We talked to Jason Falls, SVP of Digital Strategy at Elasticity, about the rise of mobile and how it changes the game for financial institutions.
You can watch the interview above and read the transcript below.
First let’s talk about the financial services industry and what has changed in the past 10 years.
There are two major things that have changed. One is social media and the other is mobile. Mobile is probably the one that has had the most impact on the financial services industry from a customer relationship standpoint because now financial customers young and old are spending the majority of their time communicating, engaging, looking for information on a device, a tablet or a mobile phone. So in order for banks to meet the consumer needs, they have to be in that device, or that mobile environment. Mobile has been the biggest thing over the last decade that’s really changed the industry and changed how banks approach customers.
Does Elasticity help financial institutions with that concept of mobile?
Yeah, we help a variety of clients in the financial services industry, and other industries, with all aspects of digital marketing. Mobile almost always percolates and comes to the top of that conversation because that’s where consumers are. That’s how consumers are digesting information and sharing information. It’s where they get information. It’s where they communicate. You have to fish where the fish are, and the fish are on their phones. So mobile comes up first.
What we like to tell people is that mobile isn’t a device. That doesn’t mean a phone. Mobile is an environment. It’s an experience. It’s not so much about being on that little 3-inch screen, or even on that tablet. It’s about being where consumers’ attention is, which could be at a kiosk in a bank. It could be in a kiosk at a store. It could be at a point of sale, to be able to pay with a mobile pay system. It could be a digital sign on a bus where you can also reach that consumer and communicate. Mobile means a lot of things, it’s not just confined to the phone and what we try to do with our clients is help them get their message in front of the audience they’re trying to reach in the right environment.
What does that look like in practice?
I’ll try to put it in a financial services package, but it’s going to be a little bit of a stretch so you’re gonna have to squint a bit. Right now most banks are coming out with either mobile payment options or applications where you can do a mobile deposit, check your balance, or even send some money. That’s good for a device, that’s good for a desktop computer, that’s good for a tablet. But when we think of mobile we also think, “Well, what if I want to access information on a smart TV? What if I want to access information on an Xbox widget because that’s my primary connection to the internet, because I don’t have a computer but I have a gaming system?” So if you have to think about it from a technological standpoint, what we’re challenged to do in the financial services industry is build databases of content and opportunities that can be distributed and repositioned anywhere. So I see banks, 5 to 10 years from now, having Xbox widgets, having Netflix channels, having smart TV applications so on so forth.
[Editor's note: The Helios cross-platform framework from MX lets financial institutions offer banking apps on a range of platforms including wearables, smart TV, and more.]
What are the biggest obstacles that get in the way of making this kind of transition?
The biggest obstacle for banks quite frankly is the regulatory compliance legal curtain that marketing communications is often held by. The obstacle is figuring out how to free the marketing team to be able to communicate in real time, to be able to certainly be aware of regulatory sensitive situations, etc.
There are ways to be compliant and still communicate in real time. You just have to invest in some education and training for your teams. But the biggest obstacle right now is getting the permission to be able to be on the leading edge and find these innovative ways to reach consumers. The financial service industry, because it’s a regulated industry, is often 5 to 10 years behind everybody else. The industry has got to close that gap in order to keep up.
So what would you say that is the biggest thing financial institutions need to be keeping their eye on when they look to the future? Let’s talk about that specifically in terms of marketing.
So the eye on the future both short term and long term in my personal opinion is being able to understand your customer better. The way you can do that in today’s age is by mining online conversations about everything from how I spend money, where I spend money, to specifically which bank do I use, etc. Tapping into social intelligence, social data.
The conversations that are out there. It’s the largest focus group you can ever find in the history of mankind. Millions of conversations happen every day. And they’re indexed, they’re searchable. So finding a social listing, social platform where you can go out, find the topics, find the themes, and dive into them and say what are consumers saying when they’re at the point of decision to buy, what are they saying leading up to that decision? Are they turning around and recommending it to their friends and family after the decision?
Understanding that conversation from a research perspective I think is what the future holds for many banks. It’s really about getting to know your customer better, and we have this untapped wealth of information that we can go after in social media.
Would that require some digital tools, a solution of some sort?
Absolutely, there are a lot of people who have heard of social monitoring platforms. They have evolved to calling themselves social listing platforms. Ultimately what you're trying to do is monitor the web to listen for conversations. The way most people start out is, well I want to type in a google search “My bank’s name,” or “My institution’s name” and see what people are saying about me. But if you think about it, a couple of steps further you can ask the questions such as, What are people saying when they’re trying to buy a car? When they’re getting ready to buy a house? You take your brand out of it and try to understand the consumer mindset when they’re in the decision-making process, it gives you a whole lot more insight into how you can be a part of that.
A lot of banks are trying to decide what to do about fintech. Is it an enemy, is it a partner? What’s your opinion about that?
Well, the answer is almost always it depends. But overall I think fintech is definitely a partner for financial institutions. Most of these organizations are coming up with technological solutions to close that gap we talked about. So they’re trying to help financial institutions get to the point where they can respond to consumer needs in a relevant, expedient, fashion and be there with the consumer product. Good companies, technological companies, are meeting those consumer needs and influencing what consumers are looking for based on the technology that’s available. So I think having good partners from the fintech world is a smart thing. It's a smart solution to have if you’re a financial brand marketer.
Anything else you’d like to say about Elasticity?
Elasticity is a full service digital marketing agency. We do everything from online listing, social media research, to SEO/SEM to content marketing strategies. We build websites and apps too, but we’re really a digital strategy firm.