My fourth interview was with Bryan Yeager, the Financial Services and Mobile Payments Analyst for eMarketer. After graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology (which has an extensive print research department), Bryan has been researching and reporting on digital trends and developments – previously for InfoTrends and currently with eMarketer.

The Tipping point for Mobile

2013 was the year that mobile reached its tipping point. 77.9% of the US population will be mobile phone users in 2013, digital was set to surpass TV, and time spent on mobile overtook desktop time. Tablets and smartphones are in the hands of nearly every citizen now (except my dad’s, but that’s another issue entirely). 2013 was the year that mobile came to the forefront and “mobile first” is becoming the strategy of many marketers.

Bryan sees 2014 shaping up with mobile and social “Crafting a path to purchase” by optimizing the channels of choice, garnering feedback and insight from a servicing perspective, and allowing product innovation to drive marketing. Social media can then drive brand awareness and provide a platform for companies to reach out for more feedback. Content plays into this equation because it “keeps the conversation going” and digital channels aid in personalization and targeting while providing context to the conversation. Marketing is becoming a series of moving parts that must converge fluidly and seamlessly to truly succeed. Sounds easy, right?

Bryan noted that many financial services companies suffer from an overall lack of trust from the US population, as showcased in recent research from Edelman, where financial services companies ranked lowest on the “Trust Barometer” of all major verticals rated. That’s not great. So what is a financial services company to do in 2014?

Improving the User Experience

The first trend to focus on for 2014 is improving the customer experience and offering an immersive mobile platform. The biggest banks are already doing this, and now small and mid-sized banks will have to keep pace in the coming year. A great mobile experience is a competitive differentiator. Insurance marketing is no different. Look at the Geico app, where claim information can be sent from the mobile device. This not only offers peace of mind, but ease of use, and in an era where the price driven market is more competitive than ever, banks and insurers will have to start fighting for the best user experience.

Social media will continue to grow in importance, and in 2014, all of the groundwork companies have been laying must come to fruition. If your company name isn’t McDonalds, Taco Bell or Old Spice, chances are you are still figuring out a thing or two about effective use of social for marketing. The past couple years have been building blocks to understand the platforms, learn from mistakes, and try out social listening. 2014 is when that strategy gets taken into overdrive, and will be an overarching part of future development for years to come.  Social media has become a form of raw customer intelligence, and though tough to gather, it can be rationalized with the right assistance.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is likely to make a splash in 2014, with the first wave of devices highly focused on fitness or a specific objective. Look for Google’s Glass product to have a public showing in 2014, and for “Smartwatches” to really hit their stride and to become an extension of the smartphone, with significant marketing potential. For these devices to make sense, they must have a more compelling use case, and manufacturers will stray away from the current builds which are “a technology looking for a solution.” Wearables are particularly compelling for data gathering potential, and offer new avenues for marketing, advertising and promotion.

To get ready for these new waves in mobile, social and wearable technology, it’s time to start eating your own dog food when preparing the user experience. Test, test and test again, and then make sure the people testing aren’t the ones that you share lunch with. Get a friend of a friend: someone who doesn’t care about hurting your feelings. It is becoming more and more clear that digital marketing will learn a great deal from direct marketing in the coming years. Marketing is transforming to enable more direct engagement and interaction, and the companies that align themselves with direct marketing methodologies or firms will have the most success in 2014 and beyond.

Click here to read the prior post – Sitting on the Sidelines or Taking the Leap of Faith