In the Financial Services category, 2011 will be remembered as a year of volatile swings. The stock market has seen massive daily swings, and has been teetering on a global crisis.
What does all this, as well as the continued evolution of search, mean for search engine marketers in 2012? There are four key trends that will drive the market next year.
1. Focus on Quality vs. Quantity
As market forces, such as the housing market, unemployment, and the credit crunch continue, marketing has had to stop and think about the consumers they are attracting. Online applications have been a great way for consumers to stay anonymous, and not face an in-person rejection for credit.
Brands in 2012 will look for ways to not only watch their cost per application, but also look for profitable, high quality customers who they can cross-sell additional products. This will be done by:
• Customized experiences based on deeper keyword research into descriptive tail terms. For example, searches for “good credit loan” have grown every year since 2004, and are forecast to reach a new peak this year; yet only 1 in 10 paid search ads addressed credit in their ad copy. • Incorporate analytics beyond the initial completed application. To identify the right consumers, brands will look to tie customer activity data back to a keyword, campaign level. For example, consumers who searched for “checking account” have a conversion rate of X, and the number of products they hold is Y, and their average lifetime value is Z.
2. Improvement in Running Integrated Digital Campaigns
Without question, search is becoming more fragmented across devices, apps, websites, and social. However, with all the fragmentation consumers have more choices than ever, and brands have more places to be found in order to be successful.
Google’s Zero Moment of Truth study indicates that on average for banking products consumers are using 10.8 sources of information prior to making a purchase, and that number is 11.7 sources for insurance. Our own financial services clients have seen a 9 percent increase in search assists year over year, validating the increase in research that consumers are conducting.
Brands in 2012 will tie together consumers’ digital touchpoints via attribution, and better understand how consumers are reaching their purchasing decisions.
3. Mobile Continues to Grow as a Major Player
This year our financial services clients mobile traffic was up over 1,200 percent! This trend is continuing to grow very quickly. Competition is also up in this area with CPCs up 139 percent.
Financial services companies will take better advantage of this trend in 2012 by breaking out campaigns to target mobile and OS specifically. Consumers expectations will be a mobile specific experience from keyword, to ad copy, to landing pages. If those expectations aren’t met, then it will impact the brand consideration going forward.
Brands will also get more corporate alignment that smartphones aren’t used the same way as traditional digital media. This will create a new focus on the way mobile is measured. It will be viewed as more of a research and location based device (find a branch, ATM) that isn’t held against the standards of desktops.
4. Tablets Are Important, and Not the Same as Desktop or Mobile
Tablets are often considered to be the same as smartphones, but the only real similarities are that they are growing rapidly (95 percent impression volume increase) and they aren’t the same as desktops. In 2012 brands will move tablets into their own bucket of performance, and optimize them uniquely. For financial services companies this is the perfect place to measure consumer quality, and set a unique CPA based on the consumer demographics.
Financial services brands will have more tools to reach their consumers in 2012. This comes just in time when these brands need tools to compete in these economically difficult times – a time when traditional ways of measuring performance no longer apply and consumers are fragmented in their research process. Smart search marketers will flourish.
Good luck, and Happy New Year to everyone!