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COVID-19 HAS MADE PERSONALISATION IN CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

By James Hall, Commercial Director, Striata UK

 

When COVID-19 struck and countries around the world went into lockdown, the reaction by most companies was to immediately send out communication to their customers. As a result, people’s inboxes were flooded with generic messages about how important they were and how each company would “be there for you during this difficult time”.

The only real impact of this kind of messaging was that people got an idea of how many email lists they were subscribed to, before removing themselves from as many as possible. There were, however, a few that realised just how important hyper-personalised customer communications have become.

And, as society returns to varying levels of normality, these are the organizations that won’t only survive, but will thrive in the new normal.

 

Beyond personalisation

What most of these organisations have gotten right is understanding that personalisation has moved some way beyond simply getting your customer’s name right.

In order for customer communication to be effective, it cannot simply exist for its own sake. Now, more than ever, companies need to ensure that any communication they send their customers is aligned to each individual’s personal circumstances and needs.

James Hall

With people spending more time at home and having more time to read anything sent to them, they’re far less likely to be forgiving of any communication that doesn’t appeal to them. The wrong communication to the wrong person, on the wrong day, may end up costing you a customer. That’s something no company can afford at a time when retaining every customer is vital.

 

Changing tech 

Fortunately, a raft of emerging technologies have made it easier than ever to deliver personal, relevant customer communication.

Artificial intelligence (AI), for example, has an important role to play. In the customer communication space especially, AI-based systems are useful for predicting user behaviour and providing content based on that prediction to prompt the user’s next action.

Organisations are already seeing the value AI provides in this regard, integrating it into email, billing, and mobile payments, all of which contain forms of customer communication.

AI is also driving the use of chatbots, which appear on websites and instant messaging services, as automated virtual assistants.  Not only are chatbots useful for customer service,  but also for enriching the self-service aspects of invoicing and payment collections.

Voice technologies will also play an increasingly important role in customer communication. By 2020, Gartner predicts that 30% of web browsing will occur without a screen. And 55% of American teenagers will use speech recognition, daily.

It’s only natural, therefore, that customers will want to interact with organisations via voice. Any organisation that invests in integrating voice technology into its customer communications now stands to give itself that extra edge over its competitors in the future.

 

Data matters  

If an organization is going to integrate these technologies successfully, it needs to ensure that it couples them with real-time data to deliver more relevant content, product and service information to each user. The more information an organisation has on each customer, the more meaningful and valuable its communication will be.

And, as we’ve already established, that’s more important in a post-COVID-19 world than ever before. With the global economy struggling to recover, people are more conscious of where they spend their money. And when they do spend their money, it’ll be with the organizations that have built up trust and loyalty. There is no better way to do that than with hyper-personalised customer communication.

 

Centring the customer 

While data and technology are immensely useful, they can’t help an organization achieve its communication goals on their own. What has always been true, and what COVID-19 has thrown into sharp relief, is that the customer needs to be at the centre of all communication efforts.

That means asking customers directly what content they want to receive, when and how, rather than simply relying on data. This dual approach enables the organisation to combine preference and engagement data (technology), with input obtained directly from the people best suited to design the process: customers and employees (humans). By taking this integrated approach, organisations can ensure that they provide customers with the kind of communication they want.

In doing so, they give themselves the best possible chance of surviving COVID-19’s economic travails and thriving in the future beyond it.

 

Business

CONSUMERS IN THE COVID ERA CAN LEARN TO EMBRACE STRONG CUSTOMER AUTHENTICATION

By Ed Whitehead, Signifyd managing director, EMEA

 

The changes that COVID-19 has caused in rapid succession make it hard to slow down and think about just how to approach the retail and payments landscape and a world that will never be the same.

But it is important for retailers and financial institutions to take a breath, think about where consumers are headed and come up with a strategy to take your enterprises there in time to meet them when they arrive. Granted, all this is going on in the midst of great disruption in the world of online payments.

First, ecommerce sales have accelerated at an unprecedented rate. When the World Health Organisation in March declared a global pandemic and government began ordering non-essential stores closed, consumers turned to online shopping for necessities and nice-to-have items.

Ecommerce sales in Europe peaked at 70% year-over-year at the height of online buying during the pandemic, according to Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse data. With non-essential stores reopening and with consumers less inclined to stockpile, online buying has cooled, but ecommerce spending in September remained at double their year-ago figures in some key verticals, according to Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse data.

