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The Impact of Research in Financial Services Marketing: A Bank Marketer Perspective

Marla Pieton, Sr. Director, Influencer Marketing and Research

Alkami

Market research is a reliable tool that can be the foundation for strategic success in the financial services industry. By leveraging research in financial services marketing, banks and credit union leaders can make informed decisions, understand and meet account holder needs, stay competitive, innovate, manage risks, and operate efficiently. Ultimately, the insights gained from research reveal intel for financial institutions so they can foster loyalty and relationships not only with account holders, but within their communities.

In financial institutions or fintech, market research is predominantly the responsibility of the marketing department, where it is planned from budget to execution. The marketing department is uniquely positioned to execute these projects because of the direct correlation with consumer engagement, pipeline acquisition and pricing strategies. While other departments may provide input on the overall content or goal, research starts with a topic or theme, and then a survey or instrument is built of questions that the team wants answered by the sample group of respondents – this ensures the sought after information surfaces after data analysis is conducted. Research as part of financial services marketing can be conducted for a variety of reasons and many different ways, but the process most often sits with the marketing team for structure and cohesiveness among the bank or credit union’s other business strategies.

 

Understanding Key Research Methods in Financial Services Marketing

The methodology of the research being conducted is one of the most important aspects of a financial services marketing project, and will determine the type of information received back for analysis. Financial institutions can conduct research internally through their own analytics and account holder feedback mechanisms or commission external research through specialized firms. Internal research allows for a deep dive into existing customer or member data and direct feedback, while external research can provide broader market insights and unbiased perspectives. Both approaches are valuable and can complement each other to provide a comprehensive understanding of the market.

In the financial services industry, effective marketing relies on accurate and comprehensive research. Here are four key methods that banks and credit unions can use to gather insights and perceptions:

 

1. Surveys

Surveys are a direct way to gather information from consumers and businesses. They can be conducted through various channels, such as email, online forms, or phone calls. Surveys are valuable for collecting quantitative data and understanding account holder preferences, satisfaction levels, and behavior patterns.

Advantages:

    • Direct feedback from account holders.
    • Customizable to address specific questions.
    • Relatively easy and cost-effective to administer.

Example: A bank or credit union might survey its account holders to assess satisfaction with a new digital banking solution, asking questions about usability, features, and overall experience.

 

2. Custom Research

Custom research involves tailored studies designed to meet the specific needs of the bank or credit union. This type of research can include focus groups, in-depth interviews, and bespoke surveys, offering detailed insights into particular issues or account holder segments. 

Advantages:

    • Highly specific and relevant to the bank or credit union’s unique needs.
    • In-depth insights into particular topics or audience segments.
    • Flexible and adaptable to changing requirements.
    • The survey instrument and questionnaire can be built specifically for the project

Example: A financial institution may commission custom research to understand the financial habits of millennials and develop targeted products and marketing strategies for this demographic.

 

3. Vendor Research

Vendor research is conducted by third-party companies that specialize in market research. These vendors provide comprehensive reports on industry trends, customer or member behavior, and competitive analysis. Banks and credit unions can purchase these reports to gain a broader understanding of the market. There are rare cases where a vendor puts the research out to the open market for download.

Advantages:

    • Access to extensive data and expertise.
    • Reports are often based on large-scale studies.
    • Saves time and resources compared to conducting in-house research.
    • Can free up the budget compared to a custom research project.

Example: A financial institution might buy a vendor report on the latest trends in digital banking solutions to inform its strategy for developing new online services.

 

4. Analysts/Consultant Research

Analysts and consultants provide expert insights and recommendations based on their extensive industry knowledge and experience. Most often, analysts have a very narrowly focused area of expertise and are immersed in that segment of financial services. Their research often includes market forecasts, competitive analysis, trends and strategic advice that a financial institution can access. 

Advantages:

    • Banks and credit unions can use this research to validate or supplement their strategic plans.
    • Expert analysis and strategic recommendations.
    • Insight into industry trends and future projections.
    • Can offer objective, third-party perspectives.

Example: A bank or credit union might engage a financial services consultant to analyze the impact of emerging technologies on its operations and recommend strategies for digital transformation.

 

Each of these research methods offers unique benefits and can be used in combination to provide a comprehensive understanding of the market. By leveraging any of these types of methodology, or using multiple to complement each other, financial institutions can make informed decisions that enhance their marketing strategies, improve  satisfaction, and stay competitive in the financial services industry.

