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

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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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Five ways gamification can ignite your retail sales

Five ways gamification can transform retail

I have no idea how fruit machines work. Sure, I get the 'line up three bunches of cherries to win' classic, but the all-singing-all-blinking monstrosity that mocked me in the pub yesterday? Absolutely clueless. And yet, somehow, its combination of twinkly lights, bashy buttons and blippy noises had me chucking coins into it like owning money was going out of fashion.

That's because, as a species, we're far more likely to engage with something if there's an element of gaming involved. I'm sure there's an evolutionary imperative behind all this: if you took a chance on the lady monkey with the weirdy, opposable thumbs, there was a better chance your offspring would survive the great banana famine of 7,000,000 years BC. That kind of thing. Don't ask me, ask Richard Dawkins.

Anyway, we love gaming (and its sidekick, competition), and the introduction of these elements - conceptually known as 'gamification' - into any environment works wonders. The LinkedIn profile completeness bar is a famous example, and rightly so: users fill in more and more info to achieve a 100% complete 'score' and, in so doing, provide mountains more data back to LI, its users and, of course, its


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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 Moneysavingexpert.com 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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Big Deal! Why Deals Don't Work.

Why deals don't work

It's a bit legendary is Le Renais de Venise - a restaurant where there's only one thing on the menu. Steak. No choice of cut, no choice of sides. You're getting an entrecôte with their secret sauce, fries and a green salad with walnuts, or you're going somewhere else for your dinner.

Offering absolutely no choice is a bit brilliant for a restaurant. It shows passion, expertise and a certain cheeky charm. But it's a rotten way to run promotions if you're in retail.

And yet, that's exactly what most retailers still do - they push one or two prescribed deals at prospective customers and refuse to let them have any say. 'The Big Deal!', 'Catch Of The Day!", 'Special Offer!'... these isolated promotions might seem generous but, actually, all they do is narrow down customer choice, hamstring the shopping experience and destroy the price perception for the discounted product.

Once upon a time, there was a certain silly glamour in daily deals. Pre its Amazon acquisition, woot.com was a hoot (dotcom) - it was the Le Renais of online retail. But these days, it's just another conduit for remnant stock. Similarly, once upon a time, there was something cool about the hyper-local daily deals offered up by the likes of Groupon and LivingSocial - but we've all seen how those panned out for participating brands. In fact, if this story in Adweek is anything to go by, these are extremely bleak times for the doyens of Daily Deals.

So, if prescribed deals don't work, what is the answer? Less push, much more pull. Simple. Give your customers the opportunity to tell you what they want to see offered up in a deal - and, once a large enough number request the same thing, release that deal into the wild and watch it kill. From a purely practical point of view, a customer-curated deal comes with a de facto pool of red hot prospects


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HMV's £50m social-commerce turnaround plan

HMV’s £50m Social-Commerce Turnaround

It's not often we're treated to a bona fide good news story in retail, but Hilco's rescue buyout of HMV most definitely qualifies. First, Hilco have an excellent track record with these things and, secondly, hopefully some of HMV's amazing team will be retained to help paddle the boat back upstream. I worked at HMV for a short time and, take it from me, some of the people there are the most extraordinary, passionate and gifted folk working in retail today. We wish them the best of luck.

But - and you knew there'd be a "but", right? - if HMV wants to rise from these ashes, some pretty critical things have to change. And we're not convinced that refocusing on music and entertainment is the be-all-and-end-all solution some people are suggesting (remember: HMV was forced to trade in tech and other lifestyle items because entertainment was effectively being sold as a loss-leader by its rivals). Nor is some mad dash to catch up with old technology the answer. It's easy to say that HMV missed the boat with ecommerce and downloads, but that's not strictly true: for every Spotify, HMV had an HMV Jukebox. For every Blinkbox, it had


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