By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
The robots are coming! Well, not quite, but the ever growing trend for implementing AI and automated systems to aid in our everyday lives seems to be showing no signs of slowing.
Recent research conducted by advisor company, Gartner, suggests that by the year 2020 a quarter of all customer service and support will incorporate chatbots or a similar form of virtual customer assistant technology. This seems like an astonishing figure, and one that has both positive and negative connotations.
The last decade has seen a huge jump in the proportion of people engaging on digital channels, and it is therefore hardly surprising that companies are investing more and more in these virtual customer assistants. Purely from a resource point of view such a transition makes a lot of sense; artificial intelligence (at least at this stage!) doesn’t ask for a pay cheque.
There is also a distinct advantage to the consumer – these automated systems are capable of functioning 24/7, without the need for sleep or coffee breaks. Furthermore, the prospect of a future free from hours spent on hold listening to Justin Bieber might not be the worst thing in the world.
However, when it comes to customer service, can human contact ever truly be replaced or replicated? According to research we conducted last year, 62% of consumers rated high quality customer service as the largest factor influencing brand trust and loyalty in the retail sector (Retail Trend Report 2017: New World, New Consumer).
While these virtual customer assistants are undeniably becoming more sophisticated all the time, it is the warmth of human interaction that creates this customer engagement. Some of these systems are capable of detecting frustration and anger in a customer’s voice and will transfer the call to a person in a call centre at a certain point. I find shouting down the phone helps. But by and large there is no doubt that they are still worlds away from being able to react and alter their response or attitude based on things like sarcasm and emotion.
There also comes a stage when we have to ask – where does this end? Do we eventually reach a point where human contact has been phased out entirely and we find ourselves reliant on machine to machine relationships? Say, for example, my bank bot detects that I’m overdrawn and applies for an overdraft on my behalf, and this instigates another chatbot which then decides whether to grant me said overdraft. The possibilities are dizzying, and somewhat terrifying – just one short leap to Skynet!
The question of trust and customer experience is not one to be overlooked lightly. The majority of consumers taking part in Gartner’s survey said that they find it difficult to trust VA’s to assist them with more complex tasks, such as handling their banking, insurance or utility issues (29%, 16% and 35% respectively). Therefore, brands will need to demonstrate to customers that they will still receive the same high levels of customer service once these technologies have been incorporated.
Perhaps if this predicted future comes to pass a balance will need to be struck between convenience and functionality. A system whereby technology and human work in tandem may be considered as an initial compromise – HAVA’s (Human Assisted Virtual Assistants). The idea being that when a VA is faced with a situation it cannot handle or a question it cannot answer, a human agent will then take over the conversation. The growing development of machine learning will also theoretically mean that VA’s are able to learn from these instances and adapt to resolve these situations themselves in future.
Essentially, it will remain to be seen how effective these VA’s are in maintaining the high levels of customer service that consumers have come to expect. Advancements in technology such as natural language-processing and machine learning are perhaps bridging the gap between the soulless and robotic automated systems that we’ve come to know, but can they ever truly hope to encourage the same level of engagement and replace human interaction? The next few years will certainly be interesting, but brands must be sure to put customer experience first, or risk dealing with the consequences.
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
Working as I do in the data marketing sector, I am probably more sensitive to how my data is being used than most. As an industry we very proudly boast about how marketing used to be mass market and big creative idea led but it has evolved over the last 20 years to being content and data led. Indeed, we wear GDPR as a badge of honour that the use of personal data is now so high profile that new laws are needed to ensure that it is not misused or abused.
Also being from the industry I see, and also share, lots of case studies of how data is being used to create personal content, drive individual level communications or build real-time offers based on clicks, views and likes. But in reality, how much of this is smoke and mirrors? How much do consumers feel that they are receiving highly relevant communications and offers? How close are we really getting to one-to-one marketing?
