Financial Services: why the industry needs to rethink its loyalty strategy


The digital age hasn't been kind to the financial services industry. On the one hand, online banking and self-serve product applications have facilitated enormous growth and resource streamlining. On the other hand, there's no such thing as loyalty anymore. A quick scan for 'credit cards' on Google gives a top search result for a price comparison site. And the second result? Another price comparison site. That's before Wikipedia's even defined what a credit card is.

And that's a big problem: when customers have become ferocious deal-hunters, and when the very best interest rates and fees are only a click away, it becomes almost impossible to compete without stripping back your product to its bare bones and scrapping it out to offer the lowest prices. And, when you're racing to the bottom, it's pretty hard to keep your customers with you - the moment you're not the cheapest in town, you might as well quit town altogether.

In recent months and years, FS companies have tried to offer value-adds as an incentive to lure - and retain - customers. It's the "I might not be as pretty as the girl who just moved in next door, but I know how to

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Daily deals: why they need to die... and STAY dead!

Daily deals: why they need to die… and STAY dead!

Ugh. Here's something we thought we'd seen the back of: the daily deal. Oh sure, Groupon and its legion of clones limp on, increasingly irrelevant after alienating merchants and customers alike with unreasonable trading terms and uninspiring products. And the Daily Deal's equally undead relative, the Voucher Site? Well, they're somehow managing to hang on in there, too - eking out a meagre existence by feeding on crumbs of affiliate revenue.

But these things really are the bargain bin of the Social Commerce world. In fact, let's be honest: they're not actually Social Commerce at all. When did you last tweet your friends to say: "Just picked up an amazing voucher for a 30% off meal at Plastic Pizza. You should get one too! #GotNoShame".

So we were amazed (and a little troubled) to see a respectable giant like Barclaycard dipping its toe into this particular stagnant pool - something they've done with their Bespoke Offers site, which claims to offer personalised, daily-deal-style savings to anyone who fancies getting involved. When it launched, industry pundits like founder Martin Lewis were quick to point out the worrying lack of exclusives: a large number of the deals on offer were

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Did John Lewis really just launch the least inspired campaign in retail history?

John Lewis Shop Spring Promotion

The biggest cliche in retail is the Christmas Deals Advent Calendar. One deal per day, in the run-up to the big Two Five. Everyone's done it, everyone's felt distinctly grubby and uninspired doing it, everyone's vowed never to do it again when the results turn out to be - as one might expect - utterly rubbish.

So, if it's a desperately unoriginal strategy at Christmas, how bewilderingly drab an idea is it in April?

We'll be honest. When we first noticed this on Monday (a lukewarm 20% off a high-end iPod dock), we thought it was an April Fool. Sadly, now that we've had three consecutive days of so-so deals, we're pretty much convinced they're for reals. Which is more than a little depressing.

The thing is, John Lewis can do so much better than this. It's a brand with a second-to-none heritage for giving its customers what they want when they want it, not piecemealing out its deals, one per day, like Mr Scrooge dishing out the brussel sprouts (hey, if they're using Christmas-style campaigns in April, we're using Christmas-style similes). So, where's the community interaction? Where's the collaborative consumption? Where's the social element, the innovation, the dynamism? Hell,

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