Aparna Menon, Vice President of Digital Marketing at Barclays, spoke at RampUp on the Road Philadelphia about attracting the connected consumer wherever they are. She and her copanelists were refreshingly candid about where they were in their journey to connect with people at the right moment and time with the right offer, giving attendees the confidence to voice their challenges and potentially move forward with their projects.
After the event, we sat down to further discuss how Barclays is reaching consumers across channels and building their marketing technology stack to meet connected consumers’ rising expectations.
RampUp: The topic of your session was meeting consumers in the right moment. I was fascinated by what was said about mobile and how brands from any industry are not necessarily leveraging mobile in the ways that consumers are when they’re glued to their phones. What challenge does mobile present for the financial services industry?
Aparna: Yes, there were specific topics that we discussed regarding why there isn’t as much mobile adoption from marketers as we thought there would be by now. And, I was personally surprised to hear from my copanelists that even though they come from beverage industries and others, they are not finding as much adoption in their world either.
Speaking of financial services industries specifically, I can say that for us on the credit cards acquisitions side, a big challenge is around the quality of the customer who applies for our products. Sometimes, we see that mobile applicants don’t convert as high as some of the desktop prospects. There may be a variety of reasons, including a younger audience with thinner credit files.
That being said, one of mobile’s biggest roles is in existing customer management, where we offer new services or upsell products or engage with our current consumers. Mobile is very much front-and-center for Barclays in our growth journey.
RampUp: That’s interesting. When you think about acquiring consumers and taking them on a financial journey with Barclays as they grow, what channels do you look at specifically for that?
Aparna: I’m definitely biased towards digital. That being said, like most traditional organizations, we are present across multiple channels. Barclays U.S. started off as a cobrand credit card company, and direct mail is a very strong channel that we’ve been relying on for many, many years. The benefit of the direct mail channel, as everyone knows, is the ability to target. You know exactly who you are reaching out to, and you can prescreen and give the most relevant offer to the customer in their hands. Getting the same level of targeting in digital channels, along with attribution, is a challenge for all brands.
But one thing I will mention is that it’s less about which channels you advertise on and more about being present wherever the customer is at that point in time. For example, in the discussion today, one of the ideas that was mentioned was video, but it doesn’t mean only YouTube or TV or Facebook. Marketers have to be channel agnostic, because that’s how our consumers are thinking about products and services.
RampUp: So in terms of being channel agnostic and meeting the consumer where they are with the asset or format in which they want to consume your content, was that a line of thinking that already existed at Barclays before you started, or was it something that you had to help cultivate?
Aparna: I would call myself a Barclays veteran. I’ve been at Barclays for ten years in many different roles. I’m relatively new to marketing, but what I can say is that the digital channels, or the digital strategy, has evolved quite a bit in the last five to seven years.
At Barclays in the last two years or so, I have seen the most growth in how we have adopted many of the technologies we’ve been speaking about. Two to four years back, we knew we wanted an in-house integrated DSP, DMP and analytics infrastructure, and now we have all of it. We implemented the required digital capabilities and now have a strong foundation. The next leg of the journey for us is figuring out how to make the best use of this ecosystem—how to leverage all of this data that we get and act on it.
RampUp: That’s really interesting. And it seems that you were able to say, we need to focus on our marketing strategy as we go after the things we want so we can offer the customer a wonderful, connected experience that resonates with them. How did you approach that tech investment strategy? How are you continuing to iterate on that strategy as you’re using the tools now, tweaking the KPIs, and understanding what return you’re getting?
Aparna: I think the change definitely comes from the top down, starting with the CMO and other senior leaders who are committed to digital transformation. Barclays, if you look at our existence in the U.S., we don’t have any retail presence for consumer banking. We are a digital consumer bank—we offer credit cards, online savings, CDs, and personal loans. Had it not been for digital, we would not even be here.
We all know that digital is where we have to be for sustainable growth. For us, the focus is not just about whether you met your forecast for this year. It’s ‘can we meet the growth forecast for the next several years, and what do we have to do now to get there?’ That commitment and focus came from the top-level leadership, and it has permeated down through the organization.
RampUp: I also liked what you said on stage about having an engineering background. How much of your background plays a part in your life today as a marketer, especially as you evaluate different platforms and vendors?
Aparna: For me, the learning curve was much easier because of my background in electrical and electronics engineering. I did programming for a long time, then transitioned to process and project management before I joined marketing. The digital marketing space is all about data and technology—how we use it to roll out products and services.
My background allowed me to bridge a lot of the learning curve, and there were definitely a lot of new business insights that I had to learn on the marketing side. But coming with a vantage point that is relevant in today’s world has eased that course of learning.
RampUp: What are you most excited about for Barclays’ 2019 marketing program?
Aparna: I’m very excited to effectively and efficiently leverage all of the adtech and martech tools that we have built to drive desired outcomes.
And as I mentioned in the discussion, we’re also working on getting an end-to-end multi-touch attribution solution established for Barclays. Together, I think we have all of the capabilities needed to go full-on engagement digitally. To get the use cases that were always on paper, to see them fully executed in market, is something I’m really looking forward to in 2019.
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