There is a slide in a deck that I use a lot that states that the benefits to brands of getting the right balance on personalisation are very powerful with return on investment 30% higher for companies who use data and analytics to personalise their marketing and customer engagement (source: SAS and Forrester Research).
So there is a compelling business case yet, as a consumer, how often am I impressed by the marketing communications that I get? Honestly, not very often at all. What I get through the post is generally identical for me and my wife, often from the same company on the same day. My inbox is jam packed full of emails which are clearly sent out to everyone on a database but, hey, sometimes they have my name on them so it’s personalised, right? And on-line I’m pretty sure I see the same ads all the time and when I browse youtube or watch All4 I see the same ads as everyone else does.
We are creating a promise to build engaging, tailored, personalised content based on real-time data but we are not living up to that promise.
Other research I have seen has shown that only 25% of companies reckon their marketing could be described as personalised with around a third of marketing using some form of segmentation. Segmentation feels like a dirty word these days. It is often derided by many people. Why would you use segmentation when you can get to real personalised content by analysing clicks and likes? Why use a broad brush approach that classifies people into a number of groups when everyone can feel like an individual?
My response would be this – at least a segmentation can help to bridge the gap between mass marketing and one-to-one engagement. Call it practice. If we can tailor content, emails, adverts to a few segments then over time that can become automated and refined to get towards the personalisation utopia.
In many cases it isn’t even as if the segmentation doesn’t exist. I see a lot of instances, sadly, of segmentation work being done but the next step of tailoring comms and starting to move towards a more personalised customer experience just never happens. As a data analyst this makes me very sad indeed. Maybe we are not being forceful enough in showing the value of implementation, of helping achieve that 30% uplift in ROI.
The longest journey starts with a single step. My feeling is that many organisations are fearful of taking that first step. There is a lot of procrastination – it will take a lot of effort, it should be perfect when we go live, let’s test and see what level of difference it makes. Status Quo is the easy outcome, things are not too bad just now so let’s leave them as they are.
However, by not even trying to make a change we are letting the data down, we are wasting investment, we are letting the hard work by the analysts in creating the segmentation go to waste as well as the marketers who instigated the work.
But much much more importantly, we are letting our end customers down. The next time a decision is made, or more likely, not made, to defer the implementation of a more personalised approach think about this: Would my customers be impressed by the current emails I send them? Or the mail they get through the post from me? Or the ads they see on-line? Would they feel it was delivered just to them because I know them so well? If not then what’s the risk of taking that first step?
Want to know more about how to effectively engage with your customers? Contact us today
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
In the ongoing race to maximise compliance and pip GDPR to that ever-encroaching finish line, the whispers and concerns over its implications continue to reach fever-pitch.
Earlier this year, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) made an example of the Exeter-based airline Flybe by enforcing a sizeable £70,000 fine. The airline incurred this by sending millions of marketing emails to customers who did not wish to receive them; the ICO have made it very clear that when it comes to consent infringements – they’re taking no prisoners. ICO head of enforcement, Steve Eckersley stated that Flybe “deliberately contacted people who have already opted out of emails from them” by asking if they wanted to update their preferences, which he stressed is still a form of marketing.
It is therefore hardly surprising that many travel companies have begun to feel apprehensive about their ability to communicate with their customers come the day of GDPR reckoning (May 2018). With fines such as the one sustained by Flybe becoming more prevalent, this only emphasizes the necessity for companies to obtain consent from consumers. Consent essentially entails an individual providing approval for the processing of their personal information. The bottom line is that travel companies, and indeed all businesses alike, will have to be far more transparent if they hope to avoid harsh sanctions from an unforgiving ICO.
Initial guidance provided by the ICO suggests that a pre-ticked opt-in box will no longer constitute legally attaining permission. In lieu of this, unequivocal and unambiguous consent must be attained through active opt-in protocols; the box must be empty to begin with. Moreover, comprehensive details of how this data will be used must be provided. Contrary to the current system, consent requests must under no circumstances be hidden in the Narnia of terms and conditions or be a precondition of subscribing.
