10 Trends Shaping the Digital World

September 2017: Vol 40 No 9
Stephanie Schwenn Sebring
What to expect now and in five years

marketing strategy written on a notebookTo stay in front of the always-changing digital experience, credit union marketers should consider these 10 trends.

1. Digital channels will multiply. 

“Credit unions aren’t always open to new territory,” says Alexander Kesler, founder and president of inSegment, Inc., Boston. “But you can’t ignore the increasing number of channels. And you can’t just do Facebook. There will be more channels to manage, and to be successful marketers must be knowledgeable and embrace them all.” Don’t let slow adoption be a competitive disadvantage.

2. The frictionless experience will be a fungible commodity.

It may not be a single technology that’s most prevalent in five years, says Jim Pond, a partner at James & Matthew, Boston. Becoming more important for marketers is the evolution of member expectations centering on ease of access and automation—the desire, demand and expectation for a frictionless experience. “Consumers will expect the same, ubiquitous digital experience from everyone, from Amazon to their local financial institution.” 

Stu Fisher, president of Sentient Consulting, San Francisco, adds that the impact of the Gig (or sharing) Economy, such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, will be felt by digital marketers. “It’s already changed digital expectations in the payments industry, how people pay or receive payment (immediately and person-to-person). It’s one more way that mobile expectations have multiplied.”

Frictionless communication channels will also gain momentum. “In five years, marketing will become even more personalized. Tools like ‘Facetiming’ your loan officer or banker (via the iOS app) could be as commonplace as phone calls are today,” says Amy McGraw, VP/marketing for $650 million Tropical Financial Credit Union, Miramar, Fla. “There may be a struggle between offering instant service and keeping fraudsters at bay, but with biometrics, such as fingerprint or retina scans, it will be easier to offer those instant services.”

Mobile apps have already adopted fingerprint scans as a way to verifiy the user upon opening. Why not add the ability to video chat within the app, for a more personalized experience? “If it’s ‘behind the PIN’ using the biometric to log in, the service can be instant, personalized and secure,” continues McGraw.

3. A digital blueprint will be a necessity. 

With the help of a digital blueprint, you can stay involved in your member’s sales journey, says James Robert Lay, founder and CEO of Digital Growth Institute, Houston. Having such a blueprint can assist with website development, creating and executing relevant content, managing your digital landscape. A digital blueprint can also provide clarity and help you to stay focused on your members’ needs. (See Lay’s Digital Marketing Best Practices at https://www.digitalgrowth.com/cues.)

4. Content will evolve.

Content will be served based on each person’s individual needs. Artificial intelligence will also make it more relevant, using the member’s transaction history and experiences to serve the appropriate message. Content will be used to enhance your digital brand. Watch for ebooks to assist and the use of video and visuals to sell a lifestyle. 

McGraw adds that people want to be educated without pressure: “Credit unions are the perfect financial institutions to offer education and information. But they must also incorporate automation and new platforms into their marketing, including video, to provide help digitally so members can achieve their goals.”

5. Websites will become more powerful.

“Gone will be the generic home page, replaced with personalized layouts tailored to guide and engage different types of visitors,” says Alexa Morris, digital marketing manager at $1 billion iQ Credit Union, Vancouver, Wash. Content will be customized based on the marketing messages you want consumers to see while they find the information they want to access. Landing page templates with unique calls to action will make pages more purposeful. Marketers will also use these landing pages (and gated content) to educate and inform consumers to ultimately guide them to purchase.

A/B testing for landing page design will become prevalent. Morris says it’s particularly effective with digital, enabling you to tweak the design, content or offer in a quick, cost-effective way by measuring if message A or B is more effective in achieving its goals.

Automated platforms will also help CUs gain a competitive advantage. “When you have a platform that provides a transparent view of all channels—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more—you can better track your success of keywords, hashtags and tweets,” adds Kesler. “A unified platform will pull this data together.” 

Bots will also become commonplace. Fisher and McGraw envision more companies, including credit unions, successfully integrating bots into customer service. 

McGraw sees bots making member service more efficient for credit unions by answering general questions, potentially replacing traditional “search” functions on websites. “Think about a normal website search,” she says. “A member types in what they’re looking for and your site serves a list of potential matches, usually based on words and where these words appear within the site. These searches can offer more frustration than answers. So, remove it and put a learning bot in its place. The answers are now quicker, programmed on the full question, offering solutions in personal ways. The member is satisfied and engaged without having to wait in a queue to talk to a person.”

6. Data will differentiate.

Morris believes credit unions will analyze their sites and digital channels more intuitively, studying items like bounce rate or how many pages a member visits before they leave the website. CUs will look at these stats to understand what content is resonating and how to change course when needed.  

Data analytics will also move to the forefront of all decisions. 

“Not only will you use data to differentiate your brand but analyze where the market is moving,” says Karen McGaughey, VP/client services, principal for CUES Supplier member Weber Marketing Group, Seattle. “It will be quality over quantity.” She adds that collecting more data doesn’t necessarily make you more successful. It’s the strategic application of that data—setting SMART goals for your digital plan and adjusting as needed.

7. Predictive analyses will grow.

In five years, there will be new players, but no one knows what the landscape will look like, says Kesler. The focus on big data will enable marketers to hone their predictive marketing capabilities with analyses and insights for specific offers. He notes that other industries, such as health care and legal services, will pioneer these predictive analyses. So keep an eye out.

8. Fintech will impact digital marketing.

Kesler also sees fintech companies continuing to evolve and gain strongholds. “The biggest success to date (for fintech) has been in underwriting loans and using predictive analyses to determine if the customer can repay the loan,” he says. “This may expand to global coverage of such lending decisions, as well as robo-advising, even customer service tasks.”

9. Marketing will shift from the tactical to strategic.

Marketers will become more strategic in their thinking, says Pond. Strategy will drive every decision in the digital landscape.

Successful marketers will also become your “growth hackers.” These are scrappy figures who come into work every day to figure out how to grow your CU, says Fisher. They’re agile and can quickly determine if an idea has legs; they can test and iterate an idea. Assess your marketing team today to see how much is steeped in the traditional versus growth-hacker mindset.

10. Become comfortable with a constant state of change.

Becoming a life-long learner will help you adjust and stay fluid and confident in the digital mindset, says Lay. “Share what you know with your members and grow from good to great.”

Technology conferences will also help you to stay on top of change. Seek out the leaders— Google, Facebook, Apple—or attend payments conferences; get involved in online groups, adds Fisher. Don’t insulate yourself from what other industries are doing.
Stephanie Schwenn Sebring established and managed the marketing departments for three CUs before launching her business. As owner of Fab Prose & Professional Writing, she assists CUs, industry suppliers and any company wanting great content and a clear brand voice. Follow her on Twitter @fabprose.