The global pandemic is pushing us toward a future we were already headed toward faster than we even thought. And nowhere is this more true than banking. Let’s look at how banks can adapt in a world of less touch and more distance.

If you haven’t noticed already, we like to talk a lot about customer experience. Or as we call it, human experience. In a world where in-person interactions have become digital experiences, banks need to adapt their strategies for connecting with their customers. We work together with leading technology providers like Adobe and platforms like Adobe Experience Platform (AEP) to build deep personalization into customer experience to drive connection, loyalty, and ultimately, growth. Here’s what we’ve learned.

It starts with data

If you’re building a house, you start with a blueprint. If you’re building customer experiences, you start with data. For years now, banking providers have had a ton of data stored within complex data systems. But the sheer amount of data and complexity of the systems made it difficult to truly gain a full picture of a customer’s behaviors, expectations, and needs.

To remain competitive, banks need to make data management a priority and unleash its full potential. Data should be brought in house to give banks rapid and efficient access to real-time, relevant customer data that informs quick decision making.

A customer data platform (that’s CDP, in the biz) allows banks to easily look into customer data in real time in order to enhance the overall customer journey. The CDP needs to record and track customers’ online behavior across devices in real time, gather insights on customers’ data trails, and be supplemented by other owned data sources like call center history, purchase history, and demographic information. This provides a 360-degree view of customers, creating the foundation for an omnichannel customer experience.

The end result is a single source of truth that contains all relevant customer profile information that is accessible and as near real time as possible. Building and retaining ownership of this customer profile data enables activation, advanced analytics, and business intelligence, not to mention the ability to meet today’s ever-changing data privacy and security regulations.

Data, meet emotions

A customer’s data can certainly tell us a lot. But numbers and data sets can miss out on a crucial element: that humans are, well, humans. Where data and emotions intersect, banks can find smart ways to build great experiences.

There are few topics more emotional than someone’s relationship with their money. Our research has found that emotions drive a significant part of how we behave with our finances. Unfortunately, banks aren’t very good at capturing and acting on this emotion in the bit and bytes that drive their typical data strategy. The good news is that critical information banks need to know about their customers—buying habits, intentions, how they feel, hopes and dreams—is hidden in plain sight. It’s up to banks to identify, capture, and unlock this data to deliver a meaningful experience. For example, milestones—like getting married, starting a business, or purchasing a house—cause us to feel all sorts of ways. Emotions like joy, sadness, and anticipation impact our lives and our choices. To help build human experiences, banks need to be able to look beyond the obvious to see their customers as they truly are—complex humans with all sorts of emotions who are simply looking to navigate their lives. They’re telling us who they are with every click, swipe, call, chat, and interaction. We simply need to listen.

Make it digital

Once we start listening, we’ll be amazed at what the data will tell us, which is where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) come in. When combined with sentiment platforms, these technologies can help banks collect and understand data signals that help identify when our customers are experiencing a milestone, when they’re frustrated, when they’re looking for something, or when they’re considering leaving us. Once we’ve found the signal and have the insight, we have to decide what to do.

AI and ML can help identify the best way and time to engage with each customer—even before the customer knows what they want. Autonomous marketing can help banks create and deliver customer segmentation and targeting at scale, automate decision making, and curate the right experience for each segment. Which is a fancy way of saying that AI and ML, even though they’re complex technologies and algorithms, can help enhance the human experience.

When used intelligently and ethically, insights like these can help banks unlock the full potential of customer data.

To 2021, and beyond

As we head into next year, competition from traditional banks and disruptors will be stiff—everyone is adjusting their strategy, making digital a priority and prioritizing the customer experience. Today’s leapfrog is tomorrow’s table stakes. Only by knowing more about your customers, through data, and by being prepared to act on the insight it provides, can you sustainably differentiate yourself.

Learn more about the banking industry trends Deloitte Digital and Adobe see coming in 2021.