One thing’s for sure: over the course of 2015 most industries began relying heavily on mobile to generate significant revenue, whether it was harnessing the power of multi-channel customer loyalty programmes or improving operational efficiency with automated messaging. But as the New Year quickly approaches, it’s time to look at how the financial sector, an industry notoriously wary of change, is starting to integrate mobile into the heart of its communications strategy.
Oxygen8 conducted research that identified the top five sectors that use mobile to effectively engage their customers. It’s good news for the financial sector as it’s finally made its way into the leader board, as you can see from the graphic below.
Undoubtedly, the improved functionality, greater user experience and increased level of security have made mobile more appealing to the financial sector. But is it still missing a trick? In this post I’ll run through some of the challenges the financial sector faces when looking to utilise mobile marketing. (I’ll also highlight some best practices to follow to make sure you’re getting the most out of mobile.)
We are fortunate in the UK and Ireland to have clear guidelines on SMS marketing, and laws to enforce them. The Data Protection Act and the Electronic Privacy Regulations are what reputable firms abide by and are the teeth that are constantly taking bites out of companies using illicit and intrusive practices.
Conscientious marketers also have an instinct as to what is reasonable and effective, and have always stayed within the recommended limits by choice. Nothing loses customers like bad experiences and bad PR. Of course, in marketing “not losing customers” isn’t the minimum requirement, it’s winning and retaining them, so the standard has to exceed merely good practices. That said, following the ICO’s guidelines will help with your customer relations as they’re designed specifically to minimise intrusion and are positive for ethical SMS marketers.
Deciding on an SMS marketing policy isn’t rocket science. Spamming customers is a lose-lose situation – hassled customers will either opt out of SMS marketing, take their business elsewhere or report you to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Giving timely opportunities that interest and retain relevant customers is a win-win. You keep goodwill and a proportion of your prospects will convert. The easiest way to send timely messages is by taking advantage of one of the many APIs mobile platforms have. APIs allow you to automate your mobile marking based on triggers. Not only are these messages more contextually relevant because they are triggered by the action of a customer, but they are also automated so they don’t require resource – oh, and they are a lot more scalable.
It’s important to remember that financial services is among the UK and Ireland’s most important industries and as such it is vital to the economy. Within that industry, it is the introduction and marketing of innovative, competitive instruments and deals that keeps the fires stoked.
The idea that a consumer would find it inconvenient to be informed of a deal that could save them hundreds or thousands a year just because that message was delivered by SMS rather than by post is ludicrous. So although many financial companies shy away from SMS marketing, in reality it’s the message and its nature – not the medium – that creates the goodwill or the criticism.
PPI and personal injury claims aside, the financial industries have had quite a clean bill of health over the years. As an industry, they led the way in being proactive for getting their customers to “opt-in” to SMS marketing rather than “opt-out”.
When considering SMS marketing, don’t forget that the simple letters and numbers on the screen are not the alpha and infinity of the message. SMS messages can contain links that smartphone users can click through, and they can also include images, easy reply channels and other calls to action.
And as our colleague Mark Grainger points out in his white paper (SMS Marketing: The biggest missed opportunity?), SMS marketing is trackable, segmentable and easy to integrate with other channels. (Mark goes on to bust a host of other myths and misconceptions about SMS marketing, and it’s really worth a read.)
Many customers will happily give a mobile number under the premise that you’ll only contact them via SMS, as SMS messages can be read and interacted with whenever they have a moment to do so, unlike phone calls, which are almost always inconvenient, unexpected and seen as more intrusive.
Banking has some important non-marketing applications for SMS:
While the above applications aren’t directly marketing-related (aside from the benefits of having them), they encourage customers to share their mobile numbers with the bank, thus opening a channel for them to opt in to marketing.
As long as financial institutions don’t abuse the privilege (mobile numbers are still generally kept more private than landlines), and make it abundantly clear that they can easily opt out at any time, customers will be surprisingly open to targeted marketing via SMS.
Now it’s up to you to make sure you obey the guidelines, go for maximum relevance when prospecting and have a process in place for the different ways customers choose to interact with you if they’re interested.
If you’re in the financial services industry, Oxygen8 has a wealth of experience in helping to get your message across via SMS. Why not get in touch?