International Business Strategies

Financial Services: Customers and Engagement Await in New Markets

Digital marketing has come a long way for banks and other financial organizations.

Chris Hutchins's avatar
Chris Hutchins

April 07, 2016


If you’ve worked in the financial services sector for the past decade, you know how reluctant the industry has been to embrace digital marketing—to say nothing of expanding into global online markets.

It’s no secret why: banks, credit card companies, insurance providers and other organizations must obey hundreds of regulations, many of which dictate how they’re permitted to communicate with prospects and customers.

(Indeed, it famously took one credit card company a full year of crafting a social media strategy, and almost as much time persuading internal personnel, before its marketing team could transmit a single tweet!)

But times are changing. Lately, the financial services industry has seen diminishing returns in pricey traditional ad channels, such as TV and print. Digital marketing has become more efficient and likely to deliver ROI, nearly 70% of respondents in a 2013 industry survey said.

Marketing spends have pivoted accordingly. Next year, the industry’s global digital ad spend is projected to reach $168.4 billion, up from $95.7 billion in 2013. Digital will represent nearly 30% of all advertising expenditures.

With the industry now adopting efficient and affordable digital outreach tactics (and winning new customers), there’s no better time to expand the scope of the sector’s marketing to new domestic and—when appropriate—international markets.

MotionPoint specializes in helping banks, credit unions, insurance providers and other companies engage new customers in their preferred languages, online. We’ve found that with a savvy combination of website translation, localized Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), and insights into localized Pay Per Click (PPC) and social media campaigns, financial services companies can win big in untapped markets.

New Markets, New Positioning

Before any financial services company expands into a new market, experts recommend examining the competitors in those regions, and finding a strategic, differentiating position. As BenefitGuard CEO Matt Bradley recently told a Forbes contributor, “When we examined the competitive landscape, we found several large areas of opportunity. We then designed our services in such a way to solve the problems that we saw in the industry. Then we started to broadcast our message in ways that the rest of the industry had not yet considered.” Clive Gosling, a marketing expert at global information services company Experian, agrees: “Every brand wants to expand into new and previously untapped markets,” he recently wrote. “Brands can make inroads into new segments by taking a closer look at market sizing and how they compare to others in the industry. This way brands can spot gaps and anticipate customer needs before competitors.”

Speak the Language, Authentically

Companies can no longer expect that prospects or customers are willing to read and transact on sites exclusively published in English. In fact, about 60% of global customers boycott English-language websites altogether, even when they’re proficient in the language.

As one of our experts recently said, companies must stop thinking internationally, and start thinking transnationally.

Transnational thinking requires companies to see new markets as a combination of different cultures, ideas and desires that deserve a committed and concerted approach to customer engagement. This requires excellent, and resonant, brand-faithful website translations.

A few years ago, we helped one major Canadian bank translate its primary-market English site into Canadian French, to serve a secondary market. Thanks in great part to authentic, meticulous translations, the French-Canadian site has grown by more than 60% each year since its launch. Clearly, millions of French-speaking Canadians prefer to transact in their language.

Targeting Chinese-speaking Canadians has paid off well for another major North American bank. This company translated its English site into Chinese, to cater to the country’s growing, and increasingly affluent, Chinese population.

Chinese Canadians rarely assume that a mainstream Canadian website will be in their preferred language. However, we’ve observed that when these customers visit a localized site, engagement increases dramatically. They also come back. For our North American bank’s Chinese website, returning visitors’ page-per-visit stats increased by nearly 70%. Some conversion rates among these customers rose by 130%, too.

In its second year, this bank’s Chinese site saw a nearly 40% increase in sessions.

Catering to Your New Customers’ Unique Needs

Your company’s knowledge of a new market should transcend language, however. Consider Experian marketer Gosling’s insights: “(F)inancial brands should ensure they have a detailed understanding of the individuals within each (customer) group, so that they can connect at a granular level…. An understanding of characteristics, such as preferences and behavior, will facilitate the building of relationships with specific groups.”

This cultural fluency is critical, if you want to successfully present your brand and services to new markets. We recently spoke with Eric Watson, a Global Online Strategist with our Global Growth team, about this topic.

“Content is king, and optimizing your content is what will set your site apart from competitors,” Eric explains. “We’ve seen clients benefit in domestic and global markets from smart applications of A/B testing and CRO optimization. Start by examining on-site searches, and your localized site’s most popular content. These are probably cues to feature this content more prominently on your translated sites.”

We’ve also found great success—particularly when our clients cater to Spanish-speaking U.S. Hispanics and Chinese-speaking Canadians—that sharing knowledge on how local banking systems work can boost engagement and conversions.

“The safety and reliability of banking systems in the U.S. and Canada is taken for granted by most natives,” Eric says, “but recent immigrants may hail from countries where the freezing of funds is a real possibility, due to governmental control of banks. Covering these topics in an informal ‘guide’ on your localized website can educate and better capture these users.”

In-Language PPC Works

Paid in-language search campaigns are another way to further fully reach out to these new potential customers, Eric says.

“We’ve seen a notable amount of incoming traffic to the localized sites we operate coming from long-tail keywords that suggest users are in the ‘information gathering’ stage of the customer lifecycle,” he says.

This naturally suggests that many of these global consumers are “comparison shopping” across different financial services sites. They’re wise to do so. According to recent FDIC research, nearly half of all U.S. Latino households are “unbanked or “under-banked.” Reaching out to these customers, who are potentially uneasy or unaware of available services, is a critical challenge—and a growth opportunity.

Targeting these consumers with paid long-tail keywords can also differentiate your brand from its competitors. “In addition to showing a genuine commitment to the market by offering a localized site, this could really help your brand stand out,” Eric observes.

We’ve certainly great success in localized PPC campaigns targeting Chinese Canadians. One financial services company that invested in in-language PPC campaigns saw 70% swells in site traffic. This led to higher engagement and conversion rates.

Incentivize Participation via Social

Once your company engages these new customers and understands them, it’s relatively easy to provide resonant, engaging incentives to win their business.

Simple strategies—such as asking customers to evangelize your brand in their regional social channels, in exchange for discounts or other perks—can go a long way to increase brand awareness in new markets. It also increases conversions.

The best part? You won’t have to reinvent the wheel to generate successful results. This tactic is something your company probably already uses in its primary English-speaking market.

A localized approach that supports regional social networks such as VK (for Russia), Sina Weibo (for China), LINE (for Japan) and others will lead to more engagement on-site, and beyond.

Chris Hutchins's avatar
Chris Hutchins

April 07, 2016


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