New research from independent mobile ad and data platform company Millennial Media and mobile measurement firm comScore shows that finance brands aren’t only the big(gest) spenders in mobile advertising (outranking other sectors including retail, entertainment and automotive). It also draws from consumer surveys and hard data across thousands of mobile ad campaigns (reaching over 300 million unique users globally) to help finance brands understand who their customers are, how they use their mobile devices and where (how) ad campaigns can reach them at scale.

Who are mobile financial users (people who engage with finance content and advertising on the mobile devices)? How can finance brands — including brands in insurance, banking, financial services and asset management — plan effective mobile strategies to engage their audience?

Tough questions. Fortunately, Mobile Intel: Finance, the latest in a series of Mobile Intel reports, provides actionable insights into what mobile finance users want and how brands can  benefit.

Affluent, passionate and loyal

Mobile finance users are tech-savvy (80 percent own a smartphone and 37 percent also own a tablet or e-reader). Compared to the overall mobile audience mobile finance users over-indexed on almost all major tablets and e-readers.

All the more reason for finance brands to create and deliver a rich tablet experience, whether through a branded app of mobile-optimized website.

But mobile users also have distinct tastes (beauty & fashion), passions (environmental causes) and behavioral characteristics (confidence) that provide important clues about the approaches and campaigns that will allow finance brands to align themselves with these interests and thus engage their target audience more effectively.

Specifically, mobile finance users consider themselves environmentally-friendly, health-conscious and influential. They are also 59 percent more likely to consider themselves a “tech geek” than the overall mobile audience, and 50 percent more likely than the total mobile audience to see themselves as fashion-conscious.

Interestingly, 37 percent of mobile finance are also “risk takers” – with nearly half (48 percent) of them proud to identify as such. They are also affluent and over-index in the $75,000+ and $100,000 income brackets.

Finally, mobile finance users have distinct attitudes toward brands they do business with (preferring brands that reflect their style, for example) and tend to stick with brands they like and trust.

Against this backdrop, it’s easy to imagine ideal (and perhaps obvious) approaches that would allow finance brands to reach and impress this unique audience. I’m thinking here of campaigns that pair personal finance products with personal lifestyle (high-fashion, high-tech, high-performance cars, high-profile celebs).  But brands should also think outside the box and consider matching their marketing with the other types of content mobile finance users access as part of their routine.

To this end the report also takes a deep dive into the types of content mobile finance users access/engage with (most frequently) on their mobile devices. Beyond finance content, they spend time on apps and sites focused on weather (84 percent), maps (74 percent), general news (67 percent), sports info (58 percent), entertainment news (58 percent) and tech news (47 percent).

Our finance habit

The good news: the Millennial Media/comScore report — with its important clues and insights into the interests, activities and behavioral characteristics of mobile finance users — supports finance brands as they plan and execute campaigns to reach users at scale.

The even better news: the advance of mobile commerce is driving a new phase of growth in how we use finance apps. A new survey of 1,000+ UK consumers conducted by Lightspeed Research (part of Kantar and WPP) points out that finance and banking is becoming what we do on our connected devices — full stop.

Specifically, Games and Business are the most frequently used tablet apps, followed by Finance/Banking, Entertainment and Health & Fitness.

Lightspeed mobile app use research

No doubt form factors, screen size and the nature of our socially networked lives account for the differences in our app usage and preference on smartphones.  The survey shows Social Networking, News and Weather are the most frequently used apps. (Interestingly, these app categories mirror the content categories listed in the Millennial Media/comScore research — indicating a wealth opportunity for brands that harness  a variety of relevant content types to address and engage their audience.)

Big spenders, focused strategies

Finance brands ‘get’ mobile and understand the perfect match between our devices (personal, portable and packed with features that help us manage our lives) and financial services (insurance, banking, asset management), which are by nature personal, private and fiercely individual.

To take advantage of this finance brands have consistently increased their commitment to mobile, shifting ad spend from other media channels to connect with their target audience on the devices that matter most.

In fact, ad spend by the Finance vertical in 2011 grew over 300 percent worldwide compared with 2010. Moreover, Finance was the number one global brand advertising vertical on the Millennial Media platform in 2011 (ranked by spend), showing steady growth throughout the year.

Interestingly, mobile finance campaign goals were (and continue to be) squarely focused on lead generation and registration, encouraging users to apply for new banking and financial services accounts, apps, credit cards, insurance coverage and advice.

mobile finance advertiser goals

In fact, when compared with the goals of advertisers across all verticals on the Millennial media platform, finance brands focused much more heavily on lead generation than any other advertising vertical (70 percent vs. 25 percent of all other verticals).

The top targeting method used by finance advertisers (34 percent) was Content (running content-targeted campaigns on apps or sites within a specific content category such as news or weather). This was followed by Tactical targeting, a method used by 27 percent of advertisers focused on reaching audiences based on device type, carrier or operating system.

My take:

Who is the mobile finance user? This report tells us they are young, wealthy and confident. But they are also health-conscious, environmentally-friendly and likely to stick with brands they like and trust. (They are even willing to pay more for a brand they trust). Who are the finance advertisers? They correctly understand the lucrative link between mobile (personal devices) and their offer (personal finance products and advice). They have also shifted significant ad spend to mobile and focused the majority of these campaigns on lead generation and registration, objectives associated with the top of the purchase funnel. (By way of background, the stages of the purchase funnel are Awareness, Engagement, Consideration, Conversion and Loyalty.)

Connect the dots, and the way is clear for finance brands to broaden their campaign goals beyond brand awareness and focus more resources on creating and building lasting brand loyalty. Mobile finance users (with their tendency to pick a brand and stick with it) would likely respond well to campaigns aimed at CRM and boosting loyalty.

The research also highlights another development finance brands must factor into their strategies: the shift in how we access and interact with finance content and services. As I showed, Lightspeed Research reveals finance and banking apps lead the pack when it comes to the list of apps we access most frequently. Meantime, Millennial Media/comScore research reports an increasing willingness by mobile users to interact with finance companies via branded mobile applications. Given the high number of mobile finance users who own a tablet (and a raft of reports forecasting explosive tablet growth), it makes sense to deliver a suite of branded apps across a variety of operating systems backed up by a solid mobile advertising strategy to drive traffic to – and continuous use of – those apps.

The bottom line: The explosion of mobile commerce and mobile payments is moving mobile financial services such as banking into the center of our daily digital routine. Finance is THE vertical where supply (advertising/content) and demand (our interest in interacting with it) are in synch. It’s a great opportunity and this report covers all the bases to help finance brands grasp it with both hands.

This post is part of our Mobile Advertising Briefing Room, a thinking space dedicated to providing its community mobile intelligence, consumer research, case studies and industry best practices that equip marketers to reach and engage their target audience at scale. This discussion is hosted & sponsored by Millennial Media.


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