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In the digital advertising space, there are seemingly a million tools out there to automate, accelerate, maximize and monetize your financial services offerings for you and your account holders. But, as the saying goes, just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be done.

Here are some of the most talked about technologies you’ll see grow in 2017 for those in the financial services industry:

  • Chatbots: These automated programs function like real-time Q&A services. Users type or talk to a chatbot to receive basic information and execute simple commands, like “find the closest taco restaurant.” Big commercial banks like Wells Fargo, Chase and MasterCard® are investing millions to develop more complicated versions of this tool to answer customer questions and handle basic transactions. But it can also be a gamble: One bad customer experience can send an accountholder scrambling for a human connection.
  • Shorter video content: We love online video, but hate sitting through long pre-roll ads beforehand. To keep angry viewers from abandoning the platform without the upfront sales pitch, YouTube has recently announced new requirements for advertisers, shortening these unskippable reels to 15 seconds (beginning in 2018). GEICO had done this effectively before the mandate, with their “You Can’t Skip This Ad Because It’s Already Over” tagline, which was also the punch line. Viewers appreciated it. Start thinking short and sweet.
  • Accelerated mobile pages (AMP): These web pages are specifically designed to load faster for a better mobile experience. By standardizing a streamlined layout and UX and storing, or “caching,” these pages in the cloud, they populate a blank screen faster and keep a user from clicking away. Google is giving preference to pages that are built with AMP technology—but you don’t need to redesign your bank or credit union’s entire mobile site to benefit. Instead, start with your website’s most popular pages—think hours, location and rate information—to help current and potential customers find what they need fast.
  • Virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR): It seems we can’t go a day without hearing a story about the latest development involving a pair of goggles. And let’s admit it, those videos of people stumbling around their living rooms after playing their first VR video game are pretty funny. Even though Pokémon GO was a huge hit for its creator, Niantic, the AR space has been slower to catch on more widely because it relies on a combination of real and programmed environments. Plus, developing engaging and purposeful applications—beyond just showing off the capabilities of the technology— is no easy task. Like all new hardware-dependent technology, cost is always an obstacle to early adoption, and AR is no exception. However, in a bit of a twist, AR hardware can be surprisingly affordable for consumers (Google Cardboard comes in under $15), but it’s the production costs that can be prohibitive for brands and marketers. Most experts would agree that the safe move is to sit on the sideline and wait to see if the technology can support a tangible, scalable consumer application before making a sizable investment (though the folks at Niantic might disagree).
  • 360-degree video: Perhaps the everyday alternative to expensive VR production, this experience has been gaining attention on social networks, most notably on Facebook and YouTube. The immersive nature of a good 360-degree video—when used in line with your bank or credit union’s mission—can become a powerful storytelling tool that can convert eyeballs to customers.
  • Voice recognition: By 2020, ComScore reports that half of all online searches will be voice powered through applications such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana and others. We’ve already welcomed these AI-like devices into our homes to run our lights, make shopping lists and play music. This strong adoption by consumers demonstrates the willingness to engage with technologies that streamline previously cumbersome daily tasks, where convenience intersects with user comfort—despite having an always-on microphone in your home. That said, a hologram teller won’t be meeting customers in the bank lobby anytime soon.
  • Internet of things (IoT): While the phrase has been around for a while, we’re just hitting the ubiquitous nature of what it means in 2017. Not only do our refrigerators have the ability to call for its own repair service, but that plastic dash button on your washing machine is capable of ordering more detergent as fast as you run out of it. Every one of these interactions has the capability to inform marketers, who, in turn, can create better experiences and fine-tune to individual tastes.

Of course, one can go too far in the digital marketing sphere. Recently, a colleague of mine saw an ad in his Instagram feed for the very item he’d just finished browsing on Amazon. He described it as having a “creep factor” because the remarketing ad seemed out of place on a social network that he uses for sharing photos with friends and family.

The most important 2017 digital takeaway for banks and credit unions: The tech space is constantly evolving—and at an ever-increasing pace. As fast-and-easy technology makes daily lives easier, consumers will expect the same conveniences from the businesses, banks, credit unions and other financial services institutions they frequent. Soon, very few will care about whether they can get free checks for opening an account and more about accessing all of their banking needs from their smartphones.

Andrew Catalano
The 1990s Pokemon craze opened up a world of opportunity—and a career in online marketing—for former toy store owner Andrew.

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