Admittedly, marketing strategies may require a bit of adjustment, but in the long run these new regulations should be seen as a positive change for both customers and operators alike. While it may ultimately result in a shrinkage in the size of marketing databases, the overall quality and saturation of amenable and valued customers within them shall undoubtedly increase. Those who have willingly shared their personal information will prove more beneficial to marketers than those who have been duped into giving permission. Consumers are more than happy to part with their details as long as they perceive that they are receiving a tailored and personal service in exchange. With regard to Travel companies, details on a customer’s budget, lifestyle and favourite destination can be used to provide the kind of customer service that consumers have come to expect.
On the other hand, it seems likely that smaller companies and those that have already fallen under the ICO cosh may struggle somewhat more than household names to convince consumers to part with their personal data. Nonetheless, there are certain measures that all travel operators, irrespective of size or reputation, can implement to limit any negative effects of GDPR.
The most effective course of action might be to devise highly targeted marketing campaigns that demonstrate to consumers the benefit of consenting. Personal offers and relevant streams of contact can be instigated once Travel companies have segmented their customer database into smaller groups based on factors such as interests, favourite destination and budget. How soon should you do this? The sooner the better; GDPR waits for no man.
Once the swirling dust and initial shock of GDPR has settled, companies should find that they are left with a more succinct database consisting of receptive customers. Which, truth be told, is an infinitely better prospect than a larger spread of individuals who weren’t aware that they had consented in the first place. By conducting these highly targeted campaigns, travel operators can seize the opportunity to demonstrate the value exchange in sharing information and strengthen relationships with their existing customers before GDPR’s implementation. This may seem like an extreme alteration in approach, but travel companies should find that if they navigate these unchartered waters effectively – treasures and bounty await.
25th September 2017
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
While online retail services are commonplace and very much taken for granted these days, I remember a time when this was certainly not the case. Christmas 2002 – what feels like a bygone era now – was the first time I used Amazon to buy a few gifts for friends and family. Foremost in my memory being a spectacular Stanley Kubrick DVD box set intended for a friend of mine. Although I ordered in plenty of time, no box set ever materialised and I was obliged to venture out and purchase another to avoid being red-faced on Christmas morn. I duly complained and another set was dispatched without argument. It still has pride of place on my DVD shelf to this day.
I was gobsmacked at the time. No aspersions were cast on my honesty, nor whether the package had actually arrived – no argument at all in fact. Just a replacement product dispatched in a timely fashion. I had to admit that I was more than a little impressed after such a poor first impression. A new standard of customer service had been set in my eyes.
A mere 15 years later and this level of service has become the norm, and most can scarcely remember a time when it wasn’t. It has become clear that this provision of quality service has now become functional and can no longer be thought of as a differentiator. The question of what makes us loyal when it comes to our engagement with brands, spanning a range of sectors, is one without a simple answer.
However, as is indicated in our Retail Trend Report for 2017, one particularly successful method for promoting trust and loyalty appears to be through offering reward schemes and cashback to consumers. There is clear evidence in our research that brands with highly established reward schemes, such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, have greater customer trust than those with no or only recently introduced reward systems.
Nevertheless, this alone is not enough, brands must strive to be more transparent and be seen to both preach and practice strong values for this loyalty and trust to be truly sustainable.
If we compare our most recent research to our findings from our 2013 Retail Report, we can see that loyalty has undoubtedly increased in those four years. However, while retailers can take encouragement from this there is still plenty of room to improve. Now is certainly not the time to ease up on the pedal. Essentially though, a higher proportion of brands seem to be raising the bar and increasing the pressure for others to follow suit and provide consumers with improved emotional and more rewarding relationships.
