02/24/2015 12:39 EST | Updated 04/26/2015 05:59 EDT

How Canada's Banks Are Reaching Out to Millennials

A recent study found that millennials are attracted to online resources to help them manage their money and answer their banking needs. Banks have been listening to what their younger consumers are after and changing how they can offer their services.

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Successful businesswoman sitting at desk in casual clothes and inputting her password and login to carry out online banking operation on digital tablet in the office

The act of banking, whether we like to admit it or not, has become a largely impersonal activity compared to mere decades ago. Many of us can still remember visiting a branch in-person and having regular face-to-face contact with the teller -- these personal touches created a connection between consumers and their financial institution.

For today's younger generation, online banking is the status quo and how they interact with banks is markedly different from the generations prior. Tried-and-true methods of reaching consumers to instill proper financial literacy and money management no longer have as much of an impact. Given this shift, how can marketers for Canada's financial institutions find a way to appeal to the younger demographic?

A strategic approach to social media

In the last five years, social media has become a very powerful tool for marketers across all industries. It's a direct and easy way to engage and communicate with consumers and to showcase a brand; however, it has been slow to pick up in certain sectors, such as the banking industry.

Unlike other methods of reaching consumers, social media is the least predictable, with consumer interactions and engagement occurring in a vastly different way. Participation in social media requires brands be more agile, responsive, strategic and always-on if they stand a chance at getting a leg-up on competitors.

Financial services, like other industries that might have been slower to adopt social media, have come to understand that social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are simply where some segments of the population are going to find information.

Canadian banks have found their own way to navigate and connect with customers in this manner. For example: TD uses its Facebook and Twitter channels to provide tips to its followers and customers on what they can be doing to save their money, while CIBC has held a series of online contests for followers and customers to enter to win prizes -- all table stakes for any bank looking to make an impact online.

For financial institutions, social media must go beyond pushing out a marketing message -- consumers want information, advice and support, just like having a bank teller at their fingertips.

Banks should also consider a marketing approach that encapsulates all relevant social media channels. Instagram usage has spiked, particularly among the younger demographic, and this doesn't mean marketers in industries such as banking can't carry their message across a highly visual platform. Scotiabank took notice of Instagram's popularly and set up an account to engage with their younger followers on how to manage their budget.

Convenience and service reign supreme

A recent Microsoft study found that millennials are attracted to online resources to help them manage their money and answer their banking needs. Banks have been listening to what their younger consumers are after and changing how they can offer their services, including online bill payments, banking apps for smartphones -- even allowing customers to deposit cheques through a photo on one's smartphone.

The same study also found that 44 per cent of Canadians care more about the technological services offered to them than the name of the bank. Canada's newest financial institutions have taken notice of this insight. Notably, Tangerine has really anchored its services in this, and in turn, is becoming more and more popular with the younger demographic. The company exists and functions in a fully online space, offering great features for their users, without a single brick-and-mortar space -- no face-to-face needed.

Rewards for the younger demo

Millennials are looking for more than just bank rates; There are other factors at hand when it comes to selecting an institution. As with many age groups, banks that offer rewards or partnerships similarly appeal to the millennial, but rewards tied to brands with a younger appeal resonate. For instance, Scotiabank has appealed to younger moviegoers via its partnership with Cineplex through the SCENE rewards card, with steady growth among the critical 18-34 age group. Having a rewards offering that allows for simple accumulation and gratification has helped to keep that younger demographic on board.

Don't get caught behind the curve

With new ways to market to a generation relying on real-time information, it can be a challenge to not only capture the attention of the millennial consumer, but to also have that attention translate into actions and brand loyalty. In the past, financial institutions may have looked to focus on marketing activities with clearly-defined returns on investment, but tried and true doesn't apply here. Marketers hoping to appeal to the younger demographic must consider a diverse approach that is bold, unexpected and receptive if they hope to emerge from the pack of sameness and make that connection.


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