Everything has changed with the pandemic. Now is the moment for bank marketers to evolve, meeting new expectations and finding meaningful ways to connect to their customers.

According to The Great Marketing Declutter, nearly 70% of marketing executives say the past year has completely exhausted their teams. However, a small group — 17% of the more than 1,000 who participated in the survey — say the opposite. They say their organizations are thriving, and employees are “energized by a new purpose of servicing customers’ rapidly changing motivations”.

These “Thrivers” have better ROI, engagement with their customers and brand awareness. They’re leading, not predicting, the post-COVID world and are empowered to own the customer experience by connecting in authentic ways.

With a Thriver mentality, we see an opportunity to elevate marketing and get banks closer to their customers while enhancing efficiency. Here’s how bank marketers can learn from Thrivers:

1. Reacquaint yourself with your customers:

Thrivers understand that their customers are forever changed by the pandemic. Customers experienced months of “relentless change” in so many aspects of their lives, pushing them to rethink values, form new habits and adjust to different needs — all directly impacting their financial lives.

We can both personally relate to this. Over the past 20+ months, one of us moved from the city and embraced country life, while the other transitioned to a home office setup with a seven-year-old and a very active three-year-old.

To help meet customers, like us, with new needs and lifestyles, Thrivers are thinking about a future with an enhanced digital presence. For banks, this requires scaling digital advice that is meaningful to each customer. We witnessed banks rapidly develop point solutions throughout the pandemic, including Bank of America and Santander moving to adapt their mobile experiences to deliver tailored offerings for banking, investing, and lending.

With digital banking accelerating as a result of the pandemic, banks also need to consider the impact of the digital divide on their customers. According to the World Bank, while internet access is now considered a “a basic necessity for economic and human development,” there is a significant percentage of the North American population without access.

In addition, banks must navigate how to support segments that are less digitally savvy or comfortable with conducting their financial transactions over digital channels, such as elderly customers, and continue to support their financial needs while adapting to the shift to digital.   

The digital divide is not necessarily new, but the pandemic widened the gap and left those on the one side with fewer options. Attention is required to ensure all customers are met in the way they need.

Now is the time for bank marketers to reacquaint themselves with their customers and understand how their needs have fundamentally changed. We are no longer waiting for the “new normal” to arrive, we are living it now. 

2. Find your collective difference:

Thrivers know there’s no solo mission when it comes to differentiating in the market. With 80% of CMOs indicating they are either entirely responsible or playing a leading role in their organization’s digital transformation strategy, marketers are well positioned to rethink how the collective experience comes together across bank channels.  

Thrivers are constantly thinking about their customer in the context of the broader ecosystem, connecting across their mobile banking apps, online banking experiences and physical branches.  

As I’ve mentioned in the past, every touchpoint matters, and we continue to see glimpses of the Thriver approach as banks scale AI to address the needs of customers. For example, Scotiabank was recently named most innovative in data for leveraging analytics to offer customers tailored advice. It developed a model that calculated a vulnerability score for each of its retail customers and used that to proactively reach out. 

Banking channels do not operate in a silo. Marketers can help customers navigate their changing life circumstances by rethinking these connected, seamless experiences and stitching together all touchpoints.

3. Move at the pace of change and figure out what no one wants to do:

Thrivers lead and stay relevant by moving quickly and proactively in real time. This is critically important for banks, where marketing departments have traditionally been perceived as cost centers when, in reality, they have a significant opportunity to drive efficiency and ROI. 

In ongoing conversations with our banking clients, we discuss how to shift so that marketing teams can focus on strategic growth areas. To maintain speed, Thrivers simplify their marketing operations and invest heavily in automation. Practical applications of AI are used for marketing copy and content, allowing marketers to focus less on the day-to-day execution. Instead of writing the copy for a campaign, marketers can focus attention and skills on proofreading that copy and validating its relevance by audience segment. 

Thrivers eliminate the traditional and focus attention on more personalized marketing campaigns, optimizing and improving customer connections to learn more about current expectations. Banks can embrace this approach by automating and driving customer relationship building through email channels, using key insights to provide personalized banking advice. 

Minna Bank has embedded automation to develop personalized promotions based on observed behavior and insights. For example, it’s working on a new credit risk model that takes into consideration its customers’ current employer information, profession, and potential. This helps the bank personalize services to customers with new digital careers such as e-sports professionals, YouTubers, and streamers. 

Banks must actively work to connect customer behavior patterns to campaigns. By taking inspiration from the Thrivers’ focus, consider ways to automate for increased speed and response while remaining dedicated to the bigger picture. 

4. Own what you want to stand for:

When it comes to new opportunities to stand out and be there for customers and employees, Thrivers take them—and own them.  

In today’s world, your purpose matters more than ever. Banks have an opportunity with current social, climate and health crises to be helpful stewards, guiding customers through the changing world. Customers and employees are looking for authenticity and they’ll support brands that stand strong in their values and beliefs.  

Being purpose-driven enables banks to unlock substantial value and competitive advantage. According to Accenture’s Purpose-Driven Banking report, leaders achieved 3 percentage points higher ROE than other banks over the past four years, along with higher levels of customer retention and loyalty. Additionally, they saw double the revenue growth of their peers.  

However, purpose is a C-suite priority that many fall short on. As our research shows, 82% of C-suite leaders say purpose is important, while only 42% say their company’s stated purpose has had a significant impact on their organization. We’re seeing this misalignment in banking.  

Taking notes from Thrivers, banks must stay simple and consistent in their purpose. It’s not about supporting a hot topic at any particular moment. Your purpose should permeate every customer and employee experience with the brand, from social media, advertisements, branch experience, mobile app and more. 

We see the digital challengers and smaller regional banks stand out as leaders in this alignment and activation of purpose. N26 has built its product around serving expats, while the Swedish fintech, Doconomy, has oriented around climate action and sustainability, and regional bank Greenwood has taken the Black Lives Matter movement a step further by making statements on wealth bias, fully committing to its brand promise. 

Our advice to banking marketers? Seize the opportunity in front of you. As the speed of change in customer expectations continues to dramatically change marketing’s mandate, focus on the experience with clear communication about values to bring your brand to life and cut through an ever-changing market. There has never been a better time to embrace the Thriver mentality. This is marketing’s moment to thrive. 

Special thanks to Alex Convey, Accenture Interactive Financial Services Consultant, for contributing to this blog. 

To learn more about our latest report on purpose-driven banking visit the Accenture website.
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