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Accelerating growth: How banks can fast track customer personalization

Attacking legacy strategy, design and process roadblocks can create a foundation for stronger customer connections and increased wallet share.

In brief

  • Delivering data-driven personalized value propositions that can anticipate and meet customer needs, seamlessly and across channels, has become critical to growth for retail banks.
  • Incumbent banks have the trust and data to pursue personalization but are often hindered by product-centric business models, poor organizational support and process inefficiencies.
  • Banks that prioritize customer-centric strategies, organizational designs and execution can use personalization to drive customer loyalty and grow wallet share.

75% of consumers are attracted to FinTech value propositions that are easy to use

Orchestrating data-driven, personalized experiences has become a primary pathway to growth for retailers of all types. Using data and emerging technologies to build emotional connections might sound counterintuitive but it is what customers get today in their other digital interactions—and what they increasingly expect from financial services providers.

FinTech and Big Tech firms, built for the digital world, are adept at using personalization to attract, grow and retain relationships. They employ customer-centric business models and leverage Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI) across business lines to build rich, 360-degree views of customers’ lifestyles and needs. They then use machine learning (ML) to turn those insights into customized recommendations, content, offers and experiences.

Incumbent banks have the customer trust, data and delivery channels to orchestrate compelling experiences, but are challenged to capitalize on those advantages by legacy strategies, organizational structures and processes. Personalization has evolved rapidly in recent years and managing the massive volumes of data and emerging technologies that define today’s version can be difficult without full organizational buy-in.

Taking an incremental approach to personalization might have worked in the past, but not today. At a time when customers increasingly choose financial relationships based on the quality of the experience, embracing the strategies and capabilities to bridge the gap between what customers expect and what banks can deliver has become a strategic imperative in the battle for trust and growth.

Personalizing to keep pace with customer expectations

Customers today want their banking experiences to be more like their interactions with Amazon or Uber—easy-to-use, engaging and seamless across all channels, physical and digital. They also expect value from their relationships—support on their digital journeys, seamless onboarding and navigation and a sense that the bank can anticipate their needs no matter where they are on their digital journeys.  

The goal of personalization is to create a virtuous circle of trust and engagement by delivering relevant, interactive experiences that feel the same no matter the business line or delivery channel and demonstrate understanding of the customer’s behaviors, lifestyle and situation. Executed well, personalization can significantly boost customer engagement, satisfaction and sales conversion rates, enhance customer lifetime value and even transform customers into brand advocates.

FinTech innovators are aggressively working to perfect this game, curating blogs, educational articles and other content on areas such as retirement planning or investment strategies that align with their data-driven understanding of individual customers’ needs. They enhance the customer experience by leveraging the cloud and APIs to create consistent experiences and orchestrate ecosystem journeys in real-time.

In our 2022 Voice of the Consumer survey, 75% of respondents said they are attracted to FinTech value propositions that are easy to use and available anytime, anywhere. More than 85% said they would recommend a FinTech they use to family and friends. FinTech firms get it.

Many banks struggle with personalization

Forward-looking incumbent banks are investing in the strategies, technologies and processes required to personalize customer experiences and position themselves for growth. For example, JPMorgan Chase announced in January that it will increase technology spending 26% in 2022, with much of it devoted to analytics, AI/ML algorithms and centralized data centers to create and orchestrate personalized experiences.

Most banks, however, have been relative no-shows when it comes to embracing personalization. They recognize that enabling customer journeys and experiences is critical to growth, but many continue to employ legacy business models, with product-centric metrics, P&L statements, organizational structures and processes that make it difficult to orient the enterprise around the customer.

Technology roadblocks are another challenge: In a 2022 Capgemini survey, most global bank marketing executives said outdated legacy systems and banking modules and undeveloped data capabilities make it difficult to pursue personalization efforts.   

How banks can advance personalization efforts

Orchestrating personalized experiences competitively and at scale requires matching the strategies, design and execution prowess of digital natives. Key actions to consider include:

Embrace customer-centricity

Personalization’s purpose is to support customer-centric approaches. Customers circle the bank, each at an orbit that reflects their affinity to the brand. The goal is to pull customers into a tighter orbit by embedding customized products, services and experiences into individual journeys. Done right, customers become brand advocates.

Focus on design

At its core, design is about creating personalized customer journeys that leverage data to grow engagement and anticipate customer needs. It’s also about building the behind-the-scenes service design to power those journeys. For example, if personalization efforts target the customer buying journey, then someone in the bank should have responsibility for buying journeys.

Execute the plan

Sound execution turns personalization strategy and design efforts into reality. Banks can focus on four areas to help drive success:

  • Centralize data. Many banks have created data lakes on the cloud to make data more accessible to personalization teams. We are also seeing a growing number of incumbents investing in centralized data platforms (CDPs) and real-time data pipelines, integrating them with customer-facing channels to speed the process.
  • Standardize content. Banks with enterprise taxonomies find it easier to deliver the right product to a customer at the right time. Developing a centrally managed vocabulary can help institutions deliver the same personalized experience no matter the channel; leveraging automation and digitization can increase content velocity.
  • Advanced decisioning.  Market-leading banks employ cloud and AI/ML-driven decisioning platforms to drive real-time decisions. They leverage adaptive learning models to arbitrate offers and propositions based on individual customers’ behaviors and attitudes, adapt to signs of low engagement without campaign-delaying changes.
  • Activate at scale. Banks that find success with personalization enable business teams to drive multiple experiments and orchestrate experiences across channels at speed and scale. They leverage tools to do treatments across digital channels and real-time data to orchestrate the experiences based on user preferences.

In conclusion

Meeting customer expectations with data-driven personalization has become critical to attracting and retaining customers. Banks that embrace the customer-centric strategies, organizational designs and superior execution to create the emotionally connected experiences can position themselves for long-term relevance and growth.  

How we can help

We help banks navigate the digital landscape with an end-to-end suite of services and capabilities driven by our Connected Marketing engine. 

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      Meet our experts

      Chandramouli Venkatesan

      Vice President – Portfolio Development Lead – Digital Front Office Transformations | Banking and Capital Markets
      Chandra leads the Front Office transformation portfolio (marketing, sales and customer service) and serves banking and capital markets clients. He focuses his work on customer experience and helping financial institutions transform marketing, sales and customer service into more customer-centric organizations with an emphasis on experience strategy design, technology and data. Chandra has deep experience driving CX transformation for retail banks, payments companies, wealth management and capital markets firms.

      Alok Benjwal

      Vice President, Insights and Data, Banking and Payments
      Alok is a seasoned executive with more than 2 decades of experience in customer analytics, digital marketing, marketing and journey optimization, personalization and advanced data science

      Rajesh Iyer

      Global Head of AI and ML, Financial Services
      Rajesh is the Global Head of AI and ML for Financial Services. He has almost three decades of of experience in the Financial Services Industry, working with Fortune/Global 500 clients seeking to maximize the value of investments in their Enterprise Data and AI programs.

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