How to design for anticipatory banking

Bank marketers have been talking about anticipating customer needs for years, inspired by digital giants that show it is possible. Yet few banks deliver broadly on this promise. Here is an approach to move from experiments to an insight-driven anticipatory platform that can boost top-line revenue.

Becoming anticipatory means having access to the right blend of first and third-party data, creating more meaningful customer insights, optimizing the choice of services to offer and engaging customers through their preferred channels and during the moments that matter most.

Even though financial institutions have vast amounts of historical first-party data, it is important for financial marketers to access additional first-party and third-party data, such as ad impressions, browsing behavior and transactions to improve the precision of data models and create entirely new ones. From this combined data, behavioral signals can help more precisely determine what customers need at the most relevant moments.

Banks need to build and run hundreds of highly complex, interacting models that will improve insights over time. These insights are geared toward better understanding customer behaviors – needs, wants, habits, life stages and more.

Using a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing, banks can generate the level of understanding needed to effectively anticipate customer needs. Banks will be able to personalize existing services to meet individual needs and create unique offerings tailored for specific customers and situations. This can be as simple as individualized insights, like those in the U.S. Bank mobile banking app where customers are nudged to avoid an overdraft fee, or as complex as credit scoring thin-file customers to offer a custom loan.

The where, when and how of connecting each customer or prospect to available offerings is just as important as choosing which ones to present to them. Anticipating the channel(s) of choice, given time of day and type of interaction is the sixth sense of a great salesperson that reads a situation. Automating this at scale requires reading the data to engage through the right context. 

The data can tell us not only what customers want but also where they spend their time online and which messages resonate. Rather than traditional A-B tests of creative, banks can adapt the style of messaging based on what motivates an individual to achieve a desired outcome. This could be selecting a coaching style towards a savings goal, or imagery that inspires saving behavior.

For years, banks and credit unions have been transforming their businesses with varying degrees of success. Customers demand it, data is available and technology has advanced to enable it. So why then are banks struggling? The biggest hurdle is the organizational and operational changes required to make it truly successful. Retooling complex legacy organizations and aligning incentives to be more agile and measurable impacts people, process and technology, yet it is a prerequisite for delivering against individual customer needs automatically and in real-time. The banks and credit unions that are able to solve for these issues first will be on a clear path to win.

Becoming more anticipatory is a journey, not a destination. And while every bank is at some point along the way, very few have yet to make a mark. Some banks may already have a solid data foundation and integrated digital infrastructures, while others may not. Some will need to develop new models of customer engagement, while others will be farther along in terms of customer-centricity. Most, however, will need to make changes across many areas of the business in order to create the value customers expect.

Anticipatory banking offers a platform for establishing customer- and digital-centricity at scale, which in turn can enable banks gain a competitive advantage in the market, today and tomorrow. It helps elevate customer experiences to rival those of today’s leading consumer brands. Having the right foundation and platform helps banks tackle today’s business challenges, but it also positions them to explore new business opportunities – even across verticals – while cultivating deeper and more meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships with their customers.

David Poole leads Publicis Sapient’s Financial Services Center of Excellence, responsible for supporting banking clients in their digital transformation.

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