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Digital sales from outlets like Target enjoyed an unprecedented 275% growth in recent months, according to the US Census Bureau. It seems that this is not an isolated case as businesses, especially ecommerce companies, are experiencing the same growth. With global currencies having taken a hit during the pandemic, it was uncertain as to what direction fintech would take. As it turns out, the world is now sprinting toward financial inclusiveness and eCommerce diversity.

The Need for Financial Inclusiveness in the International Market

Prior to the pandemic hitting, online transactions with cash-on-delivery (COD) options were highly popular for consumers around the globe. This, however, is no longer feasible in places like India and China where COD options are now disabled in order to minimise risk moving forward. As such, new avenues were needed and fintech answered the call. Fintech has long been regarded as a great enabler of financial inclusion by providing a reimagining of business models and processes, according to the World Bank. They believe that it is through fintech that suitable alternatives to COD will be found like crowdfunding, cashless transactions, and even peer-to-peer lending options.

Fashion Ecommerce Embracing Diversity, Accessibility, and Inclusivity

While ecommerce is not a new concept in the fashion industry, consumers are now more discerning, especially about diversity and inclusivity. Nearly 34% of respondents in an Adobe survey said that they boycotted a brand due to a lack of diversity in advertising, while another 61% said diversity is the key to good advertising. This isn’t surprising, as high fashion brands have had their share of controversies like D&G’s “Eating with Chopsticks” or Gucci’s balaclava jumper. As such, fashion brands that are enlarging their ecommerce presence are actively reforming their advertising and marketing to emphasise inclusivity, accessibility, and diversity. One method that fashion eCommerce is trying out is redesigning their websites to be more accessible to a wider audience. Another is using a diverse sample of models for visual ads on their ecommerce platforms.

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Mobile Phone eCommerce Developments

A survey by Merchant Savvy found that nearly 70% of all eCommerce is conducted through mobile phones. While that number is high, retailers report that conversion rates vary as consumers still express concerns over security and user experience. In worst-case scenarios, not even 1 out of 10 successful transactions occurs via mobile phone. To combat this, brands are aiming to develop hybrid apps to work well with browsers as regular apps take up too much memory on devices. There is particular emphasis on making phones a universal digital wallet for frictionless and seamless transactions. This, however, requires better security, infrastructure, and devices capable of supporting the whole concept. As such, more mobile phone eCommerce development is being planned by large brands like Amazon, Apple, and others.

With the world impatient to move on from the effects of the pandemic, the fintech industry is striving to make sure that they have what it takes to meet demand. The upcoming months can expect a lot of additional emphasis on financial technology development. With eCommerce now the norm in transactions, it is exciting to see how else financial inclusiveness, diversity, and online transactions shall take root and bloom.

The newest figures come from the FutureBrand Index 2020, which takes PwC’s Global Top 100 Companies by Market Cap and instead measures them by strength of perception, using metrics including “passion” and “innovation” to gauge how the largest companies are viewed both internally and externally.

According to the study, the five companies that saw the greatest positive shift were Royal Dutch Shell, Roche, Oracle, L’Oréal and Walmart. Conversely, Gilead Sciences, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and China Life Insurance were noted as 2020's biggest fallers.

The biggest winners were consumer brands, including heavyweights like Walmart, Netflix and L’Oréal, which the report noted as examples of “how a proactive response to the pandemic” has resulted in boosted external and internal company images. Successful consumer brands are perceived as caring about their clients and staff while also being able to provide customers with what they want.

Apple topped the list for strength of perception in 2020, while financial services suffered overall, with the most notable casualty being Berkshire Hathaway's dramatic slide from 29 to 83 on the list.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, healthcare and pharmaceutical brands fared notably better than most, being perceived as innovators focused on human needs.

Jon Tipple, Global Chief Strategy Officer at FutureBrand, commented on the impact of COVID-19 on the study’s results. “The biggest link between the best performing companies in the index is that they’ve all shown a highly individual response to COVID-19 as well as other significant market and societal shifts,” he said.

