Why popular personalization engines will not work for bank marketers

Personalization has taken the marketing world by storm. Marketing for banking and financial services is no exception.

We see many top tier and analytically formidable banks attempting to win in this space by investing in web personalization capabilities alone – also known as digital personalization or online personalization. In all of this, the human assisted channels such as call center, branch, in-store and relationship managers continue to operate in classical silos.

What this ends up doing as a result is, provide customers a perfectly personalized experience on the bank’s website which is more often than not based on her current and past browsing behaviour. When the customer happens to land on any other touchpoint however, let’s say conversing with the executive at the branch, her experience has very little or nothing to do with what transpired on the web browsing. The customer’s context is not seamlessly harnessed from and transferred across digital and physical (human assisted) channels.

So why are personalization engines, albeit top notch, but designed primarily for e-commerce businesses, a sub-par option for banks.

  • Digital personalization engines don’t use all customer information

    While digital personalization solutions may tap into real-time customer behaviour (which is powerful), these typically are tuned to read only online order history and similar online journeys. Since financial products are a different animal – compared to let’s say shopping for household wares or apparel online, recommendation algorithms need a deeper view of the customer to arrive at the most suited financial product. Such a view necessarily needs to incorporate detailed demography information, loan/ card transactions, CRM details such as campaigns done across channels and responses as well as bureau information.

    Effective personalization is necessarily enabled on the back of a unified customer view. Such a unified customer view not only includes profile information such as demography and transactions but also customer context information generated from the customer having interacted with the bank across all physical and online channels. With ecommerce focus though, popular personalization solutions tend to focus on online/ digital customer data only.

  • Customer’s moment of truth is not harnessed, when not online

    Browsing online looking for a loan or an investment option, especially when the customer has logged into the bank’s portal is a personalization opportunity on a platter. Yes, your digital personalization engine will pick up the signal and provide the customer with a personalized offer in tune with what she is looking for on the website. How about when the same customer is found dining across the street from her favorite store. Does your online personalization solution pick up her real time location marry it with her card transaction pattern and the store location to give her an appropriate offer on her mobile app?

    The ability to understand the customer context at all points in time – whether she is online or offline – and be able to take an action that finds relevance in her immediate situation is key to personalization.

  • Web optimization is not personalization

    Personalization is also promised by a lot of digital marketing platforms. These happen to be really about customizing content copy and design to what customers are most responsive to. Primarily using A/B or multivariate testing, these enable the bank to optimize contents’ look and feel and placement. Personalization by definition is a far cry since it entails identifying the message/ product proposition for the customer such that it is aligned to what the customer needs or is interested in. It needs a recommendation algorithm that runs on top of the unified customer data so as to personalize and contextualize product propositions and marketing action for the customer.

With the chaos that the marketing personalization space is becoming, it is important to identify what personalization is and is not. While it might be easier to invest in a ready popular solution off the shelf, it is also important to go back to first principles and identify what is really the goal of marketing and how being relevant to the customer at all points of time is really what personalization is about.

Paromita Mitra

Product Head- BRIDGEpersona

Financial Services & Insurance

BRIDGEi2i Analytics Solution

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