Monday, April 22, 2013

Essential Online Channel Metrics For Financial Marketers

With evolving technologies and platforms, financial marketers need a clear and comprehensive set of metrics to determine the effectiveness of their online channel. 

Instead of drowning in data and not being able to connect the dots in a meaningful way, here are four metrics that rise to the top and provide the clearest picture as to the selling power of a bank or credit union website.

By Melanie Friedrichs, Analyst for Andera, Inc.

In the Wild Wild West atmosphere of the early internet era, companies raced to slap websites online without thinking too hard about what purpose their website should ultimately serve.  Consumer retail companies found their ROI in online shopping, and their websites gradually evolved to draw visitors in and drive them to checkout.  In contrast, financial institutions focused on expanding eServices, until their websites became little more than portals to online banking. 

In the last few years, we’ve seen institutions start to wise up to a second, essential function of the online channel.  As Joe Swatek from ACTON Marketing said, “Your website has an important SALES function.”  Technology has made it possible for financial institutions to acquire new customers and members and grow relationships completely digitally, and like consumer retail websites aim to sell consumer products, financial institution websites should aim to open new deposit accounts and originate loans.  When thinking about the account opening and lending through the online channel, there are four essential metrics that financial institutions should consider:

1)      Conversion Rate

The single most important metric for a financial institution website is its conversion rate, or the percentage of qualified  unique visitors that begin applications for deposit or loan products.

Before the introduction of online account opening and lending, financial institutions focused primarily on making online banking login as easy as possible, and on providing key corporate information.  The rest of the website really didn’t matter that much, so webmasters cluttered pages with news items and product advertisements from different departments.  Over time, most financial institution websites began to resemble ill-managed community bulletin boards.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Demographics No Longer Effective For Financial Direct Marketing

Bank and credit union marketers have traditionally relied on the use of demographic segmentation as a means of targeting customers for product and service communication. 

Recent studies, however, provide growing evidence that changes in product delivery, communication channels and competition may have made a demographic-based targeting approach much less effective compared to other approaches that use additional data sources.

Marketing segmentation is one of the most widely used marketing tools and has long played a crucial role in identifying and treating differences among customers. For decades, bank and credit union marketers have used demographic segmentation for product development, product positioning, marketing communication and results measurement. Traditionally, this segmentation has been done based on characteristics such as age, income, gender, family life stage, occupation, education, race, etc.

The reason for using demographic segmentation is that it is relatively easy to use for most financial institutions due to relatively accessible customer databases and because this form of segmentation is continuously referenced by both academic and trade literature. While it is still true that there are differences in the use of financial services across demographic segments, however, research as far back as the 1960s has suggested that demographic variables are only remote proxies for differences in buying styles, decision processes or sensitivity to promotional influences (A Two Dimensional Concept of Brand Loyalty).

A more recent research paper in the Journal of Financial Services Marketing entitled, Suboptimal Segmentation: Assessing The Use of Demographics In Financial Services Advertising found that there is little support for the reliance on demographic variables for bank marketing. Despite continuing popularity, the research found that while demographics can explain broad behaviors, they play a weak role in explaining brand preference, product purchasing, innovation adoption, channel use and technology uptake.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Are Some Banks Too Small to Survive?

With increasing regulatory capital requirements, declining interest margins, a greater need for investment in innovation and new competition, there are many in the industry who believe that smaller banks may have limited opportunity for growth in the future. 

These pressures may lead to an acceleration of consolidation in the banking industry that impacts both small and mid-tier banks and results in a significantly reduced number of institutions in the future.

While attending both the BAI Payments Connect and CBA Live conferences in Phoenix last month, discussions often revolved around the heavy financial and organizational impact of new capital requirements and of regulatory compliance being faced by institutions of all sizes. It was also clear that the investment in advanced technology and the pace of innovation was creating a distinction between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. While there were some exceptions, this line of demarcation appeared to be defined by the size of organization.

The question I asked several industry thought leaders over the past couple weeks is whether smaller banks are in a position to survive given the massive industry changes on the horizon. While their responses varied regarding the chances of survival for today's community bank (and smaller credit union), there was unanimity in their belief that smaller institutions must quickly adjust to the 'new reality' of increased capital requirements and regulatory pressures, a greater focus on revenue, and a need to innovate for an enhanced customer experience.

"The thing that keeps me up at night is that we will likely see an industry contraction in the next decade like we never experienced", states Bradley Leimer, vice president of the $3.2 billion asset Mechanics Bank in California. We are moving from over 14,000 financial institutions today to less than 5,000 in the next 10 years (maybe sooner). This is due to the changing nature of consumer behavior with the introduction of mobile and social and technological innovation, but also due to systematic changes to the banking model itself."

Also supporting my informal findings, Emily McCormick, director of research and writer for Bank Director, interviewed the risk officer of an $8 billion bank holding company for Bank Director's 2013 Risk Practices Survey. He told her that, while he found a lot of positives in the regulations coming out of Washington, this could be a challenge for smaller banks that lack the resources and staffing to keep up.

McCormick also believes there's a technology challenge, "Internally, smaller banks need the right resources to do things like manage risk, but they also need the resources to compete. While smaller banks have the significant benefit of connections within their local business communities - giving these banks a potential advantage in business lending - customer expectations for services like mobile and online banking will continue to rise."