Head of PR & Marketing Department
RAIFFEISEN BANK ALBANIA
What remains crucial in communication is the relation you create with customers, to maintain what is really working, to be empathic and create exceptional experiences in all the touch points of the brand with our customers.
The pandemic, and the recession it created, changed the outlook for marketing plans and budgets, in a matter of few weeks. Initially, all brands and companies faced challenges related to the “unknown” ahead and marketing commitments went under review, content wise and budget wise, following the society behaviors and the switching needs for various products. Challenging times still bring new opportunities and test the ability of companies to show their agility and reaction to a changing environment. The COVID-19 crisis has been a double-sided story. It created fear and confusion, but it is also driving people to use new tools, and we at Raiffeisen Bank, were ready for this task.
Not surprisingly, the need for social distancing raised the request for more banking digital tools and digital transactions. Since banks are one of the key drivers in economy, they needed to continue satisfying the needs of Albanian families and businesses to keep on operating as “normal” as they could. Since customers asked for more remote tools and safety in their lives and transactions, we reacted immediately to satisfy their needs. Product wise, all focus went to perfection of our digital platform, Raiffeisen ON, which was previously introduced quite successfully, as part of Bank digital transformation.During this time, registrations in Raiffeisen ON increased by 36%, transactions through it approx. 20%, utility payments, mobile top ups, internet subscriptions, etc., increased by 64%. Marketing communications role was to communicate the affinity with clients and the best functionalities of our digital products. Online transactions increased by 64%, accelerated by the legal facility of zero commission, for all online payments. An online application for the Credit Card has been developed within a week, in order to supply all customers who needed this banking product with new Credit Card delivered to their homes within 48h, so they could continue easily online purchases. It was worth it, as transaction via cards, through e-commerce, increased by 60%. QR scanning to request instantly a moratorium was a novelty, introduced briefly after such facility announcement by government, only by Raiffeisen Bank. Beyond all these, a good support went for the medical staff, via Special Packages, which have been introduced for medical personnel with improved banking conditions, as a “thank you” to their immense efforts.
The channels how the messages were delivered to the audience now changed, as well. The biggest hit was to outdoor advertising, print advertising and in-branch marketing. The biggest airtime and budget increases came in e-mail marketing, social media, Google display, content marketing, and SMS-s, CRM. What remains crucial in communication is the relation you create with customers, to maintain what is really working, to be empathic and create exceptional experiences in all the touch points of the brand with our customers. Tactical activities and price offering in various bank products still stays dominant into our market. But what customer ask and what we can improve is their experience, wherever they are. Where we can show this better that in all Digital touch points, which they can access instantly from the comfort of their home? It is the time now for intelligent digital banking experiences. The pace of technological change in our bank has not just transformed the customer experience and banks’ back-end operations. It has also shifted the marketing communication function within the banks. As part of this evolution, technology has empowered consumers with more information and more ways to take what they want. New channels and social media offer new ways for informing. Now customers have a voice to give an instant feedback and affect even the purchase behavior of other customers. Despite the significant shift to digital transactions and interactions by consumers of all ages, pushed by banks and financial institutions, many consumers still struggle with the basics of digital banking. Is it lack of trust, lack of understanding or practice to meet face to face a bank agent… or all of these factors together, it remains a task of marketing communications to educate and drive the market, versus these easy new ways. We at Raiffeisen, as the innovation leader in banking, will undertake all that possible to improve the transition to digital channels. This includes, but is not limited to:
- educational communication to consumers how to use digital channels,
- simplified processes, created by digital products team,
- increase digital engagement
- easy to find and easy to use functionalities, games, incentives,
- personalization of offering, which remains a weak point for Albanian market,
- culture shift, meaning to engage employees as customers, as the most real ambassadors.
The issue is: are we using marketing channels only for selling products and services, or are we also using these channels to educate, ask questions and build engagement? It should be both correlating with each other to gain the digital acquisition of our customers. We have transformed two of our branches to Cashless Branches with a human touch; practically the “Rruga Kavajës” branch (close to Embassies quartier) and “Ali Demi” branch perform electronic transactions only, under the consultancy of our staff. ATMs are another important touch point with our customers, and we are working to enrich their functionalities to turn them into multifunctional devices and enable our customers to perform more actions, without entering in the physical branches. That explains the necessity to use a wider repertoire of marketing techniques during the pandemics, from information sharing, to education, kinship, sale ad, thus accompanying the clients through their digital customer journey. These significant changes bring with them a significant alteration in the role of marketing managers and departments. They are no longer seen as simply responsible for advertising, catchy visual, events and promotions; now their role is blended with the responsibility for driving growth and enhancing the entire customer experience, regardless of channel. They need to stay attentive to marketing trends and make best usage of them, together with business lines. The large and growing importance of digital marketing will continue to dominate in 2021. What we can see as a future important development are loyalty programs. Moving from being transaction-based point systems to reinforce an emotional connection and trust with the consumer could result a winning formula.