The rules of finance: How one Swedish bank used first-party data to break the mould

Robert Wigren / November 2020

It’s an undeniable truth: many organisations weren’t able to keep pace this year with rapidly shifting consumer behaviour. In traditional, regulated industries such as banking, this was largely because companies struggled to harness the power of their first-party data. While most financial players have a wealth of information sourced directly from their customers, they couldn’t necessarily use it.

Some banks cite privacy concerns, strict regulations, team silos, or a lack of appropriate technology for their inability to unlock the power of first-party data. Others struggle to unify and aggregate the sheer volume of information at their disposal. Those that do — such as Swedish mortgage lender Bluestep Bank — can find themselves with a real competitive advantage.

“The financial industry is the toughest in which to use first-party data due to privacy regulations,” says Anniken Jonsson, head of digital marketing at Bluestep. “But on the flip side, there’s an opportunity for us to utilise our experience with traditional policy-making. We’re so used to talking to our lawyers and IT department that being compliant is our default starting point.”

Getting a 360-view of the customer journey

Back in 2019, Bluestep’s traditional marketing activities were optimised for maximising loan applications, but the quality of these leads meant that only a handful of those applicants were approved. Without an effective way to approach channel optimisation, it was difficult to manage budget allocation between channels.

The financial industry is the toughest in which to use first-party data due to privacy regulations.

Bluestep leadership saw they needed to make smarter marketing decisions and sought support from Precis Digital. The digital agency used a variety of tools including Google Analytics 360 and Campaign Manager 360 to build a data attribution model and simultaneously conducted a marketing mix modelling (MMM) analysis. The wealth of data derived from these initiatives offered Bluestep insight into each and every touchpoint of its customers’ path to conversion.

“Companies might worry that taking such an approach comes with too much data from too many sources,” says Matilda Jansson, CEO & partner with Precis Digital in Stockholm. “But helping as many customers as possible is important for Bluestep, and so it’s crucial that they make smart decisions with their spending. The only way to do that is by integrating all data so that it captures the full lead journey.”

Responding quickly to changing demands

Since the implementation of Precis Digital’s data-driven attribution model, Bluestep has been able to respond much more quickly to changing demands, which proved particularly useful during the pandemic.

“Our data showed that, against general expectations, mortgage applications actually increased during the crisis,” Jonsson explains. “Being able to back this up with data rather than going with our gut was super important for us.” It also meant that Bluestep was able to use its budget as normal during the pandemic while many others pressed pause.

The banking industry is so used to stringent regulations that it can be at the forefront of how to address the privacy challenge.

But the ability to move quickly doesn’t just serve in a time of crisis. “It allows us to switch budgets quite quickly and easily if we find high-performing keywords or want to exclude low-quality ones,” confirms Jonsson. “Crucially, we now know what kind of lead becomes a customer, whereas before we had no idea.” This previously missing piece of the puzzle helped Bluestep increase qualified leads by 25% year-on-year, while the cost per acquisition decreased by 20%.

The marketing mix model had an equally significant impact on how Bluestep viewed their marketing. The MMM results put the bank in prime position to plan for the future in a data-driven way and allowed the bank to shift budget from its least to best performing media channels.

Managing data responsibly

First-party data is incredibly important for companies that are looking to improve their digital marketing maturity. Businesses must collect and use their data responsibly, with clear and transparent privacy policies in place. For Bluestep, a mortgage specialist bank, compliance is a key priority.

“The banking industry may be traditional,” says Jonsson, “but it's a sector so used to stringent regulations that it can be at the forefront of how to address the privacy challenge. We can lead the way by ensuring data is used correctly and in a way that benefits both ourselves and our customers.”

Investing in responsible, privacy-focused marketing pays off. More than 40% of organisations see benefits at least twice that of their privacy spend. Linking all first-party data sources can help companies double their incremental revenue from a single ad placement, but it requires strong inter-organisational relationships.

“We must continue to have an internal dialogue through communication channels that are always open,” says Jonsson. “If there’s a continuous feedback loop, our legal department can educate marketing on the regulations while simultaneously, marketing keeps legal up to speed with the context in which the data will be used.”

Through these relationships, Bluestep can continue to be privacy forward, helping the bank transform data use in the Swedish financial industry.

To be truly privacy forward:

  1. Use multiple data collection tools to create a holistic view of the customer journey.
  2. Build strong relationships between your marketing, IT, and legal departments.
  3. Understand that using first-party data is just as important as collecting it.
How to unlock the power of first-party data