Top Social and Digital Trends for Financial Services in 2013

January 8, 2013 § Leave a comment


Each year brings a time to look forward to new trends and areas of focus. As I continue to work at the intersection of customer experience and technology (mostly with financial institutions), the following is my hit list for 2013. I fully recognize this is not a comprehensive list and in no particular order, but I would love to hear what should be added, what I might be getting wrong, and whether anyone agrees or disagrees with the following:

  • Front-line Social Enablement: Over the last 2 years, I have paid a lot of attention to how front-line workers will use social media to engage with customers, prospects and referral sources, especially in wealth management and insurance. The last 2-years saw a crop of vendors such as Hearsay Social, Actiance, and Socialware bring products to market that help FIs manage these interactions and help front-line workers use social networks safely for marketing, customer service, and sales. With many major FIs picking vendors last year, this year we will see FIs try to scale front-line enablement across their sales and distribution workforces and integrate multiple vendor relationships into a cohesive ecosystem.
    • What to look for: A steady increase in how insurance agents and wealth managers incorporate social networking into their daily activities to connect with customer, prospects, and referral sources. For this to be effective, multiple vendors (compliance, CRM, social media monitoring, etc.) will need to come together, content will need some serious consideration, and analytics will be the glue.
    • The big questions: How will FIs support these front-line employees? To what degree are customers and prospects ready for FIs to network with them on social properties? Will we start to see some PR hiccups as more front-line employees get social?
  • The Data Driven Experience:  Today, when visitors come to a digital property a large range of data can be used to tailor the experience. Furthermore, each experience creates new data.  FIs have leveraged SOME of this data historically (special offers, event-based marketing, etc.), but in the years ahead this will be taken to a new level. Customer and interaction data will be used to deliver offers within online statements, credit and risk scores may include social data, and the images and content that make up a digital experience will become more and more contextually specific. The dream of one-to-one experiences is as close as it has ever been and FIs have the potential to take it further than any other industry.
    • What to look for: FIs increasingly applying a test and learn approach to finding the right data for the right person in order to blend the right creative experience, offers, and features across digital experiences (and across channels).
    • The big questions: Will consumers collectively reject the use of their own data to tailor a financial services experience? Where is the line between acceptable personalization and big brother creepiness?
  • Scaling Social Media for Cost Effectiveness: In the last 12 months, conversations around social media have focused more on scaling efforts and less on building presence. Since most major social networks have been at critical mass for over 4 years, financial institutions have carved out a place and now apply significant budget. However, as dollars continue to shell out for social media activities (marketing, customer service, customer engagement, etc.) FIs need to deliver social capabilities cost effectively. This year, we will see FIs focus on ramping up efforts to reduce costs in social media, especially around customer service, social media monitoring, social analytics, and content development. Many firms will look to refresh their social strategies to be more integrated with their products and services and to develop the right underlying infrastructures through a network of partners.
    • What to look for: FIs will continue looking to work with a range of external partners from interactive agencies to systems integrators to BPO specialists. Much of the talent needed is not inside FIs today and may not likely be there for some time now. Furthermore, scale will be found in the combination of multiple integrated technologies and processes supported by low-cost service centers with very specialized skills. Strategy and leadership will remain inside the FIs, but scale will be found outside.
    • The big questions: Will those offering social outsourcing services actually provide better returns on investment? Will the service models work? Can brand integrity hold? When is the right point to consider outside help and for what?
  • Enterprise Social Collaboration: In dealing with over two dozen large and global financial services providers in 2012, this has been the year of priming the workforce for enterprise social collaboration. This means applying social networking principles inside of the firm in the form of internal social networks and socially infused work practices. While these concepts are not new, vendors such as Jive Software, NewsGator, and Cisco WebEx Social (formally Cisco Quad) saw large software sales in 2012 at FIs. Now, the focus will be on implementing social collaboration processes and technology into the workforce. This will be a multi-year journey, and for many FIs, an uphill battle. However, firms like McKinsey believe this is one of the biggest bets to unlock value (read The Social Economy by McKinsey Global Institute) at FIs and every month I see successes that support that view.
    • What to look for: FIs to convert pilots into fully operational internal social networks and socially infuse processes. This will require FIs to change how work actually gets done and may potentially be one of the largest workforce transformation efforts of this decade.
    • The big questions: Are FIs ready for social technology inside of the firm? Will social collaboration efforts do better than CRM’s 66% failure rate (similar size software investments going after a similarly sized problem)?
  • Customer Experience Simplification: For the last 5 years, FI have been diligently focused on building robust digital properties. Unfortunately, the customer experience has suffered as a result of too many features and too many product owners having a say on digital properties. However, with the advent of smart phones, interactive design took a huge step forward and forced eBusiness teams to focus on experiences that support a few user goals (i.e. viewing a balance, transferring money, paying a bill, etc.) versus trying to support all goals for all users – regardless of importance or priority.
    • What to look for: More FIs designing simple sites like Chase.com where the design is more like Google than anything else and use responsive design principles so that one design works well on multiple screens and takes into account the type of interactivity of the device (touch screen versus desktop browser) as well as the primary user goals. 2013 will be a year in which many firms will change their digital property designs and the underlying technology that support them. This will flow across devices.
    • The big questions: How will these changes drive important metrics? In the process of simplification, what is getting pushed too far to the fringe and how will that be mitigated?
  • Mobile as the Every Day Transaction Channel: To continue on the point above, while online properties get more simple, traffic may actually slow in growth or even fall, especially for current customers completing every day transactions. Why? Mobile is now overtaking how people complete quick tasks such as checking balances, paying bills, and transferring money. Not every FI will hit this tipping point at the same time, but every FI should know what their trajectory looks like and make plans accordingly.
    • What to look for: Online sites to look more and more like mobile sites and FIs slow to realize that if growth plans for cross-selling and up-selling are primarily focused on desktop experiences…they may run into some challenges. That being said, acquisition and media plans need to consider the interplay between mobile and desktop experiences, especially around acquisition efforts.
    • The big questions: What will an effective offer experience look like on a mobile device? How will it take advantage of multiple channels especially as customers go from interest to purchase? How will other features such as coupons, geo-location, and payments get seamlessly integrated into the experience?

So again I recognize that this list is not comprehensive, but there is too much going on for any one list and these are the closest to me. With more time and space, I would love to add SmartTV and gaming consoles, personal financial management, and social product innovation/social shopping.

As usual, all thoughts and opinions are welcome.

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