Ten insights for advertisers around the brokerage consumer journey

For many, the definition of the “American Dream” has changed from owning a home to having a comfortable retirement. As a result, many people are beginning to think about their investment strategies at an earlier age and financial services advertisers have an opportunity to better engage this audience.

To help marketers make sense of brokerage trends and the acquisition process, we conducted multiple research studies* to gain greater insight into the decision process when it comes to non-401k investment accounts. Here’s what we learned:

1. Online applications for brokerage accounts are on the rise.

There were 3.8 million non-401K brokerage account applications submitted online in 2015, representing a 43% year-over-year increase from 2014.

Implication: More than ever, digital is a key acquisition channel for brokerage firms.

2. Non-401K investment account enrollment is highly seasonal.

51% of applications for brokerage accounts are submitted from December through April.

Implication: Advertisers should ramp up spend during the peak application period starting in December through the federal tax deadline in April.

3. Consumers are more likely to apply on a weekday.

83% of brokerage applications occur on a weekday, and applications are nearly twice as likely to occur on a weekday than on a weekend day.

Implication: For advertisers investing in high-impact premium placements, such as a Yahoo Homepage or Login takeover, run on a weekday when overall efficiency will be greatest.

4. Nearly three quarters of brokerage applicants will search for information online before opening an account.

Implication: Employ an always-on search strategy and quickly retarget brokerage application searchers with display ads that differentiate your brand and communicate your best offers.

5. Millennials are driving the growth.

Brokerage applications from Millennials, ages 18-34, nearly doubled in volume, growing 99% year-over-year.Implication: Use demographic targeting to reach millennials wherever they may be online. Tailor creative to speak directly to Millennials’ unique financial needs and challenges.

6. Life-stage changes are a key trigger for brokerage applications.

22% of recent brokerage applicants had a life-stage change such as getting married, moving or having a child in the last 6 months.

Implication: Customize your ad messaging to increase consideration for your brand among potential customers that are experiencing these important life events and leverage data to engage those individuals more effectively.

7. The decision making process is quick.

56% will apply within a week and 11% take a day or less to decide on a brokerage provider.

Implication: It’s important for brands to build awareness with prospects in advance, so that when they’re in-market your brand is top of mind and within their small consideration set. Quickly retarget consumers that demonstrate in-market signals like searching on brokerage terms.

8. Most applicants research brokerages on a mobile device, but apply on a laptop or desktop.

53% of brokerage prospects conduct research on a mobile phone or tablet.

Implication: Invest in native ad formats which are well suited for mobile experiences. Use attribution modeling to better understand the role mobile plays in driving applications across all devices.

9. The search consumer journey varies by applicant.

26% of brokerage applicants search exclusively on brand terms, 52% search using a combination of brand and non-brand queries, and another 22% search exclusively on non-brand terms

Implication: It’s important for brokerage brands to have coverage on both brand and non-brand terms for greatest visibility among all potential prospects.

10. The brokerage application process remains a challenge for consumers.

Brokerage shoppers indicate that difficulties and concerns with the application process are the biggest barrier to opening an account.

Implication: Simplify the application process and make it easier for people to apply on a mobile device. Provide clear instructions on what applicants will need to have before they begin the process.

*Sources: Yahoo Brokerage Path to Purchase Online Survey, Yahoo Path to Conversion Behavioral Study, ComScore 2016