Talking about website traffic with business partners is "no longer sufficient," Binder says.

Almost half of asset managers surveyed by kasina said digital initiatives to engage with customers are “nice to have” but not essential to doing business.

“Of course that affects funding, staffing, adoption, everything you can imagine,” Julia Binder, director of e-business research for kasina, told ThinkAdvisor on Tuesday. “I think the root of the problem likely is in how engaged the digital team is with their business partners. What key performance indicators are they communicating?”

Binder said it’s “no longer sufficient” for firms to talk with the advisors they do business with about “how many hits and visitors and visits your website has received. Your business partners are going to want to know what business impact the website has. Is it helping to generate qualified leads? Are leads converting at a faster rate? Are revenues increased as a result of using the website? In kasina’s view, it’s essential to adopt the same language that the business partners are using to gain their advocacy and support.”

Firms might be inclined to think of “digital initiatives” as those that use newer technologies, but Binder noted that the “oldest workhorse in the barn is the website; it’s the digital hub.” Email is ubiquitous, too, so it’s important to understand the impact it has on bringing new business.

Other firms are “using social media to engage with advisors,” Binder said. “Others have prioritized mobile access, either through responsive sites or mobile apps. All of these things are important to engage with advisors where they are, when they want and how they want.”

An even more important consideration, she said, and one that will likely resonate with advisors as they try to serve their clients, is the “expectation that our digital interactions will be highly personalized and relevant to our interests.”

Doing so provides a “big opportunity for asset managers” who already have a lot of information about advisors they serve, Binder said. “If they’re using the website, they know what they’re doing there. They have information from wholesalers about meetings and phone calls, they have the transactional information. All of that needs to be analyzed and leveraged to deliver the kind of personalized experiences that users expect.” Support from the executive team is essential to an effective digital strategy, Binder said. “You have to have the support of the chiefs of finance, of sales, of marketing, the CEO, IT–all need to be on board.” She added that getting all those players on board requires making the benefits of digital engagement clear to them: “You know your customers better, you can build better products, and you can foster the personal relationships in the digital world to complement what’s happening in traditional sales interactions,” she said. “More than anything I think you have deep insight into your clients that you can use to influence the customer journey at every possible stage.”

Binder said that advisors are “very well aware of the benefits of sharing information about themselves in order to have a better digital experience.” She believes there’s a feeling of disappointment with some firms among advisors that the information collected about users online isn’t being better used to that end.

An earlier kasina study on what advisors do online found that the “online capabilities of a firm affect the perception of the brand,” Binder said. “That’s a very important attribute to understand in a firm’s tools for doing business. If you’re a firm where these digital tools aren’t seen as essential yet, the work what we’ve just talked about still needs to be done: building executive support, building those relationships with business partners, and gaining the support and funding for initiatives.”

— Check out Financial Engines’ Managed Accounts Surpass $1 Trillion on ThinkAdvisor.