Digital self-service solutions have always been an important goal for consumer services but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more crucial to offer customers online self-service options. Along with this comes a requirement for personalisation and content tailored to each individual. If you work in a large, traditional Financial Services organization, it can be daunting to contend with disparate data sources and regulatory frameworks while trying to deliver personalised experiences for customers. Jacqueline Matta, Director of Strategy & Global Financial Services for Movable Ink gave us some of her insights into the challenges involved in implementing personalisation and segmentation in FinServ.
Jacqueline Mattia | Interview
Jacqueline came to Movable Ink from Citi’s Global Consumer Bank, where as SVP of Analytics and Information Management, she led a team that oversaw Citi’s customer data platforms and martech solutions. Prior to Citi, Jacqueline was an Account Director with Cheetah Digital/Experian Marketing Services, where she partnered with financial institutions to develop the strategy and execution of their email marketing programs.
Jacqueline has spent her career working with, and for, financial services organizations. She understands the complexities of the organizations and how email can help achieve senior-level goals. In 2019, she joined Movable Ink as Associate Director on the Strategy team focusing on clients within Financial Services.
Can you tell us a little more about your career to date?
I’ve been involved in martech for the bulk of my career—my foray into the field began while I was working for Cheetah Digital (before it became Experian Marketing). I started out in their Client Services group and then moved over to become an Account Director in the Customer Success team.
This was where I first learned the process of developing and deploying email. I saw first-hand how you can connect different data sources together to create really memorable experiences and I learned how the best FinServ companies leverage their tech stack to do it. I also learned about the bottlenecks that many FinServ face in their marketing execution processes and the challenges they face when trying to improve personalisation. This was an incredibly valuable experience for me—I was able to glean some brilliant insights from a lot of seasoned marketing professionals.
I became fluent with the mechanics of email marketing and felt I had a valuable perspective on how companies could use data and tech to improve the customer experience, so I moved into a more strategic role where I worked primarily with banks and financial institutions. After this, I joined Citi as an SVP to work first hand on their marketing data and martech.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve always loved Movable Ink—so when the opportunity arose to join their Client Strategy team, I leapt at the chance. I used to recommend Movable Ink frequently as a partner solution to my clients because I saw how impactful it could be, so I’ve known about how great the company and software is for years now.
Can you tell me more about Movable Ink?
Movable Ink is a content layer that sits above your email service provider and mobile messaging platform. It allows you to ingest data from any source (your CRM, your loyalty platform, contextual data, etc.), and marry this with creative sources and files, such as design files, web content or anything sitting on third parties, like social media platforms.
This allows you to auto-generate personalised emails that are relevant to individual customers. It takes into account a variety of factors, including their real-time location, the weather, time, device, and their previous behaviour, to deliver personalised, entirely unique creative (including hero images, product imagery, offers, and CTAs). All of the content is generated at the exact moment that a customer opens the email or engages with the mobile message, which is a totally different approach to content that is usually generated before the message is even deployed. This last piece is critical in today’s environment where customers expect to see up to the moment information. We currently have over 700 global customers. The company is headquartered in New York, but we have operations around the world.
In your opinion, what does a great personalised experience look like in FinServ?
It actually helps to first think about what isn’t true personalisation: static content that is one-size-fits-all, or based on broad segmentation and can’t adapt to real-time behavior or business decisions. Many companies have historically believed that segmented marketing was personalised marketing. Sure, segmentation works better than a generic approach, but it’s still a long way from being truly personalised content — segmentation alone won’t hold up in the future.
People are now used to the level of personalisation that Big Tech is able to provide. We’re so accustomed to Amazon knowing our exact buying habits and Spotify providing personalised playlists that anything less just doesn’t hit the mark. Amazon and Spotify don’t rely primarily on segmentation—they create genuine 1:1 experiences.
There are tons of ways in which you can segment customers: geography, financial behavior, digital savviness, etc. But living in the same area doesn’t mean that two people have the same preferences—so why would you use this narrow segment to guide how you communicate with your customers?
Successful personalisation in financial services marketing can help anticipate and address a person’s financial need before they may even realize it themselves, it can create more transparency and demystify the complexity that is often a barrier to financial literacy, it can help people create better financial habits and, overall, create more trust and value between the customer and the institution.
What is your approach to building these types of personalised experiences?
- Customer experience discovery: What’s the blue-sky vision? In an ideal world, what would your customer experience look like? Don’t start thinking about the how (the nitty-gritty details, the data, and the technology) before you have a clear picture of the goal in mind. Consider the customer journey pain points that you might want to address and most importantly, figure out what your customers want from you. The idea has to start with a strong understanding of the customer’s needs.
