By Arun Fernandes
The last few quarters have seen the BFSI sector steadily warming up in actually understanding the impact of digital transformation. So much so that many legacy banks in India have invested resources and effort into not only offering a digital consumer experience but also into communicating with customers, employees and stakeholders digitally. Major BFSI players have realised the importance of the digital universe in garnering leads and the way they communicate is portraying a shift towards digital media. In fact, as per the recent Dentsu Digital Report 2021, the biggest spenders on digital media are banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector at 57 per cent followed by consumer durables at 45 per cent, telecommunications at 40 per cent and e-commerce at 39 per cent.
According to the report, the Indian advertising industry is expected to grow 10.8 per cent to reach Rs 62,577 crore by the end of this year, mainly helped by a rapid growth in digital advertising. While the digital advertising industry had witnessed a 15.3 per cent growth in 2020 despite the pandemic to Rs 15,782 crore from Rs 13,683 crore by 2019, this space is expected to reach Rs 23,673 crore by 2022. Covid saw much more acceleration of digital transformation by the BFSI sector and this has enabled them to revisit their operating models. And with the customer base shifting towards digital platforms, the BFSI sector had to also shift focus towards where the ecosystem lied. The very same medium though, threw in major challenges at the brands, who were used to do things in a particular manner.
The nature of the medium is fleeting with consumers being bombarded with interesting content left, right and center. In a highly regulated format that BFSI sector has to operate in, it therefore becomes challenging to communicate with its customers and potential customers in attracting and keeping them engaged. At the forefront is building communications and conversations that speak to the attitudes and trends of online consumers. Having said, digital also allows the BFSI brands to have a direct connect with the customers in a controlled and transparent manner, which the traditional marketing models limits. Given the transformative shift in consumer behavior especially because of Covid, where the physical branch visits decreased (to almost none by the millennials), resulting into spikes in online transactions, peer-to-peer payments and online customer service; there are many innovations that Indian BFSI brands had to make in converging physical and digital sales.
BFSI brands in the most recent days, have experimented with creative and innovative ads through interesting narratives and good story-telling. The financial brands are seeing the value of using videos or their marketing and communications – breaking relevant into easily palatable and digestible sound bites, not having customers pour over myriad leaves of information (also the fine print), to understand the technical aspects of the products/services they are purchasing. The toughest task for the BFSI brands is to make a seemingly low involvement area into an attractive one for customers with perhaps even a very lesser window time-frame to influence a decision. Today, banks and insurance companies are leveraging ardent social media influencers to communicate to customers about their offerings like credit card offers, life insurance policies or home loans.
BFSI advertising works best when there is a two-way communication, currently restricted in television and print. Unlike the FMCG brands, where they can mass target, financial brands have to clearly focus on individual needs. Digital platforms empowers them to do so. Plus the focused targeting and localised approach that it can cater to. In-cinema advertising on the other hand, though, could give a localised approach with finer engagement but then again there is no two-way communications there along with no proper measurement matrix provided with regards to impact. Having said, the pandemic has almost stopped in-cinema. Print, a powerful medium and much used by the BFSI sector, is losing its sheen among the sector as the cost per ad is very high, forcing the industry to move towards cost-effective mediums such as OOH (Out-Of-Home), digital and BTL (Below-The-Line).
Interestingly, ad network transaction method captured 41% share of BFSI ad insertions on digital. Following this was programmatic/ad network and direct method which accounted for 25% share, each. According to a report of last financial year, BFSI brands spent 39% of its digital media spends on paid search, followed by 26% on display and 24% on social media. It is this sector in India that is leveraging advanced technologies in customer acquisition ensuring better outcomes for businesses. The BFSI segment is becoming extremely complex with the rise of mobile and open banking, rise in demand for real-time customer interaction, personalised services and new regulations. Digital marketing and communications becomes thereby crucial to financial brands in keeping up the pace.
The author is CEO, Hotstuff Media Group