Ed Whitehead

That shift was unforeseen before the pandemic hit. But another disruption was long-anticipated and human-made. By the end of the year in most of Europe, merchants and banks will be required to adhere to the payment regulation known as PSD2 and it’s requirement for Strong Customer Authentication.

And while the UK has pushed enforcement of the regulations into 2021, the earlier enforcement deadline will apply to UK merchants who want to sell into the rest of Europe.

Interestingly enough, most of the worry over SCA has focused on whether merchants were ready for the change. But financial institutions also have work to do to prepare for SCA, both to serve their consumer account holders and to process transactions from their commercial customers, such as retailers. And while conventional wisdom has dictated that financial institutions are in a better position to offer SCA than are many retailers, a recent survey by Signifyd indicates that assessment might be overly sanguine.

 

Survey shows financial institutions need to reach out to customers

The September survey of 1,500 UK consumers found that 41% of respondents had encountered extra steps and complications while accessing their banking accounts in the past year. More than 37% said they had been unable to complete a financial transaction in the past year due to new security factors and 46.5% said they were very or somewhat likely to give up on a transaction that requires two-factor authentication.

Not very heartening results for institutions facing a requirement that customers be authenticated by two of three factors:

  • Something the customer has (such as device ID).
  • Something the customer knows (such as a one-time password).
  • Something the customer is (such as a fingerprint or other biometric trait).

Part of the problem could be customer education and communication — or the lack of it. According to the September survey, 74.3% of consumers said they were either not entirely sure how SCA will affect them (34.3%) or that they were not at all aware of SCA and how it will change transactions (39.1%).

These worrisome findings actually point to an opportunity for financial institutions and retailers. JP Morgan notes that with ecommerce sales rising so dramatically, an increasing number of consumers are becoming familiar with two-factor authentication.

Signifyd’s own data shows a sharp increase in the number of online shoppers who had never or rarely shopped online before. The number of new customers buying from merchants on Signifyd’s Commerce Network, for instance, more than doubled in May, compared to pre-pandemic figures. (Signifyd defines a new online shopper as a customer who has not made a purchase from the more than 10,000 merchants on its global network for at least a year.)

The increase in the number of new shoppers arriving online has slowed, but it is still well above a-year-ago figures. And about half the new users trying online shopping return for multiple purchases within 30 days, indicating they are developing new digital habits.

That means banks and merchants have an opportunity to help these new consumers become accustomed to security safeguards like SCA even as they are getting used to shopping online in general. When done right, this early consumer education will ensure that these new shoppers and bank customers will be comfortable with SCA, given that it’s the way they’ve shopped and banked online since the beginning.

 

New online customers create new opportunities for merchants and financial institutions

So, online transactions are exploding. Consumers who eschewed ecommerce shopping before are becoming regular online shoppers. All good news. But what should retailers and financial institutions be doing to take advantage of the good news — and to make sure that those new online users become loyal customers.

Getting customers comfortable with transacting in the SCA era, of course, is just the beginning. Retailers and bankers want customers to be delighted with their online experience, a standard that is a few notches above “comfort.”

SCA requirements present an opportunity for retailers to fortify their fraud protection with state-of-the-art, machine-learning systems that will provide a better customer experience today and position them to accommodate future changes to payments regulations.

The trick will be to offer a friction-free customer experience while still protecting the enterprise — a feat that will require merchants and financial institutions to look at state-of-the-art technology to power their SCA systems. Consultancy CMSPI predicted that merchants could lose £108.1 billion in annual sales because of new SCA rules.

CMSPI says the new 3D-Secure version 2.0 that provides the infrastructure for SCA transactions will kill 35% of transactions because of technical problems, declined orders and delays that frustrate customers.

But that assumes retailers don’t turn to innovative solutions that improve the performance of 3D-Secure-powered payments systems. The tools are out there as technology companies have been developing solutions to streamline SCA and make the process far more efficient.

 

Long-term steps for building loyalty among existing and new customers alike

The pandemic and its disruption feel like they will never end. But they will. Retailers will want to be in a position to build on the relationships they’ve initiated with customers before and during the lockdowns and social distancing.

Some of that will be redoubling efforts they’ve made all along. They’ll want to build flawless online experiences. They’ll want to provide intuitive navigation and enhance the customer experience with engaging content, precise personalisation, invaluable customer support, seamless checkout and instant order confirmation.

Beyond that, it will be important that financial institutions and retailers to clearly communicate with their customers so that they know the rationale for SCA and understand that it protects all parties involved in a transaction.