This means prioritising what their staff and customers need and want most and delivering with oodles of authentic personality even if it means breaking with category conventions and norms. While these traits were once a ‘nice-to-have’, they are now crucial for corporate success.”

Up to $15 billion is expected to be spent by brands investing in influencer marketing by 2022. Influencer marketing brings a significant boost to many industries, and many B2B and B2C businesses now rely on influencers to extend their reach. This trend doesn’t exclude the fintech industry, and many digital banks, including Starling and Revolut, now use influencers in their marketing strategies. However, using influencer marketing requires careful thought, and there are certain rules regarding its use, which need to be considered carefully by fintech companies.

Fintech companies can benefit from influencer marketing

So long as the influencers are chosen to suit the niche, influencer marketing can be as beneficial to the fintech industry as it can to any other business. Influencers have the power to improve a business’s reach and visibility, demonstrate authority and target the right audience immediately. This is a valuable asset to any business operating in the fintech niche, but to be used to full effect, businesses need to choose an influencer whose lifestyle and message coincides with the brand’s ethos. Potentially, when used well, this gives fintech companies a chance to reach a much wider audience than they can through traditional advertising. However, although advertising standards authorities have guidelines for influencers, none of them relate specifically to financial products or services, which means those working in the niche need to tread carefully.

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Advertising regulations for influencers

Advertising guidelines state that influencers should use ‘#ad’ to tag any post they’re paid for: this is the minimum an influencer needs to do to legally promote a product or service. They are required to consider the demographics of their audience, as age-restricted products must not be promoted to underage followers. Although this rule doesn’t apply directly to financial products and services, companies and the influencers they work with must be aware of the demographics of the audience, as many financial products do come with age-related criteria.

Lack of regulations for financial services

There are no regulations for fintech companies using influencer marketing, but this is problematic because the majority of an influencer’s reach extends to a young audience. Advertising guidelines are currently focused on influencers labeling ads rather than on the products and services they’re promoting. For regulations to be established, close co-operation would need to be achieved between the advertising and financial regulators, but this has not happened yet. While this may be good news for fintech companies who can find influencers willing to promote their products, it’s more problematic for the consumer. The ideal situation would be that influencers truly believe in the companies they’re promoting. However, the algorithms on social media make it difficult to know for certain whether influencers or the brands they work with are operating with a full awareness of what they’re promoting. Consumers, therefore, are urged to research all products promoted by influencers before making a commitment.

Influencer marketing is one of the most successful marketing strategies any business can employ, but regulations are minimal. This is particularly problematic in the financial sector, as there are ethical considerations to be aware of in the promotion of any financial service or product. Consequently, although influencer marketing is a valuable tool for a fintech company, consumers must be wary when choosing products promoted by influencers. However, providing consumers conduct independent research, influencers can be helpful in informing them about new financial products.

As brands think about targeting the student market, it would be very tempting to stereotype and develop marketing that is all about partying and watching daytime TV. This approach is doomed to fail because the student demographic is actually much more diverse and discerning.

According to Creative Orchestra, less than 60% of students are under 21, almost 40% study part-time and half of those are aged 30-50. In the UK, there are almost half a million students from overseas, and the number is growing.

The main reason why banks are interested in connecting with students is that while they may not have much cash initially, over time they usually become more financially secure and interested in additional products and services such as credit cards, loans and mortgages.

 

Genuine concern for customers

Despite the dangers of generalising, there are some traits which marketers should be aware of. As a whole, students tend to have a strong sense of social responsibility. When asked, 74% believe that ethics are very important and 65% believe that it’s very important to be environmentally friendly. These beliefs affect the purchasing habits and demands of future students but it is important that brands don’t make claims they can’t substantiate. Students know the difference between genuine claims and spin and are increasingly drawn to ethical financial institutions.

