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Part II: The Importance of Understanding Data - Opportunities for Personalization and Clearer Insights into What Customers Want

Digital Marketing

Part II: The Importance of Understanding Data - Opportunities for Personalization and Clearer Insights into What Customers Want

Eric Cook by Eric Cook

Chief Digital Strategist

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Full biography

Eric considers himself a “recovering banker” of 15 years, who for the past eleven years has focused his efforts as a digital strategist, helping his clients (mostly community banks) better understand and leverage the power of the Internet as a strategic business tool. An award-winning web designer with WSI, the world’s largest digital agency network, Eric is a two-time contributing author to the best-selling book Digital Minds – 12 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Digital Marketing. Consistently rated in the top five digital marketing books on Amazon, the book is in its second edition and available in three languages.

A sought-after, nationally-recognized speaker in the financial services industry, Eric is a member of the National Speakers Association and loves sharing his knowledge to help educate and inspire others. He is the co-creator of a weekly webinar show called Free Webinar Wednesdays, founder of the Banker Education Series webinar series, and serves as a faculty member at several banking schools around the country where he teaches bankers about digital strategy, online marketing and social media. He is a WSI Certified LinkedIn Professional and holds undergraduate degrees in business administration and psychology. While working full-time as a community banker, Eric earned his MBA and completed the three-year Graduate School of Banking program in Madison, WI in 2003.

Professionally, Eric helps his clients in all areas of digital marketing, which includes mobile-responsive web development, search engine marketing and optimization, social media strategies, e-mail communication, and “big-picture” digital strategic planning. He’s the co-founder of, a service created to help businesses understand their risk when it comes to operating in today’s digital world. When he’s not helping his clients succeed online, he can typically be found on one of his many bicycles training for his next mountain bike/triathlon race or spending time with his wife and two (very spoiled) golden retrievers.



Hopefully, you’ve been able to check out the first installment of this three-part series, where I provide my thoughts on the three main challenges that bank marketers are facing today. In case you missed the first article on artificial intelligence (AI), you may want to hop over to check that out after reading this one. 

Today's post explores the second key area that I believe to be a challenge for community bank marketers, the importance of understanding data and the opportunities it provides for taking action by offering clearer insights into what customers want (and how you can deliver it). 

This is a critical question that Forbes took the time to address in their article, 50 Stats Showing the Power of Personalization. In this article, you’ll get a sense of how data is being used to help improve everything from real-life interactions to online portals. In the world of community banking, COVID changed everything and made everyone more digital. Pre-covid, most community banks got to know their customers because everyone came into the bank to complete their banking business. Community bankers got to know their customers through real-life, personal interactions, and no one expected that to change. 

The pandemic caused a massive digital shift, with everyone moving to digital banking. Lobby traffic dried up, and for several months interactions took place in a drive-through wearing a mask or via an online application portal (for those community banks who were able to adapt quickly, or had this service already part of their website functionality). 

Sure, community banks may know and understand some of their long-term loyal customers, but these societal changes demand banks become forward-thinking and figure out new ways to get to know these customers who rarely, if ever, will see inside a branch. Understanding (and serving) customers that will be around for the next 10-15 years will continue to be a challenge for many community bankers given the “digital disconnect” that exists. But because they are the future of community banking, without understanding their needs if they are banking with you now, they may not stick around for very long (or worse, how do you attract them if they aren’t banking with you yet). That’s why you need to understand and embrace data. 

Data is Becoming Increasingly Important

In today's digital age, data is king, and it’s not just about the transactions. Community banks are realizing that there's a treasure trove of data beyond traditional sources like accounts and internal records. The real game-changer lies in the data generated by your customers' digital interactions. Leveraging this data can make all the difference when growing your bank.

Imagine having insights into your customers' browsing behavior, social interactions, and purchase intent. Platforms like Finalytics are able to work with community banks to understand the various touchpoints across different platforms and help develop a story of the customer. The platform empowers community banks to better understand their needs, and help deliver the right message - at the right time. Their tagline, “Humanize the Digital Experience,” says it all! 

With this wealth of information, you can tailor personalized experiences that exceed customer expectations. This might sound like a daunting challenge for community banks, but it's quickly becoming an expectation for organizations across industries and business sectors - so it’s no surprise that banking will benefit in the same way.

Start Using AI to Understand Data

To help better understand and take advantage of data, community banks can harness the potential of AI technology to maximize the benefits and deliver a customized customer experience. Using AI algorithms, community banks can effectively examine customer data, such as transaction records and online interactions like browsing history and purchase intent. Even social interactions like connecting with the bank through social media can offer data helpful for understanding customer behavior. This thorough analysis can reveal insights about customers called predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics uses historical data and statistical algorithms to forecast or predict future events and trends. The technique leverages patterns and relationships within the data, making predictions to help businesses make informed decisions, optimize operations, and anticipate outcomes. Other ways community banks can harness the power of AI to create personalized customer experiences include chatbots for customer service, enhanced fraud detection, and automation tools for optimizing operations.

The Importance of Leveraging Data for Community Banking

In today's digital age, creating a personalized customer experience is almost impossible without data analytics. Customers expect and demand personalized experiences on their own terms—sometimes in person, but often online, too. 

The bar is being set by e-commerce platforms across industries that offer tailored recommendations and other interactions that align with their interests and preferences because most of these companies utilize predictive analytics.

Think of the last time you were on and made a purchase. I’m willing to bet you received recommendations for complimentary products, and maybe even added those to your cart before you checked out (and that’s more money for Amazon). They use data to understand what customers need, sometimes before they even realize it themselves. Like Amazon, community banks must learn how to use data signals like this to better understand their customers and remain a competitive option that meets customer banking needs.

That’s a wrap for article number two. That means we’ve got one more to go in my three-part series and my next (and final) challenge community bank marketers are facing relates to social media. I see community bankers missing opportunities for personal branding and relationship building, particularly on LinkedIn. In the meantime, if you want to explore ways you could be capturing and leveraging data at your community bank, contact us today. We’d love to chat and share ways that WSI can help your community bank embrace data as your strategic secret weapon!


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