Automated systems can help with many of the initiatives that lead to improved customer experience. AI-powered content management systems, personalization engines and automated inventory control can advance discovery and fulfillment performance. Fraud and automated order management systems that instantly determine the most efficient way to comply with SCA requirements can speed checkout and reduce the chance of cart abandonment.

No question, the COVID-induced upheaval can make planning for the future seem a little overwhelming at times. But retailers that find the mental space to plot the future step-by-step will find themselves in a strong position today and in the post-pandemic future that we all look forward to.

 

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PROTECTING THE CONNECTED CONSUMER FROM REAL AND PERCEIVED FRAUD RISK

Sam Holding, Head of International, SparkPost

 

Experts have researched and observed that when there is an economic downturn, there is often a marked increase in fraudulent activity. Unfortunately, the global financial situation caused by the spread of COVID-19 has been the perfect storm for this kind of behaviour. A quick web search on the topic brings back tons of tips sheets and articles about how consumers can keep themselves safe during such a turbulent economic crisis. While these resources suggest that consumers take simple steps like ignoring robocalls and watching out for phishing emails, the amount of channels through which scammers can take action can feel overwhelming. Due to the increasingly interconnected nature of technology, an attack on one website or communication channel can lead to what feels like a domino effect – taking down a consumer’s personal “stack” one by one.

 

The nature of this interconnectedness has given rise to the “Connected Consumer”. This consumer persona represents the vast swathe of people who have smartphones and have not only grown accustomed to ultra-personalised digital experiences but, as a result, expect these types of dynamic solutions. It should also be noted that this is not specifically a Millenial or Gen Z phenomenon, but rather a trans-generational disposition for easy-to-use technology. While the Connected Consumer isn’t necessarily at a higher risk for fraudulent attacks because of how they interact with technology, the stakes definitely feel higher. Because they may use their Facebook or Gmail credentials to login to countless websites and apps, a single fraud attack can feel like a chink in the armor that protects their whole digital footprint.

 

Sam Holding

With the rise of the Connected Consumer, it’s likely no surprise that there is an incredibly high app adoption rate amongst financial services customers. While people may be quick to download retail banking apps, due to their broader online experiences, they expect a highly personalised experience – something the financial services industry hasn’t always been able to give. In an industry known for stringent security and privacy controls and conservative decision-making, adoption of the latest and greatest segmentation and personalisation technologies hasn’t always been possible. But anecdotally as users, we know that an outdated app experience is not only frustrating but may also lead to concerns about security. If the front-end looks antiquated, what’s to keep non-technical consumers from assuming what’s under the hood is old and lacking up-to-date security measures?

 

The, perhaps superficial, perceived threat around slightly outdated app experiences and the very real threat of fraud requires a multi-pronged course of action to keep Connected Consumers feeling safe. Fortunately, many of the steps required are actually low hanging fruit that don’t require technologists and security professionals to completely change their normal course of action. The best place for financial services companies to start is with their email programs. Since email is the backbone of customer communications when it comes to financial institutions, no amount of attention to detail and care is too great when considering new strategies.

 

The first updated strategy that can keep Connected Consumers feeling safe is applying a mobile-first attitude when sending email messages. This can be applied to the look and feel of the actual email template, but should also be applied to the links in messages as well. Hyperlinks in the body of emails should “deep link” back to the banking institution’s mobile app rather than their desktop site. For Connected Consumers, these deep links show that their bank’s email strategies are in lock-step with their app. And, rather than having to fumble through a website that may not be mobile friendly, consumers can use their thumb print or even their face to access sensitive financial information instantly. Quick and even topical changes like this can show consumers that their information is safe by using the security measures built into their phone.

 

Another easy change financial institutions can focus on to create a more streamlined and, therefore, more secure-feeling experience is improved customer service. Certainly, it’s important for support agents to be friendly and helpful, but in 2020 they should also be fully aware of all of the personalised email messages the specific customer they are trying to help has received. Keeping support teams abreast of the latest email marketing campaigns can close the loop on security regarding customer communications. If a customer has a question regarding an email offer they received, the support agent can authoritatively reassure the customer that the message is, in fact, valid. This creates an unparalleled sense of security.

 

When it comes to security, especially during a time in which fraud is increasing, retail banks can’t take any chances. Connected Consumers need their banks to provide digital experiences that not only are secure but feel secure, a challenge that may be easier to meet than most think. With a few simple changes, financial services organisations can keep consumers feeling safe and stable even when the world feels completely off-kilter.

 

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