Building a reputation as a brand that truly cares will get cut through with this demographic. Customer Thermometer research highlights that people want to connect with a brand that shows it cares about them. This is heightened for student consumers who are usually financially stretched and may feel more vulnerable, living away from home and making independent, financial decisions for the first time. Sensing that a bank understands the pressures they face and is always ready to help, rather than hinder or scold, can go a long way in forging a strong customer relationship.

In addition, our ‘Connected Customer’ research shows found that a long-term relationship happens when companies become a meaningful part of a customer’s everyday life.  Making their life easier and delivering what is promised both contribute to finding a place in their emotions. When students sense that “this company helps me when things go wrong”, they begin to move along the engagement journey from interest to loyalty. There’s a real opportunity for banks to show genuine understanding and flexibility towards students and as a result to win a customer for life.

As well as supporting students when things go wrong or finances are tight, banks should also be thinking, what additional services and products can we offer that will enhance their life? This is because there is a direct correlation between the number of additional products held, such as overdrafts, loans and insurance, and higher levels of engagement.

 

The personal touch

Finally, banks should use the reams of rich customer data, aggregated across multiple touch points, to target students with hyper-relevant and engaging messages at opportune moments.

Banks must profile and target properly, taking time to understand their audience, rather than lumping all students in the same category. Students will not tolerate being bombarded with unsolicited messages. Less is more and they appreciate creative, clever and entertaining campaigns that are personal to them. The good news is that sophisticated data-driven marketing is totally attainable now, so long as the data is clean.

The student market is highly lucrative and if banks get their marketing and customer experience right, they could win an advocate for life. To win the affections of students, brands must provide a meaningful and personalised solution with products and services that really add value. Any bank that does this will soon discover they have an army of loyal brand advocates who are engaged and bring long-lasting financial rewards.

 

Karen Wheeler is the Vice President and Country Manager UK at Affinion

Online research from Equifax, the consumer and business insights expert, reveals a lack of awareness of banking options among Brits. When presented with a list of digital banks 60% hadn’t heard of any of the brands and only 20% would opt for a challenger bank if opening a new account today.

The survey, conducted with Gorkana, showed 44% of Brits would choose a traditional bank, and when choosing which brand to bank with, they prioritise good customer service (41%), ease of managing money via a good app or online service (34%), and availability of a physical branch (32%). Media influence was least important; only 3% of people factor news stories about a bank into their decision.

Good customer service also topped the list of priorities for people who would choose a challenger bank (31%), followed by incentives such as a joining fee (28%) and a good app or online service (27%). Friends or family using the bank was the least important factor – just 5% of respondents would take this into consideration.

People who would opt for a challenger bank appear to be more value conscious; one fifth (20%) said better rates when using their card or withdrawing cash abroad would appeal to them, compared to 12% of people who would use a traditional bank. Over a quarter (27%) rate more competitive rates, for example on overdraft fees or loans services a contributory factor when choosing a challenger bank, versus 19% for traditional banks.

Jake Ranson, Banking and Financial Institution expert and CMO at Equifax Ltd, says: “Challenger and digital banks have been making their mark in the banking sector bringing attractive, consumer friendly services to market, yet many consumers are still unaware of these brands. The government has taken action to increase competition in the sector but there’s still a lot of work to do to encourage consumers to fully explore the options available to them and make informed decisions on selecting or retaining accounts.

“Open Banking is underway and is a huge advance for consumers. Services are coming to market that will help people get better value from banks, for example identifying sign-up incentives or better rates tailored to their needs. The next step is for the industry to work together to increase consumer awareness of the value Open Banking unlocks.”

(Source: Equifax)

Results from the second quarter of a year-long research study reveal how investors view the performance of a range of different players in the autonomous vehicle (AV) market, providing for each firm, the percentage of investors who judge that company as ranking in the top five for having the most investible Autonomous Vehicle technology.

Manufacturers

In the survey, conducted by international law firm Gowling WLG and economic research agency Explain the Market, Tesla (26%) topped the charts when it comes to investor confidence in AV manufacturers - closely followed by BMW (22%).

