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/   Insights

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Historically, the financial services sector has been reluctant to embrace digital marketing—or expand into new online domestic and global markets. There’s no mystery as to why: banks must navigate a veritable sea of regulations, including strict guidelines on how to communicate with customers and prospects.

Times are changing, however. Compared to traditional ad channels, industry marketing professionals overwhelmingly believe digital marketing is a more efficient and ROI-centric approach. In response, marketing spends have changed. Next year, nearly 30% of the industry’s ad spends will be in the digital space.

But how can banks best leverage digital marketing to woo customers in new domestic and global markets? My company specializes in helping banks engage global customers in their preferred languages, online. We’ve learned that through a smart combination of website translation, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), and insights into localized Pay Per Click (PPC) and social media campaigns, banks can achieve sustained success in new markets.

Here are how banks are connecting with new demographics:

They’re Being Different

First, examine any competing banks in the markets you’re eying to expand in and offer solutions that differentiate your organization. As one marketer recently wrote, “Every brand wants to expand into new and previously untapped markets. Brands can make inroads into new segments by taking a closer look at market sizing and how they compare to others in the industry. This way brands can spot gaps and anticipate customer needs before competitors.”

They’re Being Linguistically Authentic

English was once the lingua franca of the web, but those days are gone—particularly in global markets. Research suggests nearly 60% of international web users avoid English websites altogether, even when they can read the language. Now more than ever, people want to consume online content, and conduct business, in their languages of choice.

To best serve these customers, companies must leverage linguistically excellent, culturally resonant, brand-faithful website translations.

Authentic translations make all the difference. When we helped one major Canadian bank localize its English site into Canadian French (to serve the country’s thriving secondary markets), traffic and engagement on that translated site grew by more than 60% each year since its debut.

Another Canadian bank won big when we helped it engage Chinese-speaking Canadians. (Canada has a rapidly growing, and increasingly affluent, Chinese population.) When these customers visited the localized site, engagement dramatically increased. Some conversion rates grew by 130%; page-per-visit rates for returning customers increased by about 70%.

The Chinese site saw a nearly 40% increase in sessions in its second year, too.

They’re Watching Unique Customer Behavior

A banking company’s knowledge of its markets must extend beyond language. Understanding these new consumers’ needs is also critical. There are ways to identify this before debuting a localized website (as seen above), and clever ways to discover even more opportunities, once you’re in market.

We’ve seen banks benefit greatly from A/B testing and conversion rate optimization. By examining on-site searches, for instance, banks can uncover their localized site’s most popular content. These pages and products should probably be more prominently featured for these local customers.

Companies that share knowledge on local banking systems also boost conversions. Natives take the reliability of North American banking systems for granted. Recent immigrants may hail from countries where governmental control of banks led to freezing of funds, and other service disruptions. Providing a guide on these topics, on localized banking sites, can educate and engage these users.

They’re Using Localized PPC

Paid in-language search campaigns effectively connect with prospective customers, too. Analytics on the localized sites we operate suggest that users in the “information gathering” or “comparison shopping” stages of the customer lifecycle use long-tail keywords that can easily be leveraged for in-language PPC campaigns.

Banks can smartly capitalize on this, and help customers along the way. According to the FDIC, almost 50% of U.S. Latino households are “unbanked or “under-banked.” Connecting with these customers, who may be unaware of available services, is a powerful growth opportunity.

Localized long-tail keyword PPC campaigns can help a savvy bank’s brand stand out among the competition (who likely won’t be operating translated websites).

Localized PPC campaigns work. One of our banking clients that invested in in-language PPC campaigns saw 70% swells in site traffic. This led to higher engagement and conversion rates.

Charles Whiteman is senior vice president of client services at MotionPoint Corporation, the world’s #1 enterprise localization platform. He may be reached at


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James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

Zachary Ehrlich

25-year-old writer, and as a native San Franciscan, I am unreasonably loyal to Bank of America, if only for their superhero-like origin story, involving the 1906 earthquake and Italian fruit vendors.

Brad Strothkamp

Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.