Promsvyazbank and the social media revolution

Russian bank Promsvyazbank is among the most active and successful European banks in its use of social media.

Only 15 years ago, 57% of Russians didn’t have even a telephone at home and 96% didn’t have laptops or any internet access.  Nowadays, there is hardly a person who doesn’t have a smartphone or a personal profile on at least two social networks. Both men and women, young and old folks alike, are getting used to having a digital life. Unsurprisingly businesses are also taking some steps in this direction and banks represent no exception. Let’s consider the things step by step.
How we try not to miss the 5th digital revolution
The first private banks in Russia began to emerge in the early- to mid-1990s. Despite the fact that the Russian banking system remains youthful, it has gone through several stages of development. In contrast to classic banks, online banks that operate only via the internet began to emerge.
The rapid encroachment of the digital sphere requires new product and service offers. Today, in order to be competitive, it is not enough to look one step ahead. It’s crucial to do your best to guess the trends and invest in their development.
At Promsvyazbank (PSB) we can see that the Russian banking market is now dealing with the fifth digital revolution. What were the four previous ones?
As soon as the internet appeared websites and online banks, email-marketing, contextual advertising and lead generation were designed.
Usage of mobile phones stipulated the development of services and technologies like SMS-bank, IVR, SMS-sending. A sharp increase in remote sales occurred.
The third, ‘smartphone revolution’ allowed lenders to design mobile bank and other financial applications: from PFM to acquiring .
Finally, once social networks, emerged banks began to use them for PR campaigns and to boost the increase of traffic to the brand’s website.
Thus, the conclusion is very simple: wherever people appear, banks are likely to follow quickly.
Now I strongly believe that the next revolution has already taken place – the revolution of messengers – the applications created for the quick exchange of messages between smartphone users through the Internet. It’s cheaper than ordinary calls and SMS, and it’s more convenient than using social networks. There are no middlemen except for the smartphone screen.
Only telepathy could be more convenient. What will the world of messengers look like? Will the mobile operators and social networks still exist? Will voice communication become a thing of the past? Will the question ‘Do you have WhatsApp?’ be meaningless?
We were thinking a lot about these and other questions, and became the first among Russian banks to dare to carry out an experiment – to run the bot of Promsvyazbank in Telegram. In fact, it’s a virtual user who can react on messages in the messenger. It works like Siri: you give it some commands and it provides you with an answer.  
There is no doubt that the bot can perform almost any algorithm and can take information from any kind of resource. Hence, it’s possible to design the website inside the client’s mobile phone registered in the messenger.
A few things come to our mind about operating in Telegram:
To show the nearest ATM’s and offices of Promsvyazbank;
To show the nearest shops where discounts for paying by the bank’s cards are given;
To inform users about real-time exchange rates, and
To send users news and special offers from the bank.
After we had the function determined, we started to think about the interface and had the buttons programmed inside the actual application. Actual visual opportunities are limited, therefore this stage was overcome within a couple of days. The most important thing was to set up an infallible algorithm of data parsing. Now it is possible to find our ‘freelance worker’ in Telegram by the name  @psbankbot.
For the first two days about 1,000 people added the bot to their contact lists. Users have already undetaken 7,000 queries. The leader among them is exchange rate (29% of the searches), 17% are about ATMs, 15% concerning discounts. It is probably the most convenient and rapid opportunity to obtain some useful information.
For instance, while having a walk in a shopping centre, a Telegram user can make a query about the nearest shops to get discounts paying by Promsvyazbank’s card, provide the bot with the information about a user’s geolocation, and immediately, the three nearest shops will be shown in the application. Also there will be the information about the size of discount, shops’ opening hours and their exact geolocation.
Why would a bank need social media?
Today, Promsvyazbank is one of the top three financial companies in Russia to work within social networks. In April 2015, we released a very detailed tutorial about working on social media that contains all of our four-year-old experience of dealing with this theme. The Russian version of this tutorial has been downloaded by more than 5,000 people: bankers, marketers, PR-specialists, entrepreneurs.
