How a Seasoned Financial Services Firm Learned to Market like a Start-Up

Tech start-ups are famously good at using digital tools to create personalized experiences that engage with customers on a deep level.

by John Bates

posted on 03-25-2019

Tech start-ups are famously good at using digital tools to create personalized experiences that engage with customers on a deep level.

But for more established companies, embracing an ethos of technology-driven engagement can be a challenge. Many organizations that have been around for decades simply aren’t used to providing the kind of in-the-moment experiences that customers now expect. And often, the digital systems these companies rely on lack the efficiency and interoperability of today’s best software solutions.

The challenge for these businesses is to achieve the flexibility and shrewdness of a start-up, while remaining true to their core values. That was precisely the situation facing one of Adobe’s clients, the United Services Automobile Association, or USAA.

Established in 1922, the company provides a wide range of financial products to military members and their families. These include everything from checking accounts and IRAs to small business loans, annuities, and home, auto, and life insurance.

Given its unique role in the lives of military families, USAA has always placed a high value on empathizing with its customers. For instance, the firm offers each new hire the opportunity to complete an intense military training program known as Zero Day — led by actual members of the military. Every year, several hundred USAA employees participate. This initiation ritual is designed to help USAA workers relate to the military families they serve, and ultimately to create more meaningful customer interactions.

Another USAA value is digital innovation. The firm was one of the first companies in its industry to experiment with phone banking, and later, with customer service via video chat. USAA also smartly redesigned its website to mimic a mobile app and adopted tools like data analytics and contextual web marketing much sooner than its peers.

Unfortunately, as the digital revolution sped up, the legacy company began struggling to make good on its commitment to empathy and cutting-edge digital tech.

Consider its customer relationships management. USAA employed a homegrown customer-relationship management system for its call centers. The system equipped customer service reps with customer preferences and history, allowing reps to seamlessly tailor calls to individual customers.

But after it shifted to digital customer experiences, the brand needed a way to stitch together customer data in the digital realm.

Part of the problem was that much of the information USAA collected from its customers was siloed in different systems, many of which were dedicated to individual products. There was one system for car insurance, another for home loans, another for savings accounts.

As a result, it was difficult for USAA to develop a holistic picture of each customer that it could use to personalize its interactions across all channels.

This is a common problem with companies that have been around for a while. Since their digital systems developed piecemeal over the course of years, the various software products they rely on can become disjointed, inelegant, and limiting.

That’s where Adobe came in. Adobe tools allowed USAA to digitally create the world-class customer experiences its call center was known for.

Our goal was to help USAA implement the kind of system that a more agile startup would adopt if it were launching tomorrow. Specifically, we wanted to offer a suite of products that was customer-focused, not product-focused.

Through a combination of Adobe Analytics and Audience Manager, we were able to do exactly that. Thanks to Adobe, USAA was able to evaluate its marketing campaigns, and pinpoint what was going right.

With Audience Manager, the brand was able to grow its digital spend and confidently enter the national paid media market. On one platform, USAA was able to see the most effective ways to spend its paid media dollars. Thanks to these tools, the brand doubled its marketing spend in the last three years, meeting the high customer experience standards its industry demanded.

USAA’s investment also allowed it to connect to other services in Adobe Experience Cloud to get an up-to-date picture of consumer needs. The Experience Cloud improved the firm’s audience enrichment, modeling, and data management.

This transformation has helped USAA achieve the kind of flexibility in its marketing operations that one would expect from a lean start-up. But, perhaps more important, Adobe’s solutions have enabled USAA to bring its years-long commitment to empathetic, personalized customer engagement into the digital era.

USAA uses Adobe Experience Cloud and its analytics, personalization and audience management solutions to stay committed to customer experience. Learn more here.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Adobe Summit, Analytics, News, Customer Stories

Products: Analytics