- Industry benchmarking and research: What’s currently out there in the market? What are your competitors doing and what are the larger macro-trends in the industry? You want to create strategies that specifically help your customers, but you also want to maintain a competitive edge.
- Break it down into a crawl, walk, and run plan: The most common roadblock in launching a new strategy that I’ve seen with FinServ is data readiness. FinServ have rich data but it’s often trapped in legacy systems, or is latent as a result of these older systems and bandwidth due to the cumbersome, highly regulated nature of their marketing execution processes. It’s critical to employ a crawl, walk, run approach to solve these. Start by taking inventory of what data is available and using what’s available to infuse simple, but meaningful personalisation elements into campaigns. Then once you’ve gauged the efficacy of this, you can look to start building new data sources and increasing the complexity of personalisation.
- Establish a test plan early on: You would be surprised how many companies deploy new strategies or technology and don’t have a clear plan to measure the impact of it. It’s key to develop a testing plan that not only measures email or mobile engagement metrics such as click rate, but also measures downstream metrics such as conversions, impact to LTV, spend, transactions and more. It’s best to establish test and control populations so you have a clean read of results, but in the absence of that you can look at performance against previous campaign results or benchmarks.
- Build a compelling, data-driven business case: If you’re going to get internal approval, you need to have a persuasive business case. Identify what the main goal is, what resources (human, financial, and technological) you need to get there, and what the impact will be on your customers and the wider business as a whole. Be mindful to not make the business case too narrow or myopic and consider the business impact beyond click rate or conversions – there could be positive impacts to workflow efficiency, cost and resource reduction, risk mitigation, competitive advantage, customer insights and learnings, and more, that you don’t want to omit from the business case.
- Educate and gain buy-in: Transforming your personalisation efforts is a massive project that usually requires support from both leadership and practitioners across many teams including marketing, tech, data, creative, legal and compliance. Stakeholders will likely have varying levels of familiarity with martech so you’ll need to create simple ways to educate them on the technology and the personalisation strategy. A creative way to bridge this gap is to create short form videos or webinars that can be sent ahead of cross-functional meetings to educate stakeholders and get them excited about the project.
We’ve also seen the most success in gaining cross-functional buy-in when teams beyond the core marketing team feel like they are part of the mission and success of the initiative. A practical way to foster this sense of partnership is to acknowledge the work of everyone – compliance, tech, even procurement – during town halls, leadership meetings or whenever the project is being presented.
- Scale: You need to think about how you’ll repurpose your entire suite of communications. For instance, if you’re looking at credit cards or bank accounts, you should build a personalised experience that can be directly reskinned and applied across all the credit cards in your portfolio. You also want to ensure that the customisations you build are as reusable as possible across different types of campaigns and use-cases. Establish this early on, and you’ll save yourself a ton of hassle further down the line.
How do you think financial marketing will change in the next 5 years?
First, I think that digital self-service is only going to become more sophisticated and prevalent. 2020 was a massive year for digital self-service—with so many branches closed around the world, financial institutions were forced into prioritising digital channels to help their customers handle their finances. Don’t expect this trend to go away any time soon. The vast majority of consumers, especially young people, greatly prefer self-service than having to ring up a call centre or go into a branch.
Second, we’ll see agile messaging really take off in the next 5 years or so. The first few weeks of the pandemic were chaotic for FinServ marketers—everybody was frantically rushing around manually updating banners, pausing campaigns, and changing their messaging. Marketing still has a long way to go until they’re able to seamlessly keep up with changes in real time. It can take some financial institutions months before they approve email campaigns and get them out. In today’s world, this sort of timeline just doesn’t work.
Lastly, I think that consumers are increasingly interested in receiving helpful recommendations and insights on how to improve their financial wellness. Personal finances are so confusing that people need helpful, expert advice—and if you can provide it, you instantly become so much more valuable than simply being a credit card company.
What is the role of email in all of this?
Email still has a massive role to play in FinServ marketing. Email, when done well, gives you a great way to communicate with customers on an individual level. It allows you to maintain a personal dialogue with customers based on their unique experiences and preferences. Agile messaging allows you to generate intelligent creative automatically and in real-time, removing the production bottleneck that has historically prevented marketers from generating personalised images at scale. There’s a huge opportunity here and it’s a very exciting time to be part of this industry as it changes and evolves.