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New Microsoft Study: Simplifying Money Matters by Giving Consumers Control, Clarity and Connection

I’m pleased to introduce the newest addition to our Consumer Decision Journey research: The Consumer Decision Journey: Financial Services.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a video detailing the basics of what we discovered by conducting our research:

Making major financial decisions often is complicated and intimidating. The complexity grows when you factor in the vast number of financial products on the market. Every day consumers are bombarded with beautiful and impassionate images telling them they should save more but most of us have no clue where to even start. 

Microsoft Advertising decided to look into the decision journey that consumers take when trying to make financial choices. We wanted to help brands better reach new audiences while meeting consumer needs. Using consumer financial goals as a starting point, we tapped into human emotions when making decisions. Our research provides fresh insight into how marketers may provide consumers the tools they need as they align with consumer goals.

Here are some interesting facts that showcase how consumers wrestle with managing their financial lives:

- 70% of consumers strongly agree that it’s more important than ever to have savings, yet only 28% of consumers have a clear dollar amount in mind when they are saving.

- While only 40% of funds are allocated to financial goals, these goals take up 60% of consumers’ worries.

Our findings also tell us that consumers feel bombarded with information that doesn’t always seem relevant to their financial needs. This information overload may be why we’re seeing search come up as one of the strongest influencers in the early and active stages of financial decision making. Search is a very effective curation tool that consumers have at their disposal, filling knowledge gaps and helping them identify content they need to make decisions. 

After consumers gather information, they also need to understand how it meets their personal needs and helps them reach their goals. This is where big data, as revealed by one of our digital trends: Value Me, comes into play. Consumers seek value for the personal information they share with companies. However, unlike in the Retail Journey, where we first spotted this trend manifesting, consumers taking this financial journey want to see transparency before they want rewards.

Use me as an example. While I may be willing to give up my name and email for a free sample of La Mer’s newest beauty cream, I’m not as willing to give my bank the same information unless am clear whythey need it. With La Mer, the value exchange is clear. That’s not always the case with banking.

Our research tells us that 86 percent of consumers claim that they “share” personal data with financial institutions. Interestingly enough, half of those we surveyed said they would be willing to share more if they had control over that information and the clarity that they were going to get value from the transaction. This is one nugget for financial companies to take into consideration: transparency can lead to higher customer satisfaction, and possibly more revenue.

Another interesting learning we’ve found is that consumers are looking for more ways to connect on a personal level with their financial service providers. 67% of consumers say it’s important to understand why companies gather information about them and see how they benefit, but only 32% say they recognize that benefit. Providers need to better communicate the value exchange in order to reassure and build trust.

What do consumers need, and how can marketers help? Our research suggests the following tid-bits for marketers to keep in mind:

1. Consumers want more control over their data and transparency with regard to how financial institutions are using it.

2. They want clarity through curated content that gives them tangible examples of how they can establish the right goals and make progress on meeting them.

3. Finally, they seek better connections to their financial institutions, not only through advisors, but also via easy online and mobile tools that help them stay actively engaged with their goals.

Technology and financial services companies are in an ideal position to create innovative solutions that meet consumers’ needs for control, clarity and connection. Marketers can provide tools that help consumers reach their financial services goals as they activate and utilize search to identify next steps, or are influenced by a beautiful display advertisement. It can be done, and we’d like to show you how through what we’ve learned. More details on the study are included in our CDJ Financial Services White Paper, which can be accessed on our research site, here.

As always, thanks for reading!


[1] The Consumer Decision Journey: Financial Services, 2014

[2] Microsoft Digital Trends, 2013