January 09, 2014

Over the last several weeks, we saw a flurry of statistics emerge about how and where shoppers planned to spend their holiday budgets. What is crystal clear is that consumers increasingly expect – and take for granted – that they can shop seamlessly across brick and mortar, online, and mobile channels.

Accenture’s 2013 Holiday Shopping Survey pointed to an increase in “showrooming” this year, with 63 percent of respondents versus 56 percent of respondents in 2012 saying that they were likely to go into a physical store to see a product and then comparative shop and purchase online. The study also revealed that just as many shoppers (65 percent) planned to participate in “webrooming,” browsing online and then going to a physical store to make a purchase.

We’re also experiencing an explosion in mobile channel use, especially among millenniums, that is sure to make financial institutions envious. Google’s 2013 Holiday Shopping Intentions Study revealed that 88 percent of all millennial smartphone owners said they would use their devices for holiday shopping and would be making more online purchases over their phones. One-in-three millennial smartphone owners planned to make a holiday purchase on their phone, up 28 percent year-over-year .

What lessons do these retail realities have for banks and their approach to the customer experience? The implications are profound and can be transformative for banks that are prepared for change.

Have it your way is the expectation, not the exception

Multiple channels are no longer an option – they are a necessity. The next wave, and one in which many retail organizations excel, is the omni-channel experience in which customers can move seamlessly and at will between channels – even simultaneously leveraging multiple channels to optimize their experience. While most banks have adopted a multi-channel strategy, few deliver the seamless experience that customers have come to expect in the retail sector. Old culprits continue to haunt many institutions – the inability to gain a single and comprehensive view of the customer due to stove-piped legacy environments remains atop the list. Banks that master the omni-channel experience stand to set themselves apart from less agile institutions.

Get to know the customer

The best retail organizations know what consumers want and need – sometimes even before they do. Consumers expect that during their online or mobile experience they will be served up products that will be of interest to them based on current browsing or past purchases. For example, when buying a camera online, one expects to see options for accessories, such as cases or additional lenses. In addition, many e-commerce sites are incredibly adept at displaying recently browsed items when a customer returns to a site, ensuring experience continuity and improving marketing precision. Similarly, brick and mortar stores can deliver highly personalized offers at point of sale and via e-mail or mobile marketing to drive immediate and future purchases.

Financial institutions are also focused on getting to know their customers and delivering highly personalized experiences. And, they would seem to be ideally suited to deliver this personalization due to the volume and diversity of customer and transactional data that they capture across their enterprises. External sources, such as social media channels hold the opportunity to capture additional rich data, such as information on life events that might drive financial purchases – including relocation, marriages, the arrival of children, and a new job. The ability to manage and analyze big data – internal and external – is essential to moving to a new level of customer intimacy. That said, many financial services institutions today are struggling in this area. In an Oracle-sponsored study, “From Overload to Impact: An Industry Scorecard on Big Data Business Challenges,” 25 percent of financial services executives gave their organization a “D” or “F” in preparedness to manage the data deluge. Fifty-six percent gave their organization a “C” or below. Only three percent of executives gave their organization an “A” in preparedness.

Make it Easy:

Consumers are busy – pulled between a growing number of competing family, career, and personal interests and commitments. They want to transact quickly and easily. One can argue that this is especially true when it comes to purchasing financial services and products – an activity that is not generally considered highly enjoyable for most individuals. Focusing on ways to make it easier for customers to get all the information they need about a product in one place (whether in a branch, on the phone, or via a mobile device) and in simple-to-understand terms, and then quickly transact, can go a long way toward customer receptivity and loyalty. The ability to effectively compare products and their costs as well as identify products best suited to a specific individual is also essential. Further, customers welcome the flexibility to begin an application or account process in one place and finish it via another channel, and are increasingly eager to access end-to-end financial services – from account opening to closure – via online and mobile channels. To make this vision a reality, financial services organizations require flexible, scalable, and extensible modern platforms and applications that support unprecedented agility. As financial institutions work to not only meet, but exceed changing customer expectations, they seek new models and strategies. The retail industry – and its leading-edge approach to customer experience – can provide important insight. Fundamental to the success of any customer experience initiative is a strong organizational commitment, willingness to think creatively and put the customer at the center of the enterprise, and an agile and robust supporting architecture that supports flawless execution.

Sonny Singh is Senior Vice President and General Manager, Financial Services Global Business Unit at Oracle.

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