One cannot help but be intrigued at how the introduction of new technology may provide brands with a means to enhance their emotional connection with consumers in what is increasingly perceived to be a non-personal world. More advanced technology such as virtual reality seems to be gaining popularity at a steady rate, especially with younger customers. This could certainly present an exciting opportunity for brands to add an unprecedented level of engagement to their customer relationships in the years to come.
Want to know more about how to effectively engage with your customers? Contact us today
12th May 2017
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
That most contentious of acronyms – GDPR – draws ever closer, and as each second ticks by the clamouring voice of the media continues to cause a frenzy around the repercussions of this new regulation for the marketing industry. As the finer details of GDPR’s implementation are not yet fully known it has left a lot of people wondering how it will affect brand’s ability to communicate and ultimately understand their customers.
The crucial aspect that has many marketers running for the hills are the changes being instigated concerning ‘consent’; essentially the permission given by an individual to allow the processing and use of their personal data. For starters, you can kiss goodbye to the pre-ticked box. Instead, businesses will be required to obtain unambiguous consent from consumers with active opt-in protocols, and must bare each tiny detail of how exactly they intend to use said data. Consent requests can no longer be sneakily hidden away in terms and conditions like a needle in a haystack or indeed be a precondition of signing up to a service. Separate consent must be obtained for EACH separate channel through which a brand wishes to communicate, as opposed to having a blanket opt-in.
All things considered, surely putting consumers at the heart of marketing and promoting more transparency and trust in the industry is a good thing? Nevertheless, these new stringent rules could ultimately mean that marketers find it difficult to target new customers and struggle to profile customer data. The key question is: as consumers become more and more sceptical about parting with their personal data, how can marketers win them over and ensure they are maintaining relationships with them once GDPR comes into full force in 2018?
The big, well-trusted brands such as Amazon, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer will be sleeping soundly in their beds in the knowledge that they should continue to have little difficulty with this conundrum. It is the less established, less trusted or less appealing companies that shall be biting furiously at their fingernails.
Companies that offer insurance or utilities will inevitably find themselves at more of an impasse when it comes to securing consent, as consumers perceive these services as a purchase made from necessity and not for enjoyment or pleasure. The reality is that while consumers are happy to provide their personal data to their favourite retailer with the promise of receiving personalised and rewarding customer service, industries such as insurance just don’t provide the same sex appeal.
Fear not! Marketers from all industries and sectors should refrain from DEFCON 1 just yet. Consider this to be a fantastic opportunity to get a head start and organise highly targeted marketing campaigns to source consent from consumers in the run up to GDPR. In order to achieve this, customer databases would need to be profiled and different consumer segments identified. Each of these target audiences will already have different relationships with your brand, underpinned by their individual lifestyle factors, attitudes, purchasing behaviour and communication preferences. By segmenting audiences and analysing these different relationships, marketers can build a detailed picture of their customers and best understand how to persuade them of the benefits of providing their data in the most relevant fashion.
Truth be told, won’t this ultimately provide brands with a more valuable customer base and allow brands to hone their marketing approach? Evidently, some consumers will still refuse permission to their personal data, but on the bright side those that do would probably be averse to ongoing communications anyway. Why invest in consumers that are not willing to engage with your brand? Time and effort are far better spent on those that have actively requested contact. Furthermore, these consumers will appreciate the open, transparent foundation on which you have initiated this relationship and shall anticipate the same standard in future.
Of course, it goes without saying that it is vital for brands to continue to secure consumer data from May 2018, and undoubtedly (and unavoidably) there will be consumers that choose to opt-out of providing consent. However, this new focus on a transparent approach to data collection will, in due course, result in more reliable customer data and more profitable customer relationships. This new chapter of consumer consent should not be cause for concern; if tackled head on and in an effective manner, the results for marketers could be extremely lucrative and rewarding.
Talk to us today about how to effectively segment your customer data!
8th April 2017
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
One of the constantly frustrating things that we hear is that “suppressions don’t apply in digital marketing”. It’s as if somehow that by going on-line the modern marketer doesn’t need to worry about all that old-fashioned stuff such as “is the customer still alive” and “are they where we expect them to be”?
