Even as global digitization brings sweeping changes to every industry, one timeless truth prevails: People still buy from people. Yet it’s no secret that consumers prefer automated self-service options for purchasing or managing goods and services. Today's environment requires B2B marketers to adapt to their customers’ digital journeys, meeting them where they are to build relationships in a fully virtual setting.
In the world of consumer financial services – where an end-to-end digital experience is not only preferred but also expected – infusing brand personality into an increasingly homogenous field takes on greater importance than ever.
Selling the Brand, Not the Service
From Vanguard to Venmo, nearly all financial services firms now offer mobile banking, online account management and real-time insights on your portfolio. With a broad array of choices that offer similar services, consumers base their decisions on more than just good value, expecting a hyper-personalized experience. Differentiating by the lowest rate, the fastest technology or the best returns has become an increasingly elusive target, as online brokers like E-Trade and Fidelity race to the bottom in removing the barrier of trading costs for ETFs and other instruments. Providing a seamlessly integrated digital experience has become table stakes.
Today’s consumers buy not your tech and your value proposition but your brand and your service proposition. Established brands must heed the complacency trap: Empowered by more data than ever to explore nontraditional options, like Robinhood for trading or Lemonade for insurance, consumers are less likely to rely on name recognition of traditional players, opting instead for those that offer convenience and a frictionless interface. Competing in this new era requires agility, relatability and a sympathy for consumers with little time and patience – and a higher demand for an excellent experience.
Bridging the Gap Between Trust and Technology
In the age of digital transformation, customer expectations of brands have soared. In its State of the Connected Customer 2019 report, a global survey of over 8,000 consumers and B2B buyers, Salesforce revealed that nearly three quarters (74%) of customers feel that trust is more important to them now than it was a year ago – but more than half (54%) say it’s harder for a company to earn their trust. To enhance customer acquisition strategy, brands need to make a concerted effort to demonstrate their authenticity, reliability and transparency.
Few consumer-facing industries rely more heavily on trust than insurance, tasked with protecting what matters most to its clients. Yet in the insurance marketplace, the trust gap stems not from a lack of credibility but from a technology disconnect. Countless insurers project an established, reliable brand image but fail to convey the warmth and reassurance needed to earn customer loyalty with an outdated or impersonal digital experience.
When companies fail to meet expectations, it’s now easier than ever for customers to identify and switch to an alternative, perhaps right from their mobile device. The CallMiner Index 2020 confirms that, among insurance organizations, customer churn rate is expected to increase over the coming year, costing insurers over $400MM. When the stakes are this high, even established brands can’t afford to rest on their laurels of a storied past or deep pockets. In a hyper-personalized world, it’s time to get personal with your customers.
Getting (Your Customers) to Know You
To build a trusting relationship while providing a seamless and integrated experience for every customer, banks, insurers and other financial institutions need to develop a more human brand persona. You can still maintain the institutional credibility you’ve built over decades of business while also assuming a tone that will resonate with a tech-savvy, short attention-spanned customer base. Here are three ways to introduce today’s customer to your modern personality.
- Gather a deep understanding of your customer. Start by collecting personal data about your customers to understand their personality. This allows you to tailor every interaction – across every device – to an individual’s needs, preferences and behaviors. Leveraging predictive analytics, you can anticipate their needs, share relevant information in a friendly way, and guide them seamlessly toward options that can help them achieve their financial goals.
- Identify a brand personality to meet their needs. Insurance brands can come across as mundane and indistinguishable – that is, until you meet Progressive’s Flo, Charles Schwab’s “Ask Chuck,” or Geico’s intrepid and delightfully cheeky gecko. For financial services organizations, whose products and services are intangible, infusing your brand’s personality into a spokesperson or mascot can empower the brand with a clearer voice and more approachable demeanor.
It doesn’t have to be a person, either. Consider Bank of America’s Erica, a helpful, AI-powered and approachable customer service chatbot embedded into the bank’s app. By “chatting” with Erica, customers can navigate through the app in a one-to-one experience with more subtle interactivity. Not only do chatbots add grease to a self-service experience, they also create a more human interaction with your brand without a single dial tone from an understaffed call center – a surefire way to drive customers to switch.
The characteristics we like in people also attract us to brands. It's one of the many reasons we chose to rebrand The Beneficent Company as “Ben.” Creating a unique ambassador or human persona for your brand can bring it to life and attract new customers in a way that your conventional sales collateral alone may fail to capture.
- Know the real issues that matter to your customers. Today’s consumers are more apt than ever to investigate a company’s stance on ESG, diversity and inclusion, and corporate responsibility before buying. Financial services companies can play an even more intimate role in their customers’ lives by providing opportunities to invest in causes that are important to them or connecting them with resources to fund specific moments in their lives, like higher education or a first home.
Key to achieving this alignment is authenticity and a supportive tone. By investing in social listening and other online analytics tools, you can keep your finger on the pulse of online conversations to determine where and how to make your brand’s voice heard.
In 2020, who’s to say that insurance can’t be sold on Instagram or that investing brands aren’t trendy? For institutions that have built their reputations on solid facts and figures, it’s time to amplify legacy brand value with a modern-day personality. If you fail to offer a digital-first, seamlessly integrated and hyper-personalized experience, then customers will question your ability to meet their expectations – and simply scroll on to your competitors.