In the last 15 months, the world has vaulted years ahead in digital acceptance. As consumers gain tech experience, their standards get higher. They’ve developed the ability to tune out fake empathy and cringe at personalization efforts that are either lame or creepy.

Yet empathy counts more than it ever has before. During the pandemic, unemployment because of a harsh reality, many individuals lost or were separated from loved ones, several were forced to postpone milestone moments and no one was able to participate in the communities that made them feel the happiest and safe.  Brands and companies that build true connections are those that understand that context is everything. Personalization is only relevant and timely when it relates to what prospects and customers are going through at that moment.

Financial services companies have a clear advantage compared to other industries, with more data-driven insights that reveal specific struggles. While not every family’s finances have been impacted, 51% of consumers added to their credit-card debt during the pandemic. Additionally, Pew Research reports 27% of consumers are worried about the cost of healthcare.

Catch Up With Missed Milestones

Financial services companies can improve personalization efforts by helping people catch up with milestones. The weddings, graduation ceremonies and retirement parties that were put on hold due to COVID-19 left emotional holes. Consumers are still coming to terms with the impact of that disruption. And as vaccination rates rise and cases drop, people are looking to reclaim those “lost” moments.

Weddings are a happy example. The Knot predicts this year will be the biggest wedding year ever, increasing 20 to 25%. And many couples who got hitched during the pandemic will celebrate with a long-delayed bash.

Moving house – always a significant financial transition – has also taken on outsize proportions, with millions of millennials struggling to find affordable homes. They are trying to navigate a real-estate reality that’s markedly different, not just because of the pandemic. Housing prices are soaring, up 23.6% – a record increase. And after two decades of declining home construction, experts say America needs an additional 5.5 million units.

It’s a market more confusing than their parents ever faced­. Instead of buying dream houses or starter homes that make them feel financially comfortable, they’re often stuck. They need content that helps them make the best choices and financial partners that understand their frustrations and disappointments.

Consumers also need support for events that aren’t happening. The birthrate has been falling for some time, but experts believe COVID-19 caused a further 8.6% decline. Again, this loss is felt more keenly among millennial women.

But baby boomers and Gen Xers are taking some emotional lumps, too. About 40% of retirement savers say the pandemic has shaken their confidence in their financial plans, and 32% in their 50s plan to delay retirement as a result.

Even more disruptive? Nearly 2 million older Americans have been forced out of work into a retirement they aren’t quite ready for.

To handle these curveballs, people need new planning tools, focused content and a tone that recognizes new challenges. Even automated content needs to be more human, sensing what consumers crave at each touchpoint.

Understanding The Pandemic’s Lasting Economic Impacts on Women

The pandemic fundamentally altered life for many women in deep and profound ways. Not only did women lose more jobs than men, but one in four of employed women have considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers, according to Lean In. The pandemic also pushed women to take on multiple roles including the juggling of more family responsibilities. Lean In says moms are 1.5 times more likely to be spending three or more hours a day on housework and childcare.

And while many companies just spouted generic “We’re here for you” messaging, some built genuine relationships. For instance, fintechs like Betterment and Ellevest are personalizing marketing and content messaging to emphasize what female customers can do for themselves in light of COVID career setbacks and how they can help other women directly impacted by the pandemic.

These enormous problems will shape family life for years to come. Companies that tailor valuable content, compassionate messaging and thoughtful timing can achieve relevance. Those that don’t risk getting dismissed or, worse, alienating a key customer base.

Three Ways Financial Services Companies Can Dial-Up Empathy

1) Give existing marketing messaging a compassion check-up.

How should personalization strategy change given the effects of the pandemic on life events? Which use-cases should take priority? How can marketing and content be more empathetic to new realities?

2) Identify changes in customer needs across the journey.

Using consumer interviews and behavioral insights, identify how customer needs have shifted because of the pandemic’s wide-sweeping effects and how that impacts their customer journey. How might products and services need to adapt to best meet these needs?

3) Develop personalized experiences around life events that are more likely to occur post-pandemic.

From the brand’s perspective, prioritize the most relevant life events that relate to the customer journey and develop personalized touchpoints for them.

Final Thoughts

As the world continues to open back up, consumers’ financial needs are evolving. It’s time for financial services companies to think even more carefully about how those changing needs best align with their digital transformation priorities. It requires an empathic ear to hear how customer priorities are shifting and an agile mindset to adapt quickly. Life has changed in fundamental ways for so many, creating an opportunity to build brand relevance in this post-COVID-19 environment.

To learn more about the latest market and consumer trends impacting your business – reach out to Prophet.