This is so far from the truth that it is worrying. Indeed, there is as much need to ensure we know who the end customer is today as has always been the case. And knowing where that person lives, what the correct contact details are for them and how best to contact them are as important as ever.
This may not be for the same purposes as in the past; managing costs and making sure that what is sent out is likely to be delivered with the least inconvenience to the receiver. Suppressions in the omni-channel world provide a different purpose. It is worth starting with the obvious point that omni-channel does not simply mean on-line. Indeed, the ultimate aim of an omni-channel strategy is to use all the channels at our disposal to ensure that we not only recognise the customer across all touch points but also use the optimal combination of media, both on-line and off-line to create a long term engaged relationship.
If the majority of the relationship that a brand has with a customer is on-line, or via email, then there is a clear need to keep the contact details of that person up to date – without constantly asking them to do so themselves. Think how much more impressed a customer would be if the brand prompted them to confirm an address change when this is flagged through goneaway or change of address files? And yet this rarely, if ever, happens.
Through a very simple application of a suppression file, a much enhanced customer experience could be provided.
One of the reasons for keeping contact details up to date is that they are another way to match customer records together. In general, email address will be a consistent key. However, customers will often forget they have registered already or register again at the same address to try and claim new customer benefits. By using cleaned, and traced, customer address details, a consistent customer record can be created and duplicate customer records matched and flagged.
For many brands that have the majority of their relationship with the end customer on-line, there is a lot of faith that the person they are engaged with is actually who they say they are. Simple checks against contact management files, including The Bereavement Register, can help provide likely early indication of fraud. Conflict between the address an individual provides and who is actually living at the address can also be good fraud indicators. And much cheaper than full ID validation and checking.
So while the use of suppressions on-line is not as essential as in the more traditional outbound direct marketing environment there are a number of applications that can be beneficial – and help provide a more consistent and better customer experience for the end consumer.
For market leading data cleansing – talk to us about GAS, GAS REaCTIVE and The Bereavement Register
2nd February 2017
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
During the recent, and really rather excellent, DMA event on the Future of Customer Engagement there was a throw away remark made by one of the speakers that really stood out for me. In amongst all the Dystopian nightmare futures; predictions of millions of job losses and the creation of new ones we can’t even imagine as yet; the replacement of call centres with chatbots and the running of our homes handed over to tiny lovable robots was the statement “one aspect of customer engagement we need to consider is that much of it will be between machine and machine”.
When we think about customer engagement, at least when I do, we tend to think about computers, or even Artificial Intelligence on the company side – creating triggers when someone drops onto a website or automating outbound comms, responding to live chat on-line or in a call centre. However, there is also the automation, or computerisation, of the customer side of things. With things like Siri, Cortana, Amazon’s Echo and Dot functionality and Google Now already common place there are times when the decision to engage with a website or brand may not be made by the end consumer but could well be made by a “machine”. As such, who – or indeed what – is the customer in this instance?
From a data perspective, this makes how we gather, hold, manage and then present data and information in the future very interesting. In the past a Single Customer View (SCV) was centred around a person, or maybe a household, based at a physical address. Over time this evolved to take into account e-mail address where we would often know an individual by an email address, and start to gather a lot of data against that email address without knowing who the person was, or where they lived. In many cases it might even be that we never actually find out what that person’s full name is but through e-mail we can build up a decent amount of knowledge and information about them and start to create a meaningful relationship.
In recent times that has evolved again. From the first time an individual drops onto a website we now tend to capture the IP address and/or the device ID of the device being used. If that doesn’t connect to one we already know we then create a new record in the SCV. Over time this device connects hopefully to an email address as we get initial registration and then, if needed, to a name and address as a transaction takes place. This does mean that we do already centre our SCV developments on machines.
