2012 was an awkward year for financial services. There was continuation of low interest rates, an election, and the impending fiscal cliff all clouded the view of the future this year.
This year should be driven by sophistication in the marketplace as brands start to catch up and create next-level best practices to what have traditionally been emerging trends. This year will be fueled with continued growth around usage and demand.
For brands, that means staying sharp on the following three key trends.
1. Growth of the Mobile Divide
In 2012, we saw continued growth in the paid search channel for financial services clients. However, what was very clear was the growth in connected devices (smartphones and tablets). These areas drove growth at rates that were 11 times the growth of desktop. These growth numbers, while impressive, probably should be shocking.
What we see happening in the marketplace are two sets of businesses:
- Business that are ready to adopt mobile as a key channel.
- Business that don’t believe their financial services product set aligns well to mobile behaviors (completing a mortgage app on a phone), and therefore avoid prioritization of their mobile strategy.
We expect to see this divide grow in 2013 as the competition for growing traffic will keep newbies out, and veterans getting smarter in the game.
2. Valuation of Offline Behaviors
The growth in mobile and the continuation of localization of search results will put pressure on financial services firms to put a more finite value on offline conversion metrics. This includes the call center, and branch/agent locations.
Below is a screenshot from our usability testing around local terms that helps show how users view the results page:
User’s eyes are drawn to maps and local listings. With local extensions showing more frequently and showing in conjunction with sitelinks, offline actions will require valuation. Even a simple model to value branch locators as an example can help provide some insights back to your optimization strategy.
3. More Engines/Partners Running From Paid Search Budgets
Expect 2013 PPC budgets to be more diversified outside of Google paid search.
Now don’t get me wrong, Google’s share of marketing budgets will likely continue to increase, but it will come from mobile and display as demonstrated earlier. The growth of real-time bidding for display networks, as well as some modest growth in Bing, will create more areas for PPC strategists to pay attention to.
Also, financial services has its own version of retails comparison shopping engines (a.k.a., lead aggregators), such as Bankrate, SureHits, and Brokers Web. These websites are incremental places to gather CPC based traffic, and in many cases pre-qualify those leads better than Google can.
These opportunities to add incremental traffic, and diversity for financial services brands portfolio, will be increasingly important in 2013.
Expect 2013 to be a big bounce back year for financial services, and specifically the evolution of paid search. Happy New Year!