IT giants

For the world's biggest IT companies, investors ranked Google (35%) as the business with the highest potential for success in the AVmarket. This is markedly higher than other giant brands which investors feel are yet to make an impact - notably Baidu (2%), Uber (8%) and Apple (11%).

Tech brands

The survey also reveals Bosch (54%), Tata Elixsi (36%) and ParkWhiz (29%) as the most investible tech brands in the AV tech sector, according to UK investors.

Guy Shone, CEO Explain the Market said "When it comes to driverless tech UK investors are showing a deeper level of interest and a stronger commitment than ever before"

Stuart Young, partner and head of Automotive at Gowling WLG said: "When it comes to the AV sector - research shows UK investors are backing innovation from a wide range of sources. UK Investors clearly have confidence in both the old and the new, the big and the small. They are tracking the best ideas and conditions whether they come from start-ups or corporate giants."

Since the survey's Q1 results, there have been some subtle shifts in investor mood regarding the barriers towards widespread AV introduction. Whilst concerns about unclear rules and regulations have slightly diminished, doubts about a lack of collaboration between industry and government appear to be increasing.

The progress of smart cities projects is also an increasingly important factor to investors when it comes to making a decision to invest in the AV market.

As our economy enters a new period of instability, the importance of monitoring investor attitudes increases. This is the second wave of a year-long study of over 1,000 investors. The ongoing tracker study will track the confidence, attitudes and opinions of UK investors to the AV sector and reveal what investors really want as the sector develops. The study will also probe the real barriers and factors that impact confidence.

(Source: Gowling WLG)

Global brand consultancy The Partners recently launched a comprehensive study entitled ‘To Be Or Not To Be’, which reveals what Britishness means for brands post-Brexit.

The Partners surveyed 1,000 consumers across the UK to garner the general public’s perception of British brands, and combined this insight with in-depth interviews with leading marketers to establish the value of British provenance for brands today.

The study found that many brands experience an identity crisis when trying to leverage a modern sense of Britishness. From a lack of clarity about who the target consumer is and their preferences, to a difficulty in identifying a defined set of British attributes, Britishness is becoming an increasingly complex aspect to employ, particularly for British brands positioning themselves as global entities.

Surprisingly, for a country known for its patriotism, the survey showed that just 25% of people consider a brand’s British heritage to be the most important factor in their purchase decision. This compares with 54% of participants rating the quality of product highest, 36% valuing customer service above all else and 29% placing emphasis on the brand’s individual culture and values.

But the survey also revealed a paradox: despite the majority of respondents believing that Britishness is not important when making a purchase, a significant 42% believe that brands should emphasise their Britishness more post-Brexit in order to appeal to a wider range of global consumers.

The Partners encourages brands to take advantage of these contradictions. This apparent ambivalence about the value of Britishness can be seen as an opportunity to redefine the roles that brands play in a world where being ‘British’ is no longer enough to compete in an already saturated market.

The report argues that by balancing the tension between the traditional notion of heritage and the ‘fresh themes’ and modern ingenuity at the heart of Britishness, brands will succeed with new and existing audiences, both in Britain and on a global stage.

This ability to balance the dualism inherent in Britishness is supported by the opinions of the marketers that The Partners surveyed, and is an attributing factor to the success of some of our most-loved British brands. This includes the BBC, which was voted the most admired British brand by 46% of participants in the survey.

The survey revealed that the top five most-admired British brands are:

  1. BBC
  2. M&S
  3. Cadbury
  4. Boots
  5. The Post Office

Sam Evans, strategist at The Partners, said: “Brexit has provided a moment for reflection on what Britishness represents. It also provides a choice, a fork in the road where brands can continue to assimilate in a global order of homogeneity or can choose to re-familiarise themselves with the ingredients that make Britishness a potent force. We believe that now, more than ever, it’s time for British brands to reclaim their Britishness. It’s in the interests of brands to build on and develop the positive associations for a new era.”

(Source: The Partners)

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