Journey Orchestration — Turning Bankers Into Retailers

Craig McLaughlin

July 26, 2021

Marketing has “gifted” our industry with many buzz words. The overuse of them has, at times, hidden the true value of what they are used to describe. Journey orchestration has not achieved the status of a “buzz word” and therefore is not a word that is overused. In fact, it may be a new term to some. Nonetheless, it will become a critical piece of any strategy for forward-thinking leadership at community financial institutions looking to move beyond legacy marketing.

The importance of the terminology is a direct result of a central challenge these institutions all face now. Increasingly, banking consumers are expecting the digital experience at their institution to be more in line with the interactions they have with the savvy e-retailers they have come to depend on over the last year-and-a-half like Amazon and Netflix.

The failure to meet these expectations until now has created pent-up dissatisfaction that will, at some point, begin to create levels of attrition that threaten the future of many banks and credit unions. Large banks, fintech firms, and big technology companies are already tapping into the opportunity presented by the failure of too many financial institutions to meet the expectations of their customers and members. A quick list of examples includes the Apple credit card, Google pay checking account, Chimes’s and Robinhood’s offerings, BofA’s Erica, and CapOne’s Alexa voice skills.

According to a study of 2020 data by Cornerstone Advisors and Strategycorps on the type of organization named by customers as their primary bank, fintechs have gobbled up 7.0 percent of the market in just 12 months with Chime leading the charge.

Options?

The leaders at community banks and credit unions know the risk, yet many feel trapped by their legacy technology providers, outdated approaches, and an inability to invest in technology at the same level as the largest financial institutions. These leaders will need to step back and rethink their digital transformation strategy. They will need to look for partners whose expertise can quickly establish a foundation on which to build digital experiences that are competitive with the other options that their members and customers have.

A journey orchestration platform will be critical to such a foundation. Such platforms automate the process of understanding, listening to, and acting on client needs. Successful retailers and e-tailers have been using these tools for some time. Leaders who want to see their institutions successfully compete to attract and retain clients will need to take on a retailer’s worldview in this regard.

Forrester Research defines journey orchestration as helping “fuse data across channels, touch points, and systems along the customer journey to design and plan current and future-state journeys, test and optimize journey hypotheses, and orchestrate tasks among stakeholders and with customers.” In short, journey orchestration platforms use multiple data sources to present each customer or member with a digital experience that is unique to them, an experience that meets and anticipates their needs from the first time they visit the bank or credit union web page.

The Magic in the Machine = Personalization at Scale

Community financial institutions have a vast amount of data about their clients. Every interaction these clients have with their primary financial institution produces more data. When clients or prospective clients visit a bank or credit union website, that experience can be deepened by journey orchestration platforms that are able to leverage second- and third-party data.

Customer journey platforms utilize these multiple data sources to deliver a unique and relevant digital experience that meets the expectations of each digital user and continues to do so throughout that person’s relationship with the organization. The experience is presented in real-time and within the context of whatever activity the prospective client or current customer or member is pursuing.

To continually meet the unique needs of customers and members over the long haul requires machine learning. With machine learning the client’s journey is constantly modified based on new information and behavior. Client segments can be configured on the fly and content can be dynamically assembled to speak to the individual needs within those segments. The machine learning models trained specifically within financial service journeys, such as those of Finalytics.ai, provide optimal solutions for community financial institutions and their clients.

Doing Nothing is the Greatest Risk of All

Many community banks and credit unions see new technology as too expensive, too complex and too risky. The fact is new technology is increasingly cheaper, easier to use and delivers a better total cost of ownership than legacy technology. A journey orchestration platform developed for financial service organizations can be deployed without building complicated integrations to legacy core systems or outdated data warehouses.

Also, many journey orchestration platforms deliver actionable data and offer SaaS-based delivery options that do not require a local bank or credit union to hire expensive new resources or undergo a disruptive project. For example, the Finalytics.ai platform can be contributing to an institution’s efforts to better serve their clients digitally in a matter of two to three weeks.

Those who lead community banks and credit unions are facing numerous challenges in the new normal. When it comes to meeting the challenges associated with digital transformation relying on existing legacy vendors to help meet the expectations of clients that have become more digitally savvy over the last 18 months is not likely to be successful. Given their progress to date, it is unlikely that these suppliers can deliver what is needed to compete with mega and digital-only banks or the big tech companies offering new financial services to consumers.

Journey orchestration is more than personalization, which is often simply delivering the same message to almost everyone without being able to know if the effort is worth the expense. It must become mainstream in the thinking and strategy of the leadership at community financial institutions that want to survive in the new normal. The combination of data with artificial intelligence levels the playing field for these banks and credit unions by delivering a digital experience not previously available. As one of our clients recently stated, “This is a game changer.”

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