Digital Personalization: A Roadmap for Regional Banks & Credit Unions

Michael Stineman

EVP Client Strategy

When you look at the challenges (and, in some cases, failures) of the mega banks over the last decade — CitibankChaseHSBCWells FargoBank of America — it’s not hard to understand why some consumers and business clients alike prefer a return to a more personalized approach to banking. In fact, we’re seeing this shift across many of the industries we work with today — real estate, hospitality, and healthcare, to name a few.

It may seem counterintuitive, but digital is helping businesses, like banks, get more personal. The difference today versus even just a few years ago is that, with impressive advancements in technology, we now have the ability to offer both the convenience of digital banking and a high-touch, ultra-customized experience online. They are no longer mutually exclusive, and that presents a major opportunity — and in some cases, a challenge — for regional and midsize banks and credit unions.

Capitalizing on personalized experiences

“On average, marketers who provide and measure personalized digital experiences see an increase of nearly 20% in sales. (Econsultancy)”

Indeed, the market is ripe for banks that provide more personalized and higher-valued service through their digital products. According to IBISWorld, regional banks in the U.S. have enjoyed 7.7% growth per year on average from 2015–2020. There are many reasons for this growth, but looking at the tag lines of a few regionals gives you a better understanding of the value propositions and core values that they represent to their local markets:

a screenshot of the national bank of Long Island with a welcome message asking for the guest name so they can personalize the experience

As you look beyond the tag lines and dig a bit deeper into each of the banks, however, they are all faced with a similar challenge of bringing that high-touch, concierge-level service that they can deliver on in person to their digital banking products and strategies (assuming they even exist). Seamlessly joining the two will make the end-to-end customer experience even more relevant, effective, efficient, and enjoyable.

Defining digital personalization in banking

screenshot of sberbank online

At its core, personalization in banking is about understanding and anticipating needs to reduce friction; create more helpful, relevant, and enjoyable experiences; and ultimately drive desired behavior change. That is, entice and encourage customers to do the same tasks in new ways, or new tasks altogether — like saving for retirement for the first time, depositing checks through a smartphone instead of visiting a branch, or improving financial habits.

But first, data

Effective personalization — data-driven marketing and tailored experiences for existing customers and prospects alike — depends on data. Without true customer data to analyze and interpret, an accurate understanding of user profiles is impossible.

At a baseline, regional banks must have the ability to:

1. Track behavioral data across each marketing channel. (To start simpler, just implement tracking on the website or banking app, and grow into an omni-channel program.)

2. Centralize, combine, and merge the data into a single profile for each customer or prospect.

3. Analyze the data in a way that gets at each user’s preferences and real-time intent.

4. Interpret and act on the data to deliver a set of tailored digital experiences that promise increased relevancy and value.

Investment in a custom-built personalization engine is likely not feasible for regional banks and credit unions. But that’s not necessary. You can use a marketing analytics platform to turn data from your CRM into a framework for personalizing content and experiences. And there’s no lack of third-party personalization software on the market today that, like Dynamic YieldIdioCoveo, to name a few.

Getting started with personalization

The potential of customizing experiences and products for banking customers is tremendous. But it can be difficult and overwhelming to get started.

The first step is to develop a personalization strategy that accounts for both near- and long-term success. You want a vision for the future, but a realistic roadmap to get there. That means adopting an agile mentality. Recognizing that demands and solutions can and should evolve and improve over time through the collaborative effort of cross-functional teams and customers is critical to maximizing investment.

And then just start, simple. You don’t need to try to execute an AI-powered app out of the gate (like Sberbank above) — you need to make smaller, iterative investments in things that will lead to quick wins on which you can build, such as basic tracking capabilities, accurate personas and journey maps, improved content and UX strategy, and enhanced interface design.

With that foundation in place, here are three ways you can start personalizing your digital experiences easily and effectively in no time:

Present relevant page-level content

In essence, banks need to understand that a first-time visitor is different from a customer that’s researching, which is different from the needs of long-term customers. Tailor messages, images, CTAs, and exit intent messages based on things like referring source, demographic data, or place in the buyer’s journey, and exit intent messages.

Example: A researching buyer should see a button that says “Learn More,” while a returning visitor should see something like “How It Works” and an existing customer “Manage My Account.”

Guide consumers to valuable resources

Content isn’t one-size-fits-all anymore. Instead, optimize your blogs and resources based on small customer segments. Highlight relevant resources based on pages visited, suggest content based on behavior, individualize search results, and tailor product recommendations.

Example: An existing credit card customer starts looking for home financing online. Serve up white papers, calculators, and other relevant, high-value content along their path related to home buying.

Time and target communication across channels

Find the trail that buyers are following, and craft their next touchpoint based on previous touchpoints, such as in-app messages, real-time emails triggered and personalized based on activity, or social re-marketing.

Example: If a consumer hits a landing page from a search ad about private wealth management as their first touchpoint, then all subsequent targeted messaging should involve things like asset management, retirement planning, or insurance services all over the web.

Want to learn more about getting started with personalization? Read Meaningful Personalization: A Guide to Getting Started

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