Article

The Need for Data in Financial Services Email Communications

Financial relationships are about trust — even those between financial institutions and marketing software partners.
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Have you ever watched a waiter serve a large table in a fancy restaurant? They never ask who had the medium rare steak with the baked potato. They know who ordered what and where they are sitting. The secret to how they do this is that there is a standard first position at the table and the dinners are listed and delivered in order from that position.

This is an example of knowing your customers, and an example of how accuracy creates an ideal customer experience. And fancy restaurants know all about the customer experience.

In this case the physical location is how the waiter identifies each diner. But customers in a database have a customer number or a unique record ID like email address or phone number. And all of their data is associated with that ID. Access to that data is just the beginning of understanding your customers through their information.

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Hold Your Data Close

There is a wealth of information that you hold about your financial customers. They trust you to keep it private, but they also expect you to know who they are when you communicate with them. These two factors combine to improve the customer experience and build a long term relationship between your financial company and your consumers.

Better use of technology – not just access to data – has an effect on customers’ perception of their interactions. In a survey about digital transformation of financial institutions, 81% of executives listed customer satisfaction as the leading indicator of success. They accomplished their digital goals when customers were happy.

No matter what products and services you offer, your messaging will be improved with access to customer data. This is the first-party data that you have permission to use in your marketing. Even with the changing privacy laws around consumer data, customers who have opted in to your emails have agreed to your privacy policy. The more you know about your customers – including their preferences that they have shared with you and details from their products or accounts – the more relevant messages you can send them.

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My Data in Her Email Can’t Happen

The quickest way to erode customer trust is to send an email with the wrong information. It is one thing to mention in a marketing email that a customer has an auto policy when they only have a homeowner’s policy, but it is something else entirely to send an email that includes a different customer’s information.

Complicated email systems – especially those that require computer programming to add customer data to emails – are more likely to result in those misdirected emails. When a letter is delivered to the wrong mailbox, it is easy to get it to the right one without inadvertently reading any personal information inside. Or you can at least easily return it to the letter carrier. The same is not true about email. A message with someone else’s financials is likely to be opened and then deleted, leaving a sense of “so who got the email with my information?”

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Choose Wisely

Customers open emails that resonate with them. Using data about account balances, account types, or spending levels can create segments of customers who are more likely to respond to your offers. This knowledge can be used before or after these emails are sent. For example, if you already have examined the data about your customers and you know what types of customers respond to what types of offers, then you can use that knowledge to target just that part of your audience. But if this is something  that you do not know, then you can test it with email to learn what offers resonate with what type of customers.

Even with this data, you need to meet expectations. Customers expect that financial brands know them and that messages will be informed by their previous activities with the institution. When it doesn’t appear that this is the case, consumers may choose one of your competitors to handle their finances.

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To Know You is to Trust You

It is time to move personalization beyond “Dear First Name.” Financial customers have put their trust in you. Reinforce that trust with emails that are relevant to them. One way to do that 
is to include specific information in the emails themselves. No matter your business, you will have access to major life events that can become triggers for specific and personalized emails. Adding a spouse to an account or policy, getting a new mortgage, or opening a new account for a child are events that can naturally lead to additional products or services. These can be congratulatory messages that are friendly and helpful, but are personalized with data collected from within your other systems. Email systems with true access to first-party data make this much easier. The more access you have across all systems, the more relevant the messages can be.

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Keeping it Real with Real-Time Data

Not all marketing systems can process real-time data. Financial services firms looking to strengthen their relationship with their customers can use consumer web and mobile app  behavior as it happens to create and send highly personalized experiences.

Customers never follow pre-built journeys precisely, but what happens when the next message is set to go out and the customer already took some action? Maybe they visited your website or opened a new account. If these activities don’t update the marketing system in real-time, then it looks like you don’t know what your customer is up to.

Or what if you have an email triggered to go  out after a life event, but this data comes across to the email system in a batch? This automated email is so delayed that a customer might think that it represents fraudulent activity or a  phishing scheme.

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What Does Success Look Like?

If you are not currently using data in your emails, either for targeting and segmentation or for personalization, you should compare your results to benchmark numbers. The unique open rates range from 16 to 18 percent for all emailers depending on the quarter. According to the Cheetah Digital email benchmark report which looks at quarterly results across industries, the average revenue per email ranges from six to eight cents.

If your numbers do not hit these benchmarks, one of the first things to do is explore how the use of data can enhance your email campaigns to raise the level of revenue that is tied directly to marketing. If you are not using email for marketing purposes, you can still compare your results to the benchmark open rates.

Customers expect financial services companies to know what types of accounts they have when they communicate with them. Those messages need to come from a system that has access to all of that customer data. If you don’t have the ability to use that data that way you want to – and more importantly, the way customers have given you permission to use it – it is time to explore other marketing technology options.

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