largely because you are no longer competing with the bank across the street.

The new problem is distraction.

John asks, “How are you getting the customer to pay attention? Because they're distracted, and there's no more next time if they miss it.”

Most banks and credit unions are no longer doing the boring messages of trust with a handshake at the end of the commercial, according to John. They need messages that cut through the noise. The second you fail to hold attention, the customer is off to the next thing.

Whether it’s an alert on the phone, another commercial, a different blog on their newsfeed, another app—there is always a distraction lurking next to your message and threatening to steal away your lead.

The solution is customer-centric.

John notes that this is best battled in two ways: attention-grabbing content and simplified design.

In order to fight the competition of everything else, financial institutions need to evaluate the value they are offering and re-think their approach to what they are willing to include in their branding.

Bringing value with the brand, then product.
Financial institutions sometimes avoid evoking emotions like humor, because they are afraid it will make them look less professional.

But, emotion is memorable. It makes us stop what we are doing.

Value is another huge part of fighting the competition—not only offering value in content, but offering value in easy access to a broad range of services.

There is a huge value in being able to use a phone to quickly make an online payment or apply for a loan. Banks can capitalize on value by making those processes easier for their end users through well-designed apps and websites.

There are a lot of challenges with COVID, but it also offers an opportunity to make these changes that help brands improve their offerings.

Change is something we naturally avoid.

But, now is the time to really push for changes and think outside the box.

We should be using COVID as a catalyst towards improvement.

Promise Must be Backed by Experience

In order to offer that value, banks and credit unions have to make promises.

There have to be clear-cut offerings, but they can’t just be promises. They have to be backed by the experiences to match or customers will bounce.

John said, “If you're not good on camera, start blogging. If you're not good at blogging and writing, find a staff member to do it for you, ghost write for you. Get up there on social media, Twitter, LinkedIn, and start engaging with these audiences, engaging for your bank. See if your marketing team can help you amplify that message... We're promising something. And when the consumer takes your promise, it has to be backed up by the experience.”

There is a very real potential for brands to get caught on the content creation process OR the services offered.

The process can’t be an overemphasis on content, because that leads to an empty promise. But, focusing on creating great services alone isn’t enough either, because you need to have a way to bring in new leads.

So, the focus has to start on offering the services people want—the digital check deposits or official document signing.

That service should then be promoted with the four C’s (Content, Connection, Conversion and Campaigns) in an attention-grabbing way.

Every piece of content and campaign should offer a promise—but only if you can back that promise with an experience.

It’s a cyclical process that keeps you continually reinventing your entire approach.