Do you like canned sales talk? Random offers? Hard-sellers? Push notifications that have zero relevance to you? Guess who else doesn’t.

“For many consumers, the rising volume of marketing messages isn’t empowering—it’s overwhelming. Rather than pulling customers into the fold, marketers are pushing them away with relentless and ill-conceived efforts to engage,” HBR summed up the key takeaway from several pre- and post-purchase surveys carried out by Corporate Executive Board in 2012. To say that things have escalated since then would be an understatement. In fact, in the US alone companies are losing $1 trillion in annual revenues to their competitors because they fail to be consistently relevant, according to a recent consumer research jointly conducted by HBR and Accenture.

So how did relevant become the new black?

Millennials spend about 9.6 hours consuming digital content per day, Adobe reports. “Oh, those crazy kids,” you might think – in which case, you might want to think again. US consumers spend the same amount of time, 7.8 hours on average, engaging with content online as they do sleeping. And a staggering 42% of them get annoyed when what they see isn’t personalised. “It’s becoming harder and harder to stand out. That’s why many brands are setting the bar higher by engaging with customers on a personal level with content and messaging that is personalized, relevant, and more likely to garner engagement,” Loni Stark, senior director of strategy and product marketing at Adobe says.

Cross-selling is no exception. Here are three ways to use data for understanding what your customers need and cranking up those cross-selling revenues.


1. Personalise your cross-selling offers

Banks are no longer just competing with each other. At every step, they are being compared to savvy tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Netflix or Spotify, all of which have long mastered the art of personalisation in cross-selling. Meaning that banks had better get the timing and targeting of their cross-selling messages right. As HBR warns: “In this new era of digital-based competition and customer control, people are increasingly buying because of a brand’s relevance to their needs in the moment.”

Small wonder that banks often get on customers’ nerves by pushing additional products to them in a seemingly random way. The most frustrating part of this is that they could deliver much smarter messages by simply leveraging CRM data to learn what products the customer doesn’t already have or using behavioural tracking to gauge interest in other products. “In an era of hyper-personalization and competitive pressure, the experience banks provide consumers is the product — not a checking account, mortgage or credit card,” The Financial Brand puts bluntly

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, for instance, has switched to a next-best-action approach and implemented an AI-powered customer decisioning layer to deliver “next best conversations” across 18 channels. What does it look like in practice? Every time a consumer engages with the bank, which happens roughly 20 million times per day, the system calls a Customer Engagement Engine (CEE) to find out if there is a next best conversation for the customer — and returns a response within 150 to 300 milliseconds. The result? A tenfold increase in home lending lead volume and a 2018 Model Bank Award for Customer Engagement.


2. Use data to predict the next purchase

Data-based analytics is a must for figuring out what products customers are most likely to buy next, McKinsey says. The reason why cross-selling efforts often remain ineffective is that banks offer products that customers are interested in. But advanced data analytics can also tell what, sooner or later, they will be interested in. Machine learning tools can truly re-energise traditional cross-sell models: by using more data sources, algorithms can come up with insights about what customers might buy next and what channel you should approach them with your offer.

Accenture’s David McGinty advises: “Banks need to move away from the old product-based view of their customers, to one that encompasses the whole person—including their wants, aspirations and evolving life stages. These insights enable the generation of personalised, in-the-moment offers that meet and anticipate customers’ needs more fully than ever before—dramatically increasing customers’ propensity to buy, bolstering loyalty and realising the full value of the bank’s decades of investment in its brand.”

According to McKinsey’s estimations, banks already applying these models have seen a growth of up to 20% in new sales. A leading Asian consumer bank, for instance, has implemented advanced analytics to explore huge data sets (including demographics, products held, transactions and digital transfers) to cut its lag behind competitors in products per customer. The bank discovered surprising similarities in its customer base and defined 15,000 microsegments, no less – and went on to develop a next-product-to-buy model that increased the likelihood to buy three times over.


3. Messages shouldn’t be all about sales

True, deepening customer relationships can lead to cross-selling opportunities. But that doesn’t mean that communication with clients should be restricted to offers. Quite the contrary: sometimes a meaningful exchange will do much more to build trust and improve customer experience – and it will more than pay off later. “According to a new study, 75 percent of global consumers expect brands to contribute to their well-being and quality of life,” Adweek points out

Digital-only Ally Bank has just upped the ante on strengthening customer relationships. Clients get a thank-you message when they sign up for an account or a loan and they also receive birthday greetings. In addition, Ally Bank occasionally picks several customers randomly and send them a thank-you gift card. As Ally Bank CMO Andrea Brimmer explains: “Our point of view has always been, let’s not just email with our customers when we’re asking them for something, when we’re trying to cross-sell products to them.” 

This post was originally published on 17 October 2018 and has been updated to include recent developments.



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