Capturing your customer’s attention – it is after all a finite resource

Financial Advisory

25 June 2019John Hall

Advisory DistributorsAuthenticityCustomerDataDigitalFinancial AdvisoryFintechPersonalisation

As everyone wanders around staring at their phones … flicking between Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn et al, how on earth do you capture their attention? And even if you do – how long can you hold on to it for?


As everyone wanders around staring at their phones … flicking between Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn et al, how on earth do you capture their attention? And even if you do – how long can you hold on to it for?

“Attention is focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether to act.” Yeah right!

According to a respected digital culture expert, the modern attention economy is increasingly one where the consumer product costs virtually nothing to reproduce and the problem facing the supplier of the product lies in adding valuable intangibles that cannot be reproduced at any cost. He identifies these intangibles as: 

  • Immediacy - priority access, immediate delivery
  • Personalisation - tailored just for you
  • Interpretation - support and guidance
  • Authenticity - how can you be sure it is the real thing?
  • Accessibility - wherever, whenever
  • Embodiment - books, live music
  • Patronage - paying simply because it feels good
  • Findability - "When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention - and most of it free — being found is valuable."


More shouting creates less stand out in the financial services market. In 2000 the average human attention span was 12 seconds, in 2018 it was 9. Shorter attention span than a Goldfish according to Microsoft.  In 2012, 204 million emails were sent, there were almost 3 billion Google searches, 1.4 billion tweets and almost 900K new websites launched.  The more we are exposed, the harder it is to grab our attention. 

Simply, more messaging, results in lower tolerance and a smaller pipeline. To generate cut through in financial services we must focus on consumer value and on understanding the customer problem we are trying to solve. We must change the way we look at consumers to treat their time as the ultimate resource.

Authenticity and relevance capture the consumers attention; however, we must be read to be remembered. The educational gap in Financial services leaves us open to a rise in inertia. In a cluttered market, findability is a growing problem for consumers and Financial services alike. To help customers find us, we need to be using the right tone, normal language and offering a human experience with product and proposition features that drive outcomes consumers can relate to.

Being in the right place at the right time is not straightforward.


  • Leading the debate was the need to go and talk to the customer, however in financial services there remains a fear of talking to real customers
  • Attention spans are waning on product sell and moving instead to the intangible, the shift to brand equity. Increasingly giving customers something they need is crucial to success
  • The use of AI is opening the market to new competition and great customers experiences and in parallel, is supporting data insight on engagement for brand leaders
  • We are seeing a shift in consumer attitudes to personalisation and interpretation of financial services. Products and propositions need to suit their lifestyles and life stages and they are demanding simplicity and great outcomes
  • Content is being used in new and powerful ways to build brand awareness and trust, Nationwide has been held up as a great example of the use of “emotional stories about people” - branded adverts designed to be entertaining, educational and emotional and most of all remembered
  • Augmenting rather than re-engineering of services was widely to be viewed as the best way to evolve consumer and service propositions with Fintech collaboration the essential enabler
  • The industry has only scratched the tip of the iceberg on personalisation and none of the market has really pushed this area, however, it is moving. Learning and insights from Apps are being used to improve relevance and drive simplicity and we are seeing this with the use of Nudge behaviour as an effective way to positively impact engagement
  • Automated service propositions remove the need for long and challenging journeys and shifting the value change evolution into service design supports better outcomes as does the use of UX facilitating sessions to evaluate what customers really want. Leading the way are AXA PPP Team “why not” team and Barclays “Launch pad” beta testing division
  • AI is highlighting simple steps to improve processes and pre-proposal sign off. By allowing question sets to be signed off in advance as with insurance where 90% of information needed is known in advance, the industry saves costs and customers time. The key is getting the tone right and creating the “right to sell,” however the plus’s such as 2% increase in conversion rates are significant to the bottom line
  • Companies that are pushing the brief and taking a different attitude to risk are achieving standout e.g. TransferWise
  • The use of UX facilitating sessions creates a base of sticky customers and the ability to “surprise and delight” has the greatest impact. Retail companies such as Wiggle do this with ease, but the model has not yet been replicated brilliantly in financial services. Achieving impact alongside great customer service still raises challenges
  • And, as ever, there remains the greatest pressure of how to deliver business returns


Augmenting rather than re-engineering services is key as is knowing your market and your customer. Getting the mix right is essential. The market will continue to evolve as the use of AI supports opening the way to new competition and great customer experiences alongside superb use of educational content e.g. Moneybox and This is Money’s pension planning tool (Fidelity). 

However, the industry is thought to be sitting on the huge bank of data it possesses and has only scratched the tip of the iceberg. It can do much more. Personalisation and immediacy with relevant messaging will remove friction in customer journeys if done in a fair and transparent way. New Day is a great example of this trend with pre-populated decision journeys.

Digital wins continue but long customer purchase question-sets along with re-keying of data behind the scenes prevail, particularly in the advisory market slowing progress. Infographics have been used well in the house buying market creating impactful engagement and brand building but not yet in financial services. Where propositions are tied with outcomes results are more successful e.g. Prudential Health and Life insurance.

Achieving standout is possible with clever use of technology, Insure and RegTech tools and good process development. The industry needs to build content with longevity to build impactful engagement as messaging moves from features to outcomes supported by great service design. The need to improve operational efficiency is vital to managing returns, the mobile industry have made great steps forward e.g. Vodafone, however in financial services this challenge remains. The question is also how to quickly and efficiently reach customer decision makers. Samsung’s promise of “do what you can’t” is successfully setting higher standards in brand values. Can this be replicated in financial services?

It is the brands that are open to taking risks that will succeed fastest initially, but it may be those who follow, that steal the show.