Good baseball center fielders can consistently catch a line drive over second base. They do that by instinctively running to a spot that allows them to intercept a ball that is moving at a fixed speed in pretty much a straight line. Banks would love to be able to use that same technique to predict and meet customer needs. Just predict where the customer is going, and then stand underneath that spot to catch the mortgage application or the account opening. Unfortunately, customer needs in banking are no longer behaving like line drives. Instead, they’re behaving like knuckleball pitches that move fast, but in erratic and unpredictable directions.
Accenture recently examined rapidly changing consumer expectations in banking in our 2017 Global Distribution & Marketing Consumer Study, which gathered the views of more than 33,000 customers across 18 markets. The results were surprising. For example, customers’ biggest driver of loyalty now is their willingness to trust banks to protect their personal data. Transactional trust used to be consistently high across the banking industry, but now consumers are telling us that it is a point of competitive differentiation, so cyber security is no longer just a hygiene factor, it’s a customer acquisition tool. The survey also showed a paradox around attitudes to branches. While only a minority of customers now cite branches as their top driver of bank selection and retention, over 80 percent of them (including the vast majority of millennials) still want the option of visiting a branch—an option that involves high operating costs for the bank if it isn’t a primary driver of account acquisition—so banks need to find the ‘branch lite’ sweet spot that delivers the option value without fatally undermining their economics.
One conclusion to draw is that customer expectations and needs in banking are far more malleable than they used to be when you had well-established industry norms like the s-curve describing the relationship between branch share and deposit share in a local market. Their experiences on digital platforms like Facebook, Amazon, Uber and Google are shaping what they expect from their bank and this highly iterative process is leading to rapidly changing priorities. To track and capture these customers, the implication is that banks are going to need to stop trying to act like center fielders and start behaving more like echo-locating bats. Bats’ flawless adaptive behaviours, including ultrasonic pulses, agile flight and head-aim control, allow them to detect and capture free-flying insects in incredibly narrow time windows. Likewise, banks need to understand not just where customers are, but also how to jink and weave to zero in on what they are going to need and when they are going to need it.
While ideally banks should use complete customer genomes to track individual behaviours, our research pointed to three distinct consumer personas—Nomads, Hunters and Quality Seekers—with broadly similar needs that banks can use to shape offerings and marketing tactics. Within these broad personas there will still be a lot of insects and knuckleballs that are moving erratically, but at least banks will be in the right part of the ballpark to make a play on the customer with an offer or piece of advice that has a higher probability of being timely and relevant.
I invite you to read the key 2017 Global Distribution & Marketing Consumer Study findings in the full report, Beyond Digital: How Can Banks Meet Customer Demands? It also details the three consumer personas and implications for banks as they seek to understand—and market to—today’s banking consumers.