We often hear the question, “Why would a bank need social media?” We think there are many reasons. Firstly, daily traffic to social media sites is staggering – it would be unthinkable to ignore that. Regular activity on Facebook, VKontakte, and other social networks has immense benefits. These sites bring in sales that amount to tens of millions of rubles. Secondly, social media ensures the loyalty of existing clients and facilitates a meaningful dialogue with them, which has tremendous value in and of itself. Third, social media is a priceless customer care experience, which will be discussed. Finally, the image and reputation of a brand are also, to a degree, achieved through social media channels.
Social media is where we convey the bank’s values that we aim to promote:
Honesty: We do not pull the wool over people’s eyes and we do not try to look better than we are. If there is a problem, we don’t hide it – we discuss it publicly;
Responsiveness: We are constantly in touch with our clients. Even if you write to us in the middle of the night, from another country, or with a bad internet connection, we are always responsive and ready to help, and
Ease: We speak the same language as our users. We are ordinary people just like everyone else.
At our bank, SMM was not born in the public relations or marketing departments, but in the heart of the PSB retail unit. Once we’d started working on SMM, we remained employees of the products department, just like developers of payment cards, loans, and accounts. But in our case, the product is information. Like our colleagues, we are constantly “brewing” our thoughts: they bubble up and give rise to new products, improve current ones, and sometimes simply boil over as new ideas! We never have trouble thinking up what to write on VKontakte or Facebook – the hard part is choosing the best idea. As the saying goes, “Everything looks so delicious!”
We do not have to rack our brains for a list of reasons why this or that product is the best on the market and why it is useful to our clients. We see the products being born and we witness our colleagues’ endless discussions about our products and how to improve them.
Banks in digital. Trends of 2016. A view from Russia
Let’s try to organise and describe three key trends that we see inside, working every day on the development of Promsvyazbank’s digital platforms:
1. CRM is something we cannot do without
It’s time to get used to the fact that if your digital channels do not sell your products, these are inappropriate digital channels. In fact, a person provides a lot of private information on Facebook or VKontakte (the most popular social network in Russia). Accordingly, we can hit the target: not spend too much money on the search for clients, show ads only to those people who are interested in them in contrast to the outside or media advertising.
 Age-related settings allow you to do the control sample, thus you know exactly what part of your advertising budget is wasted.
The retargeting mechanism converts social networks into the same channel as SMS or email-sending, but is even more flexible and cheaper.
For example;
Task: to inform ‘dormant customers’ about shops where the discounts paying by Promsvyazbank’s cards are given;
Solution: a post about the discount program right in the VKontakte newswire was shown to the target sample, and
Result: $27.3 was spent and 1,216 visits were received – less than 0.03 cents each visit.
2. 2016 is a critical year in Big Data
At  the beginning of this year  one of the most outstanding Russian technology companies Mail.Ru Group (1 927th rank of the top  public companies in the world “Global 2000” by the US Forbes magazine) singled out a separate direction to work with the big data of its customers. We perceive it as a serious signal.
Nowadays technology can analyse millions of options (clicks, likes, comments), construct high-precision mathematical models and then use them in practice. So far, we know the following about Big Data: there is too much information so that now it’s difficult to predict all the methods of its application. But in the next couple of years the internet-triggers and look-a-like-scoring for sales in social networks will become everyday tools of bank digital-managers.
3. Spot communication
A kind of culmination of the development of websites and social networks, as well as of the information that they enrich us with, will be a change in communication strategy. The FMCG-brands have got used to implementing spot communication with customers; accordingly the old standards are turning into the things of the past.
Plenty of parameters and ‘traces’ left in the Internet are likely to bring a shampoo seller to the target audience. There will be one message for the blondes and another for the brunettes. So do banks: there will be one communication strategy for the men of 25 years who work in a prestige Moscow district, whereas there will be a completely different one for the men of the same age from a small town who make some in-app purchases. But in both cases the promoted product is the same.
Consequently, unlike many other channels of promotion, digital channel is still evolving. The audience is growing and the cost of advertising is decreasing due to the new technologies and more effective tools.