How COVID-19 is shaping financial services marketing

In our recent Croud Academy Live session, alongside Microsoft, we explored how COVID-19 has impacted financial services marketing and the best ways to respond. Below is a summary of the session.

The line-up

Phil Jones, Microsoft Advertising’s Analytical Lead in Finance and Insurance, kicked off the session with a look at evolving consumer behaviours across the financial services sector. Touching on behavioural shifts, hypothesis testing and looking at future insights, he explored what marketers might expect from a post-COVID world.

Phil was joined by Croud’s Head of Client Strategy, Chris McIntyre, and PPC Strategic Director, Martin Reed, who both offered their perspectives on the opportunities available to marketers within the financial services sector in 2020 – particularly following the coronavirus pandemic.

Uncovering the market

By exploring Microsoft data, Phil highlighted how consumer behaviours have shifted when it comes to mobile versus desktop searches throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Looking specifically at impression and click share, it was apparent that consumers are increasingly carrying out finance and insurance searches on mobile, with the delta between impressions on desktop and mobile decreasing throughout lockdown. However, despite this, consumers are continuing to complete their purchase funnel on desktop in the majority of cases – which may be due to the often sensitive nature of purchases within the financial services sector.

In addition, searches including the word ‘best’ have surged, suggesting that consumers are increasingly looking to get value for money by getting the best purchase possible for their budget. Advertisers should, therefore, think carefully about their messaging, in order to tap into these audiences.

Microsoft’s data also highlighted the ‘pandemic pets’ boom during lockdown. With more people buying and adopting pets, search interest in pet insurance has unsurprisingly sky-rocketed – increasing by 94% on 27th March, just four days after lockdown started in the UK. And whilst this was good news for pet insurance suppliers, there could also be a cross-sell opportunity for other services, such as car insurance, as needs and lifestyles shift with the addition of pets.

As lockdown starts to ease in the UK, Phil emphasised the importance of scenario planning, in order to prepare for the future. With the current climate being so unpredictable, businesses really need to prepare for all situations, whether that is a gradual return to ‘normal’, a second wave, or a deep recession resulting from the pandemic.

The impact on seasonality

The topic of seasonality was one that was discussed in-depth during the session, particularly when looking a how seasonality may be affected by COVID-19 and forecasting for the rest of the year.

Croud’s PPC Strategic Director, Martin Reed, explained that seasonality is likely to be impacted by announcements as lockdown continues to be eased in the UK. He highlighted that marketers would need to be vigilant on the impact of lockdown easing; one main factor being that competition will naturally increase as more businesses begin to open – thereby having an instant impact on costs-per-click. For this reason, it’s imperative for marketers to be continually optimising their paid search campaigns, in order to deliver the best return on investment.

In addition to this is, whilst most businesses will naturally want to make up ground very quickly, marketers will need to think about the bigger picture in order to provide a seamless end-to-end consumer journey. For instance, with many business employees currently still on furlough, it’s important to identify whether the increased demand that may arise from newly-launched campaigns can be supported by other areas of the business too.

Additionally, Phil emphasised that shifting consumer behaviours provide marketers with the opportunity to get creative with their messaging and targeting. By reviewing ad copy and website copy to ensure it reflected the most up-to-date information and messaging, you can positively influence the purchase funnel.

Building consumer trust

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to react fast, and the way that brands have responded will have a huge impact on how consumers view them. For example, travel insurance businesses that have taken longer to communicate with their customers may have a strained relationship with these consumers moving forward. This highlights a strong need for businesses, specifically within the financial services industry, to be transparent about what is possible and what they are doing.

Joining up on-and offline

With many businesses beginning to open up in the UK, ensuring your in-person and online experiences are aligned is more important than ever. To that end, Martin suggested starting small and building momentum. By kickstarting your marketing activity across a select few branch locations to begin with, for instance, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to gain feedback that you can build upon to improve your subsequent campaign roll-outs. Martin highlighted that your campaigns needn’t be perfect, but as long as ‘it’s better than what you were doing yesterday’, you should be able to see increasing results.

If you have any questions for our speakers, or you would like to find out more about how to optimise your financial services marketing campaigns for the current climate, please get in touch. You can view a recording of the session online here, and we hope to see you at our next Croud Academy Live session!

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