What two credit unions can teach banks about marketing

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When they log into mobile or online banking, Crane Credit Union members will soon be able to swipe or tap through mini slideshows of tailored offers and bank updates as easily as social media users flick through photos.

The feature is called 3D StoryTeller, the technology behind it is from digital engagement company DeepTarget, and its resemblance to social media, particularly Instagram Stories, a feature of Instagram where users post a temporary array of photos, videos and more, is intentional. Crane Credit Union, in Odon, Ind., is one financial institution using mechanisms such as this to capture the attention of its members with personalized messages.

With 3D StoryTeller, customers who log in to online banking will see a button inviting them by name to check out their “story.” When they click on the icon, a three-dimensional series of slides will appear, peppered with animations, bright colors and snippets of text that communicate new offers and point out undersued features.

True personalization in banking goes beyond addressing customers by name in an email or showing an ad relevant to their age group. It means harnessing data and analytics to target individuals rather than broad segments, and devising offers that meet their individual needs, such as preapproval for a mortgage when they are in the market for a house.

Banks often have trouble consolidating data about their customers across numerous interaction points, said Stefano Fanfarillo, partner and director in personalization and digital marketing at Boston Consulting Group and a co-author of a 2019 BCG article that studied personalization in banking.

Done right, personalized messaging can inform customers of products they didn’t know existed and convert them into more active users and borrowers. BCG calculated that for every $100 billion in assets a bank has, it can increase revenues as much as $300 million by personalizing its customer interactions. And 88% of respondents to a survey by Zafin, a cloud-based products and pricing solutions company for banks, said they would like to receive recommendations from their banks that are relevant to their needs and behaviors.

Crane Credit Union, which acquired two community banks in Indiana this year, and Certified Federal Credit Union in El Monte, Calif., both want to ensure their members turn to them first when borrowing money — as well as for the rest of their financial needs. Here is how they are using personalized campaigns that draw from an array of customer data to make that happen.

Inspired by Instagram

“Something we haven’t done a great job with is letting people know they are prequalified for loans with us,” said Michael Hostetler, assistant vice president of marketing at Crane, which has $716 million of assets. His credit union was one of the first financial firms to implement 3D StoryTeller (the other is Ohio Valley Bank in Gallipolis, Ohio), which he chose because he wanted something that would stand out from regular advertising.

“It’s harder to get people’s attention,” he said. “For the past year we focused really hard on digital and mobile ads but that market has become saturated.”

DeepTarget reports that 220 community banks and credit unions currently use its Digital Experience Platform, where banks can design marketing campaigns.

3D StoryTeller is the newest addition to that platform. A customer who is going back to school might see a tile advertising college scholarships, while someone on the verge of retirement may be offered a certificate of deposit with a special rate. If a customer is not yet using online bill pay, a tile might flag that feature and link them to the relevant section of the institution’s website.

Customers use their fingers to swipe back and forth to tour their story. Swiping up will complete an action, such as navigating directly to a prefilled lending application.

No two customers will get an identical story, because their needs and banking habits are different. “It’s not the same for you as it is for me,” said Jill Homan, DeepTarget’s president.

She estimates that it takes DeepTarget 10 hours over four to six weeks to set up the Digital Experience Platform and 3D StoryTeller with a financial institution, and she starts by asking what information the institution can access. The “story” is loaded with data from a variety of sources, including internal data from the bank and external data from sources such as the credit bureaus, data warehouses, Envestnet Yodlee or third-party analytics firms.

Hostetler notes that Crane, like many financial institutions, has a lot of cash on hand. He hopes that 3D StoryTeller will help the credit union boost its lending and speed up the sales process because it can notify suitable customers when they are prequalified.

“We’ve seen consumer loan demand decrease a bit and we need to find creative ways to get that message out to people that we can provide them with a loan,” he said. “In a lot of cases, people don’t know we offer those products, especially mortgages and credit cards.”

If customers become as entranced with their financial stories as they do with their friends’ social media stories, they may discover products they otherwise wouldn’t have found.

“One of the things we joke about is about the mindless scrolling concept,” said Hostetler. “You’re going to check your balance, your thumb is moving everywhere and all of a sudden you’re in an auto loan application.”

Beyond onboarding

Jay Lassiter, vice president of marketing, payments and service at the $702 milion-asset Certified Federal Credit Union, says he needs actionable, timely offers to break through the noise of the clickbait messaging his customers are bombarded with these days.

Before Certified started working with Digital Onboarding, a digital engagement platform built for financial services, in 2019, the only way it could personalize its marketing was by adding a customer’s name to an offer. Since then the credit union has shortened the amount of time it takes to set up a new customer with direct deposit, activated debit card and more, as well as created campaigns to keep more loans in-house.

Ted Brown, Digital Onboarding’s CEO, said his company fills the gap between a customer opening a bank account and becoming a profitable customer. (Digital Onboarding has about 50 financial institutions as clients.) He points to a 2015 study from Javelin Strategy & Research that found one in five new bank and credit union customers remain inactive after opening an account.

“For many years, banks have been myopically focused on the acquisition side to open as many accounts as they could,” Brown said. “But if someone opens a checking account you don’t have a relationship; you have the opportunity to make or lose money.”

Through Digital Onboarding, financial institutions can text and email new customers shortly after they open an account with links to personalized digital guides that help them set up direct deposit, start banking online, and more. As time goes on, the platform helps banks and credit unions nurture the relationship by sending customers personalized offers at relevant moments, using data that the bank shares itself.

Certified’s old onboarding program involved monthly letters to new customers nudging them through setup, and could take six to eight months to complete. Now, Lassiter said, the whole process takes 15 minutes.

He is also using Digital Onboarding to drive two auto loan campaigns. Members with an auto loan will receive friendly reminders as they approach payoff to turn to Certified first when taking out a new loan. For its auto loan recapture program, the credit union identifies members who borrowed from other providers and targets them with emails that don’t just communicate, “ ‘Here is a better offer,’ ” said Lassiter, “but, ‘Here is how much you pay today, here is how much you can pay tomorrow and here is how much you can save over the life of the loan.’ ”

“That’s the kind of personalization I need to be effective in the greater Los Angeles area,” he said.

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