Mar 8 2024
Eric Nelson

How Financial Services Advertisers Can Unlock Consumer Banking Growth


In an industry marked by high penetration—nearly all US adults have bank accounts—and consequently fierce competition, enticing new clientele while retaining existing customers is critical for financial services advertisers. While 84% of US customers say they’re “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their primary bank, a smaller but influential 34% say they’d be willing to switch over to a new financial institution—demonstrating that efforts curated towards both retention and acquisition are equally important.

To navigate this landscape successfully, advertisers must understand consumer behavior and address their goals and concerns through creative served on the most impactful media channels. So, what exactly are those goals and concerns, and how can advertisers meet consumers with the right messages, in the right places and the right times? Let’s start with an exploration of today’s banking consumer:

Speak to Consumer Goals and Concerns

Consumer trust in traditional banks and credit unions is high relative to other financial services providers such as tech companies and neobanks, and they’re generally satisfied with their primary bank, to the point where six in 10 customers have held their primary accounts for more than six years.

In light of that trust, satisfaction, and entrenchment, what motivates banking customers to shop around and ultimately switch? The top reasons include increases in fees, poor customer service, and better rates elsewhere. Generally, customers’ biggest industry concerns aren’t that different: increased fees, high interest rates, the possibility of data theft, and overall bank stability affecting the safety of their money score highest in impacting their financial services decisions.

Once consumers are on the hunt for a financial institution, their top drivers are online banking capabilities, brand reputation, online customer service, and the ability to help customers achieve their financial goals. What goals, you ask? Topping the list are saving for the short-term and the long-term, improving credit scores, and paying off credit card debt.

These factors show the importance of meeting consumers’ expectations around both banking features—especially online—and staff expertise. By addressing their needs and issues directly, financial industry marketing teams can increase customer trust and satisfaction, leading to improved retention of existing customers and acquisition of bank switchers.

Reach Consumers In the Right Moments and the Right Places

Touting benefits and addressing concerns without a strategic plan to distribute those messages along the customer journey is as good as shouting into a bank vault—and then shutting and locking the door. Industry marketing teams can uncover paid media opportunities when they understand where and how consumer banking customers perform their research.

As customers seek information about their finances and explore products and services that can help them save money and tackle debt, they’re turning to a variety of sources: friends, family, and financial advisers, of course, along with bank websites, social media, and TV and online advertising. Similarly, they become aware of financial products and services through bank websites, apps, and branches; word of mouth; and communication tools like social media, direct mail, and search.

Demographics do play a role in media preferences: Consumer banking personas aged 55 years and over tend to layer newspapers and magazines onto their search, social, and convergent TV consumption, while those younger than 55 are nearly exclusively digital media consumers, with social, streaming audio, and CTV comprising their favorites.

Realizing the personal nature of finances and many of the sources customers trust, consumer banking marketing teams can find success with similarly personal channels like social media, and by using recommendation-based messaging such as reviews and testimonials. Beyond that, knowing the array of resources used by such a wide swath of people during their research, an omnichannel advertising approach grounded in thorough, customer-centric research can help teams craft a holistic experience with efficient reach and outcome-driven loyalty and acquisition results.

Follow the Financial Services Industry’s Shift to Digital

The financial services industry continues to go digital, from all points of view: customers and their online banking expectations, financial institutions and their digital innovations, and industry marketers and their digital media spend. Consumer banking marketing teams who follow this digital trajectory can both reach customers and keep up with—if not find ways to innovate and surpass—their competition.

The number of digital banking users in the US—about 82% of the population and rising—is making online banking the new normal, with mobile banking making up the lion’s share of online banking activity. But there’s increased competition outside of traditional banking: Consumers, especially younger ones, are showing interest in doing business with nonbanks, saying they’d open a financial account with the likes of PayPal, Amazon, Walmart, and Apple, and use of nonbank peer-to-peer payment platforms like PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle continues to grow. That sort of industry disruption could cost financial institutions market share at a highly competitive moment in time.

As customers rely on digital media for financial information and digital platforms for banking, financial services marketers are realizing the value of digital advertising to reach varied audiences with varied needs. The majority of the total industry’s $5 billion ad spend is digital, as monitored by Vivvix, yet consumer banking’s $1 billion budget leans slightly in favor of traditional advertising.

Marketing teams looking to reach digital-minded audiences and intercept people who are eyeing disruptive competitors can capitalize on the not-fully-realized potential of online advertising to meet consumers where they are—and, for critical customer acquisition, where some competition is not.

Wrapping Up

Consumer banking institutions have an opportunity to grow their market share despite near customer saturation. While most existing customers are generally satisfied with their primary banks and feel a high level of trust in them, a significant portion say they’d be willing to switch primary banks for specific reasons.

Financial services marketers who combine consumer media preferences, including digital media, with creative that speaks to their financial goals, online banking expectations, and general industry concerns can all but bank on retaining their firmly rooted customers while cashing in on new customer acquisition.

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