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Sitecore series: Why financial services should focus on delivering a superior digital experience

25.02.2019

At the start of every year you’ll see software services and agencies (like ours) publish the same kind of content. 

Often it’s press releases. Sometimes a blog post. And rarely it’s a video. 

But almost all of the time they’ll open with something like this;

“[Brand X] is a Forrester Wave/Gartner Magic Quadrant leader/challenger etc”. 

They’ll then outline exactly what it is they do. Often in wonderfully confusing text that’s loaded with vague (but impressive sounding) marketing buzzwords. 

“[Brand X] is an automation and AI company that enables thought leaders to leverage omnichannel engagement optimised for social virality and scalability”. 

It’s posturing of the worst kind.  

A simple brag that lets you know what they’ve achieved without offering anything of value to you, the customer. 

So, in an effort to cut through the BS and offer something of tangible value to you, I’m going to address the Q4 Forrester Wave CMS rankings. 

In particular I’m going to address Sitecore - it’s a tool we use here day in and day out - and how it can actually help you achieve your marketing goals in 2019. 

 

What the Forrester Wave Ratings Mean?

 

Forrester is as close to a household name as you can get in the B2B tech space. 

They’re a world-renowned research institute and advisory company who poll over 650,000 people every single year to create guides like the Forrester Wave. 

It’s fair to say the reports are well grounded and researched. 

The Forrester Wave report is specifically focused on technology services and aims to give users the information they need to make the most informed decision. 

If you want to read more about their research process, you can check it out here.

Now, onto the important stuff. Let’s take a quick look at the summary from the end of 2018 Forrester Wave report. 
 

Forrester wave web content management systems 2018

 

Strategy and offering form the dual axis for this graph. However, All you really need to know is:

  • Those toward the bottom left are often newer, less comprehensive services ideal for small brands and startups. 
  • Those toward the top right are more established and comprehensive ideal for large multi-nationals. 

You’ll also notice that Sitecore, the tool we’re partnered with, is in the top right with only two other brands. 

But why should you care? 

What Does this Have to do With Financial Institutions? 

The real question is why you should care that Sitecore is rated a leader in the content management space. 

Or even why we, as a partner agency, think it important to tell you.  

The answer is simple. 

Your users, the people you’re trying to attract and retain, are turning to digital channels at an alarming rate

 

YOY increase of usage for mobile pay and digital wallets

That’s all well and good, you might say. But, peer to peer payments, paying bills on your phone, or linking Apple Pay to your card are hardly worth your time. 

What you’ve got to remember is that this is representative of the market as a whole. 

More of your customers are turning to digital channels for everything from bill payments to researching loan options. 

what loan activities will consumers complete via mobile 

And yet, so few banks and financial institutions are ready for this shift to digital. 

If you check any other industry they’re years ahead of finance brands. Their focus on creating seamless, logical, and personal digital journeys for their users are paying dividends.

Not only does it lead to a higher conversion rate of first time users, but it turns one time purchases into multiple sales and also leads to more referrals and reviews. 

 
effects of personalisation

But here’s the kicker. 

This isn’t a secret. A lot of people within financial services recognise and understand the importance of creating personalised customer journey. 

The problem is that very few seem to be doing anything beyond the bare minimum. 

We have apps that allow us to perform the most basic of banking tasks. 

Websites and information materials are now optimised for mobile devices. 

And consumers are able to handle some of the more demanding banking tasks through a desktop. 

As an industry we’re doing too little. And we know it. 

 

digital banking report

The world of financial services could and should be doing more. 

There are huge gaps in the market that will pro side huge gains to the first handful of companies who fill them. 

The demand is there, there’s simply not yet enough supply. 

So, with that in mind let’s bring this back around to Sitecore and talk not just about how they’re a leader in the CMS space, but how you can leverage it to fill the gaps in the industry. 

The Service Your Users Want from You

If we looked at all the features you’ll likely have to leverage, we’d be here all day. 

What it all really comes down to is one specific goal. 

Your users want a personalised experience. 

They want the same level of care they’d get if they walked into a branch 30 years ago. But they want it delivered through the digital channels and devices they use to run their lives. 

Here’s the key actions you should be implementing and how Sitecore can help you achieve them. 

Personalised Content

This is the big one. 

The difference between brands who thrive and those who survive. 

Content is at the forefront of modern marketing. Never before have consumers had so much easy access to advice. 

A quick Google search can help a consumer become well versed in mortgage rates or the details of loan repayments from different providers. 

And consumers will remember which brand went out of their way to help them understand what have historically been complex financial issues. 
 

content marketing

 

Producing content that informs and educates your users is key to standing out from the competition.  

It’s the first step in building the trust they need to bring their business to you. 

The content itself can take any form. Written articles like this, audio files that can be listened to on long drives, videos, or even downloadable content like ebooks.

Answering the questions your target market is asking is so incredibly important nowadays. 

But here’s the thing. 

Producing content is half the equation. You’ve also got to make sure that the right people see it. 

Right now, most financial institution sites promote their content to their audience as a whole. 

You log onto their site and there’s what they believe to be the most important content or information.

And even if they’re in the right ball park, it’s not necessarily the right information.

Take mortgage advice as an example. 

Someone looking to get on the property ladder will need different information to a buy to let landlord. 

Providing the same advice to both groups isn’t going to resonate as well as it could 

You have to get specific. You have to understand the different segments of your audience and provide them with the information that’s most relevant to them. 

