Small Business Banking trends

We highlight the key trends that will be impacting asset management (or business banking or retail banking etc) in 2021 and consider the proactive steps that you as a marketer can take to stay one step ahead.

1. Sustainability: SME’s still take on digital pollution

Businesses are under pressure to continue to drive sustainable practices and SME’s are taking the lead on applying ‘tech for good’ solutions to permanently reduce emails/ data consumption in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

Digital pollution is one of the biggest known threats to the world’s climate change. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is accounting for 14% of the world’s energy consumption and data centres will account for 45% of ICT’s carbon footprint1. With 2020 seeing a rise in purposeful brands and solutions, many SME’s are embracing agile business models to quickly adapt business practices in order to not only reach net-zero-carbon but also to stand as a positive figure within their category.

In the transition to reduce their overall carbon footprint, SME’s are benefitting from the lack of scale and complexity larger brands have and by adding low-carbon, more sustainable, products to their services are able to even help create a competitive edge to larger brands2– meeting the needs of the growing consumer demand for more purposeful and sustainable products and services and at speed.

SME’s such as Cleanfox are driving such action, focusing on not only helping consumers understand the impact of cluttered emails and online search habits but committing to campaigns such as #cybercleanup, having already saved up to 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions3.

What this means for marketers:

ESG, as a macro theme, is still growing in importance and has naturally had a knock-on effect for organisations to reassess all aspects of operations, and within the mainstream media, their social purpose and impact. With digital pollution becoming a growing topic of conversation, we’ve already seen great strides from brands outside of the financial services category striving to reduce the data heavy impact of inundated communications. Coca-Cola, through Covid-19, placed a greater focus on delivering contextual and interesting messaging4 as opposed to bombarding consumers with constants news, updates, promotional offers and brand messaging.

Cluttering your consumers inbox with content does more damage than simply pestering your audience, and marketers need to consider sustainable content delivery as part of their wider sustainability agenda.

2. Communications: Capitalising on video dwell time

Following on from the previous trend, Covid-19 has spiked a stream of new customer expectations, not only in terms of service offerings, but the way in which brands now communicate with them. 66% of customers now expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations, with a further 77% believing that the crisis should act as a prompt for businesses to improve the way in which they operate5.  

With the sheer amount of time consumers are spending on social media, SME’s are starting to shift their focus to appearing on habitual channels to reflect changing online behaviour- 47% of SME’s have already cited this as a growing focus moving forward. Amidst lockdown measures and travel restrictions, consumers have adjusted to the increased amount of time on their hands, and channels such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram have seen unprecedented growth in video content- indicating a clear opportunity for SME’s to communicate to different demographics on habitual platforms6.

With customer expectations changing and the amount of messaging customers are already receiving from other brands, 55% of SME’s have been careful about inundating them with constant communications, focusing more on providing vital updates. SME’s are taking very a practical approach to include customers on their Covid-19/Brexit journey, however we expect to see more communications around brand values, positive stories and employee highlights in the effort to remain resilient through upcoming uncertainty.

What this means for marketers:

The key priorities to land are contextualising content to reflect wider, macro topics such as political and cultural changes than simply delivering Covid-19 updates and adapting to growing communication channels.

Marketers from all sectors need to be able to show that they as a brand are able to listen, adapt and evolve strategies to meet different needs and different audiences, without taking a ‘one message for all’ blanket approach to content strategies. Marketers, particularly within financial services, have the opportunity to capitalise on the sheer amount of video content consumers are currently watching and tread into new channels, such as TikTok, to reach new audiences. Education can play a key role to a much younger audience, especially on topics such as ‘financial wellness’, ‘understanding the basics’ and ‘planning for your future’.

3. Cybersecurity: Preparing for further threat

43% of cyber-attacks are aimed at SME’s, especially given their current vulnerability during Covid-19. Although investment may be tight, smart SME’s are adopting a short term ‘firefighting’ mentality but, are also ensuring sufficient investment goes into ‘fit for future’ legacy systems5.

Cybercriminals see Covid-19 as an opportunity to not only target smaller, more vulnerable businesses, but as a prime opportunity to infiltrate businesses as they mobilise for long-term recovery. With the existing financial strain, 60% of SME’s will go out of business within 6 months of a cyber-attack due to the pressure applied to the business therefore the importance of adopting agile and bespoke solutions to suit the needs of smaller businesses is needed now more than ever7.

What this means for marketers:

Cybersecurity is becoming a hot topic of conversation for a number of different industries and being able to reflect the security behind the brand and processes not only benefits stakeholders but current employees and future employees. Marketers, particularly in financial services, should be tailoring messaging around cybersecurity not only to drive credibility, but to also showcase authority and resilience ahead of further economic instability. Marketers have the opportunity to not only help SME’s understand global trends and threats within cybersecurity, but especially within financial services, can help SME’s access the bank of knowledge from internal experts.   

In terms of messaging, highlight key threats and practical solutions to fend off cyber criminals is a great start in establishing marketing as a key function to help protect and upskill SME’s who don’t have a dedicated IT department.

4. Diversity & Inclusion: Continued focus on diversity

Not only following the cultural push for more diverse workplaces, but SME’s are embracing more diverse workplaces in order to pool a wider set of skills and personalities together. Businesses with a diverse team are not only more innovative but perform better financially, and findings point to the fact that diversity in the workplace also helps with hiring and making better and faster decisions.

Data shows that not only are there financial benefits to this growing organisational shift but is also reflective of how organisations are perceived by consumers and future employees8.

What this means for marketers:

Showcasing the eclectic mix of employees, you have within the organisation is key, but more importantly showcasing the skills and experience they bring to the organisation carries more value than being perceived to simply a diversity quota. Future employees, investors and consumers expect to see content which reflects the values which the organisation holds as part of their roots and expect to be able to hear the voices of those employed within the organisation.

Consider how the voices of those within the organisation can be used as front facing ambassadors, and how they align to, and represent the organisations values and a purposeful organisation.

5. Online presence: Accelerating ecommerce

Almost 230,000 SME’s hadclosed their doors during the pandemic, furthermore SME’s are struggling with debt and a lack of staff to help meet the fluctuating demand between lockdowns. Although businesses are fundamentally struggling, they’ve been able to adjust their agile business models to focus on ecommerce as a key channel to reach their audiences.

This growing trend of SME’s turning to ecommerce has seen benefits such as a 501% increase in sales post- Cyber Monday. With such a boom in ecommerce business9, SME’s are in a position to move the majority of their business now to cater to online search and purchase habits. This growing trend not only reflects a change in consumer behaviour but the agility behind SME’s in adopting/ accelerating new business practises and developing/ evolving current strategies10.

What this means for marketers:

Online purchase behaviour reflects just as much about purchase habits as it does the way in which consumers now navigate content. With more consumers shopping online naturally increasing time spent online, and becoming more efficient when researching brands and services, SME’s are in a position of not only trying to understand how their brand now needs to be portrayed in an online world but the formats which are best served to meet brand objectives and consumer behaviour. With the increase in online consumer behaviour, financial services marketers need to increase content surrounding the topics of online purchase behaviour, financial tools and payment solutions best suited to streamline ecommerce business models- ultimately helping SME’s navigate a new environment while minimising risk.

Kevin Hearn

Kevin Hearn

Kevin has over 20 years' marketing experience, most of that spent agency-side helping brands connect with their customers. As Director of Strategy he consults with some of the world’s largest financial brands and leads a team of super-talented strategists based across our Edinburgh, London and New York offices.