Voice search, lead nurturing platforms and chatbots are top technologies for credit unions to watch.
Brand awareness and effective marketing are crucial elements of growth for every organization, including credit unions. But staying on top of the latest trends and strategies can be challenging, especially as consumer expectations and technologies evolve at lightning speeds.
As we enter the new year, the industry will certainly see many new marketing approaches emerge, but credit unions should pay particular attention to these three: voice search, lead nurturing programs and chatbots.
1. Voice Search the Death of SEO
Devices like Amazon’s Echo are no longer luxury products—they’ve quickly become mainstream in American homes. Nearly a quarter of all U.S. households own a smart speaker, according to a study from Nielsen, and a report from OC&C Strategy Consultants projects this to rise to over 50% by 2022. Additionally, 65% of people who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home can’t imagine going back to the days before they had a smart speaker, according to GeoMarketing.
With such a sharp and rapid rise in this trend, some are now speculating that voice search will be the death of SEO as we know it. Perhaps not, but it is clear that the way consumers find products or information is changing, with some projections estimating that as much as 50% of searches will happen on voice-activated devices by 2020 (this year!), according to comScore.
As such, all organizations—even credit unions—must optimize websites for voice search. For instance, someone shopping for the best rates on savings accounts may type in a Google search “Best savings accounts in Austin.” However, someone using voice search may say, “Alexa, where can I get a savings account with the highest interest rate in Austin?” Free resources like Answer the Public can help your credit union find relevant keyword ideas.
2. Lead Nurturing Programs Critical
For the better part of the last decade, it seems that every issue of every trade paper or newsletter has some article about how personalization is the key to driving membership. (Okay, we get it!) It may seem like beating a dead horse, but it’s true. The problem is that many financial institutions today are still not leveraging strategies or the technologies to do so.
Understandably, personalized lead nuturing may seem like a massive undertaking, but it is doable with the right tools. Lead nurturing programs through platforms like HubSpot or Marketo can be a real game-changer for driving stronger membership growth and product adoption. These platforms allow credit unions to automate marketing campaigns and send reminders to members about a product they may have missed out on—or the product they never even knew they needed—all based on member searches or requests for information.
Amazon does a great job with lead nurturing. Individuals will shop around, add items to their cart, but then maybe decide not to make the purchase. A few days later, Amazon will email the individual with related items and even display them when users log into their accounts. Credit unions must follow suit.
3. Chatbots Up the Ante on Member Service
High-quality service is critical—and credit unions know how to serve members better than anyone. Still, consumer expectations are evolving, especially as younger, digital-first generations (millennials and now Gen Z) mature into adulthood. Coupled with the rapid evolution of technology, this has resulted in an overall shift in how individuals interact with organizations.
For instance, consumers want answers to their questions fast. Going back to the rise in voice search, we now live in an era where consumers can ask Siri or Alexa anything and receive an answer within a millisecond. This has set the expectation for quick service from all businesses and organizations—credit unions are not exempt.
Failing to deliver on this expectation will become damaging for credit unions. In fact, according to a Harvard Business Review study, organizations are seven times more likely to convert a lead if they respond within an hour. After 24 hours, re-engaging is nearly impossible. This becomes problematic when an inquiry is sent during non-operating hours.
But there is a potential solution to this dilemma: chatbots. With artificial intelligence and chatbots, credit unions can address common questions about products or even guide members through processes like changing their password. Some inquiries will still require human intervention, obviously, but chatbots and automation can deliver simple responses to routine questions, helping to meet consumers expectations and keeping existing and potential members engaged 24/7.
Every year, we see numerous marketing strategies and ideas tested across industries by organizations of all kinds. Some work; others don’t. But the end goal is the same for each approach—enhance the interaction and engage with prospective buyers of services and products. Credit unions have historically done well at this, beating out the competition because of their reputation for exceptional service. However, expectations evolve, prompting a need for new marketing methods, including voice search, lead nurturing programs and chatbots. Organizations that leverage these will certainly be at an advantage.
Mary York is a member of the Forbes Communications Council and executive vice president at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter @wmagency, Facebook, LinkedIn or its blog.