Content personalised to the individual improves how 88% of consumers feel about your brand. 

impact of personally relevant content  

So, how can you achieve this? 

At the most basic level, you’ve got to be segmenting your users based on how they arrived at your site. 

For example, if someone comes to your site after clicking on a link featured on a site that’s all about being your first home, then there’s a good chance they’re first time buyers.
 
And so you amend your website content to better answer their questions.  

But you can’t stop there. It’s still a broad cohort to try and target. So you’ll then need to analyse their on-site behaviour to get a better understanding of what exactly it is they need. 

Before long you’re populating this user’s profile with little bits of information that flesh them out into a real person with real needs. 

The more information you can analyse, the more relevant you’re recommendations. 

With Sitecore, the personalisation of content is drawn from 4 different areas so you not only provide a unique experience for each user, but it’s based on the best practice trends for the segment as a whole. 

 how to drive a personalised digital experience

 

This isn’t going to be a game changer in the next couple of years. 

It’s already here. And if you’re not one of the brands offering this sort of personalisation, you’re going to quickly fall behind. 

Mobile Optimisation

Next time you’re out at a restaurant, take a second to look around the room. 

What you’ll see are dozens of people who are more interested in their phone than their partner. 

As a species, we spend an incredible amount of time on our phones. 

They’re used for everything from talking to friends and family to researching huge purchase decisions.

And right now, mobile is far more popular than desktop.

 mobile users consume more than 2x minutes vs desktop users

 

Again, this isn’t a brand new development. Mobile usage overtook desktop for the first time in 2015.

However, most brands failed to change their operations to accompany this change. 

In the majority of instances brands simply implemented a responsive design. All the does is resize the content to fit the screen the user is on. 

It’s not enough. 

People interact differently with your brand when on mobile. The smaller screens and mobile nature change how they interact and what they expect.  

Just resizing content isn’t enough and has lead to the disparity between usage and conversions

the m-commerce gap 

Mobile visits are making up most of the time on your site. Those users deserve an experienced optimised specifically for them. 

That optimisation needs to encompass the above problem areas. In short, making it easy for users to navigate, read, and engage with your site on smaller devices. 

But once again, that’s not a complete solution. 

To ensure your mobile visitors get the most out of their experiences you also need to implement the following. 

OmniChannel and Cross-Device Experiences

Imagine you’re searching for a mortgage provider.  

You might start your research on the morning commute to work on your mobile. 

You then pick up that research on your lunch break from your laptop. 

Later that evening, you’re carrying on where you left off from the sofa on your tablet. 

Across all those devices you might engage with brand A on Twitter, their main site, and even through the emails they send you. 

The modern purchase journey is insanely complex

 

thomas cook cross device customer interaction

But here’s the problem. Each time you pickup a new device or open a new channel, you have to start from scratch. 

You have to re-navigate through the same steps you did earlier in the day to pick up where you left off. 

It’s infuriating. And when modern users have an ever diminishing attention span, it’s enough to make them question if they should take their business elsewhere.  

You’ve got to reduce that friction. 

You’ve got to enable the user to pick up where they left off by delivering the right content to them when they revisit your site.  

The only way you can do that is if you have a single, centralised database of user data that can then inform your content choices and recommendations across your web properties. 

A Full 360 View of Your Customers

Most brands tend to segment their users into extremely generic groups. 

As mentioned earlier you’ll have groups like first time buyers, buy-to-let landlords, or property development mortgage. 

It’s a good start. But within those groups you’ll have different sub-segments. 

Those looking for fixed rate, variable rate, who are buying to let for the first or fifteenth time. 

The more detailed you get, the more you realise that your audience is not made up of general cohorts, but individuals. 

And to secure more sales, you’re going to need to talk to each prospect as an individual. 

Of course, this isn’t feasible when you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of leads. 

What you need is for your centralised data hub to flesh out each customer’s details until you have a full 360 view of their needs and problems. 

Here’s how that would look with Sitecore.
 

sitecore xprofile

Pulling data from each interaction they have with you will help you understand their needs. 

Then, you can serve them the most relevant information for their needs. 

For example, someone who looks at the buy-to-let mortgage page might benefit from your beginner’s guide to buy-to-let mortgages.

However, if your 360 view also tells you that they’re an existing buy-to-let landlord then the beginner’s guide might be too simple. 

So you put a rule in place that gives them the guide to reducing tax payments or explains stamp duty for multiple property owners. 

Basically, it answers a key question they have at the point in their life as a consumer. 

By answering that question you’ll immediately build trust and establish a better relationship with the potential client making the sale much, much easier. 

However, it’s a difficult task to accomplish. 

To do it well you have to be able to track each customer interaction, store it in a centralised database, but be able to pull from it to personalise your site in real time. 

It’s a constant cycle of recording, analysing, and improving across all of your digital properties.

best of need

 

This is the Current State of Personalisation 

This is the level of personalisation you need to implement with your business. 

It’s what your customers expect, not as a “great service” but as a bare minimum. 

Right now, the industry is wide open. Too many financial service brands have fallen behind the times. 

Which is terrible for the industry, but an incredible opportunity for those willing and able to jump into implementing a full digital personalisation strategy. 

As referenced at the start of this piece, Sitecore is undoubtedly one of the best services to help you provide that service to your customers.  

However, a tool within the skilled hands to wield is useless. 

If you’re using Sitecore or considering changing and need the expertise to implement the high converting strategies mentioned in this piece, read h out now and we’ll run you through exactly what will work for your brand.