 

Research Fuels Intelligence and Drives Impact on Operations and Digital Banking Solutions

Research is a critical driver of intelligence for financial services leaders. By leveraging comprehensive data analysis and market insights, leaders can make informed decisions that enhance operational efficiency, lead innovation, and validate investment decisions that will improve account holder experiences. Effective research impacts all areas of the business, from risk management and regulatory compliance to product development and strategic planning. Committing to and executing a data-driven approach not only helps organizations stay competitive but also ensures they can anticipate and adapt to emerging trends, ultimately leading to sustainable growth and success. Below are multiple ways that research can have a positive impact in a bank or credit union:

  • Understand Consumer Needs to Enhance the User Experience – The marketing department is tasked with understanding and addressing account holder needs and preferences. Research provides the data necessary to gain insights into behaviors, pain points, and expectations.

The Impact:

    • Information gained can be used as the foundation to build a marketing strategy. 
    • Increased marketing efficiency and effectiveness, leading to higher engagement and conversion rates.
    • The marketing team uses this information to tailor products, services, and campaigns to better meet needs, enhancing  satisfaction and loyalty.
    • This proactive approach can lead to the development of innovative marketing campaigns and product offerings that capture market share.
    • By utilizing user testing, feedback forms, and analytics, financial institutions can refine their digital banking solutions and invest in the most relevant technology. This leads to higher retention rates and positive word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Get a Pulse on Brand and Market Perception – Research provides a snapshot of how the brand is perceived in the market. It provides insights into brand awareness, reputation, and competitive positioning.

The Impact:

    • Brand awareness studies and sentiment analysis measure Share of Voice, giving marketers the level of perception compared to competitors. This information is crucial for developing brand strategies that strengthen the bank or credit union’s market position and differentiate it in the market. 
    • The perception of the market undoubtedly can be the catalyst for strategic planning, and where a financial institution needs to dedicate focus and resources from not only a product perspective, but employee retention and training.
    • This intel can drive and support product development and technology investment decisions.
  • Inform Content Creation and Measure Message Effectiveness – Content is a significant aspect of modern marketing strategies and research helps determine what type of content resonates with the target audience, which topics are most relevant, and the preferred channels for content consumption. Additionally, one of the critical roles of the marketing department is to assess the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Sometimes other than sales or product adoption, the only other way to measure effectiveness of campaign messaging is to ask directly. Research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and interviews provide valuable feedback on campaign performance.

The Impact:

    • By understanding consumer preferences, and interests, bank and credit union marketers can create a strategy for relevant and engaging content that drives traffic, builds trust, and fosters loyalty.
    • Knowing how the market is engaging with certain campaigns then allows the marketing team to make adjustments and optimize future campaigns so they are more individualized and impactful to deliver better results.
    • Campaign impact can in turn deliver return-on-investment (ROI) results, enabling financial institution marketers the holistic view on revenue growth. 
  • Identify Targets and Trends – The right research can identify target demographics, understand market trends, behaviors and analyze competitor activities. Marketers can use this data to possibly predict trends for the future, staying ahead of consumer demands.

The Impact:

    • Research is the backbone of any solid marketing strategy. By analyzing market trends, account holder behavior, and competitive landscapes, financial institutions can develop a plan of tactics that resonate with their target audience.
    • By conducting research, the marketing department can craft data-driven strategies that are more likely to resonate with the target audience and achieve business objectives.
    • Can identify new market opportunities and emerging trends. By staying ahead of industry changes, bank or credit union leaders can help the financial institution capitalize on new opportunities before competitors do.
  • Identify Product Gaps – While product development teams also conduct research, the marketing department plays a crucial role in identifying consumer needs as it relates to financial accounts and market gaps that inform product innovation.

The Impact:

    • The marketing team’s research ensures that new products and services align with consumer demands and market opportunities, increasing their chances of success. This tactic goes hand-in-hand with brand and market perception.
    • Conducting qualitative research such as interviews or focus groups, direct consumer feedback can design products and services that meet the specific needs of their clients.
    • Research can also help identify the areas where account holders need the most guidance and what educational resources are most effective. By leveraging this data, banks and credit unions can develop programs and content that empower account holders to make informed financial decisions, thereby enhancing their overall financial health. 

 

Be a Data-Informed Digital Banker

For financial services marketers, leveraging research is key to developing effective personalized marketing strategies, a roadmap for innovative products, and fueling the decisions for technology investments. All of these tactics ultimately impact the account holder experience. By understanding the power of research on various aspects of marketing and business operations, financial institutions can make data-informed decisions that drive growth and overall satisfaction. Whether conducted internally or externally, research is an invaluable tool that helps financial institutions stay competitive in a fluid market with changing dynamics and economic influences.

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Alkami Technology Digital Banking Solutions
Alkami Technology, Inc. is a leading cloud-based digital banking solutions provider for financial institutions in the United States that enables clients to grow confidently, adapt quickly and build thriving digital communities.
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