7 Email Audits for Financial Services Organisations

By Sam Holding, Head of International, SparkPost.

Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of talk about disruption taking place in the world of Banking and Fintech, and the threat posed to those institutions that haven’t stepped up certain procedures or taken action to ensure they remain competitive. The rapid rise of Fintech meant that Banks have been forced to tackle deep cultural issues and make way for new approaches. We all know that whenever culture is involved, change is neither easy nor widely accepted. Still, the retail banking community has shown a remarkable level of flexibility and openness towards building services for a new customer profile – tech-savvy and always-on-the-move, demanding complete information in real time.

Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about: satisfying a new generation of customers that is accustomed to more for less. Customers can now choose whom they want to do business with and are well aware of the power this brings. They demand everything, along with the stability and reliability of a traditional Bank. Simply put, they want the best of both worlds.

Banking is without a doubt one of the world’s most regulated industries. It always has been. This traditional, thriving and ever-evolving sector is accustomed to complying with directives and regulations in almost every aspect of its operations, and customer-facing communication is no exception.

In email marketing, regulatory compliance is a requirement. But this doesn’t mean that the FCA is giving organisations a run for their money. The purpose is to protect markets, businesses and clients alike by establishing transparent rules of conduct. The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive is a case and point. The updated MiFID, introduced in 2018, provides a framework for promotional and customer engagement activities run by Financial Services organisations, whether traditional Banks or FinTechs, and requires a specific approach when it comes to the context and tone of communications.

With ever-changing email best practices and privacy regulations, and challenges piling up for businesses worldwide, email programmes can’t be a set-it-and-forget-it component of marketing strategies anymore. On the contrary, they need to demonstrate good returns – both direct, such as click through rate, and indirect, such as the difference in active subscribers.

A solid email programme consists not only of clever subject lines and enticing creative, but also the important parts that customers can’t see, like deep consideration and analysis of the parts of an organisation’s strategy. Every step of the way, aiming for continual optimisation and iteration is key to ensure the business maintains a healthy and highly efficient email strategy. This key objective can be achieved by performing regular audits.

An email audit is an assessment of a current email programme, with the scope to identify potential issues and optimise performance. Email audits can be perceived as a hassle, but actually they can help organisations stay ahead of the curve and gain significant advantages, such as improved compliance, higher customer satisfaction rate, measurable return on investment, and lower cost per email. Furthermore, they can help detect and resolve email delivery problems that can lead to serious losses, like lost market share.

There are 7 audits that every organisation needs to perform regularly, to keep their email programme in ship-shape as external variables change and may impact the effectiveness of their strategy.

Acquisition Audit: Signing up new customers or prospects to your newsletters is important to keep the communication going – but equally important is to evaluate if all the new customer experience performs as intended. Broken acquisition sources and processes are more common than you’d imagine, causing disappointment to potential new subscribers right at the point when they’re ready to give permission. Acquisition audits can help keep customers engaged and satisfied from the very beginning.

Unsubscribe Audit: It is crucial to regularly check and confirm that unsubscribe links and processes are working. Not just for protecting your brand’s reputation, but also for ensuring regulatory compliance.

Template Audit: A template audit will help you ensure that templates continue to render well across most environments, have functioning links, have branding, messaging and footer language that are still current. With customers being more mobile than ever, businesses should confirm that rendering works well across all popular environments, and on mobile devices in particular.

Data and Integration Audit: Data is a critical asset. It’s essential to keep an eye on the flow of information to and from your ESP to ensure that data is integrated properly and without latency, and that the integrity of your targeting is intact and without errors.

Privacy Audit: Checking that the privacy policy, privacy statements in email and the process and verbiage at the point of acquisition meet the legal and regulatory standards, is a necessary part of healthy email programmes.

MiFID II requires language that is “fair, clear and not misleading.” This of course is good practice for marketing communications generally but has lately become compulsory for Financial Services organisations in Europe. Take it one step further by ensuring that your privacy statements and forms are easy to understand and not in confusing legal jargon.

Deliverability Audit: Email plays a critical role in engaging and retaining customers. A deliverability audit will help you significantly improve reach and success of marketing programmes, ensuring that customers receive your communications on time.

Competitive Intelligence Audit: Email marketers want (and need) to benchmark their performance and activity against others. A competitive intelligence audit will help you see innovations happening in the inbox and where your organisation fits, in comparison – so you remain ahead of the competition.

The market is evolving rapidly and with the strict regulations now in place, following good practice and performing email audits will help Banks and FinTechs to operate within the regulatory guidelines without compromising the outcome of their marketing campaigns.

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