To a certain extent it is about ensuring that we capture the most relevant data as early as possible and then connecting that data to a “person” as we learn more. So in many ways we have the technology capability already in place to deal with building a database, or single customer view, that creates customer engagement strategies between two devices. On one side are automated triggers and engagement streams already in place, on the other side devices that may or may not be operated by a human.
Back to the recent event. During an inspiring presentation by Jeremy Waite from IBM, he introduced us to Jibo, the next generation of home help style AI. Jibo responds to human instructions but also has enough intelligence to collate data and make decisions on its own behalf. As an example, Jeremy, who has been testing it out, recently got told by Jibo that he was running late for a meeting and didn’t have time to walk so Jibo had ordered him an Uber. While this is amusing and shows how AI is developing, it also raises quite an important question: Who are we marketing to here? The person who owns the robot or the robot itself? Does Jibo decide to use an Uber because the owner has trained it to select Uber as their taxi firm of choice or does Jibo select Uber because it recognises Uber from marketing messages received? To a certain extent it doesn’t matter, as AI develops the robots will increasingly make decisions on our behalf, marketing will need to also develop to “sell” to machines.
While we might be set to market machine to machine at the moment, and be able to gather and host the data required to do so, I suspect where we currently do fall short is in our ability to distinguish between machine and person in terms of how we are trying to influence and why. This will provide a real challenge for the future and one that might need to be solved quicker than we think.
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22nd November 2016
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
Not just sex but age, household income, number of kids, car driven, property type, digital engagement, supermarkets shopped at and loads of other variables. As an analyst, or an ex-analyst who employs much cleverer people than I ever was, one of the joys of working at a data owner is how much data we have to play with.
I do firmly believe that there is no business problem that data can’t solve. Quite often the challenge is getting the right data to be able to solve the problem. This can lead to long lead times while research is carried out or additional data sourced. For most of the analysis we do we combine the data that REaD Group hold on every individual in the UK with the data our clients hold on their customers to develop outcomes to help solve our client’s challenges.
One of the questions I am asked most often is what analysis I would do if I had free reign and the time and data to be able to carry out any project. While there are lots of really good options, such propensity modelling, attrition analysis, lifetime value analysis, next best product or marketing mix modelling, my own personal choice would be a segmentation of the customer base.
Segmentation is sometimes sneered at a bit by analysts, and indeed by marketers. What will you do with it? What are the directly attributable outcomes? What benefits will it bring?
For me though, the amount of work that has to be done to get a good segmentation delivers benefits in itself, never mind the outcomes of the project. For example, as part of the initial work there are always profiles created; a need to understand who are active and lapsed customers and what the retention rates are; who is providing the most value and through what products; what channels customers are engaging through and what impact campaigns are having – that’s lots of projects rolled into one!
And that’s before you really get into the outcomes of the segmentation itself which can often help provide real insight into the customer base, in a way that even profiling can’t provide. The multi-dimensional aspect of segmentation means that sub-groups are often created that just wouldn’t be found otherwise. With a client I was working with recently we unearthed a group of well-off middle aged mums spending a lot of money which was a segment the client didn’t even know they had.
In addition, there are cultural elements to a good segmentation that you don’t always get from other insight projects. Once the initial segmentation is completed, getting the personas built, the naming of the segments agreed and the strategies on how to manage the customer groups developed takes much more than a team of analyst in a dark room.
This creates a real opportunity to open up the data to a wider group of people across the company who can get involved and really get under the skin of the customer groups created. In my experience, this additional knowledge can often help guide and develop the segments to such an extent that the data can both educate the client but also the other way around. I have seen many customer groups broken into two, or combined together to create other segments based on inherent business knowledge that the data would never find. This is often the most fun part of the project.
For many on-line, or fast growing businesses, there are just so many things going on, often around service and responding to client queries that actually getting to know who the customers are is a step too far. There is a real irony here as frequently deep customer engagement is what made them successful to begin with but as they have added millions of new customers that is lost. Segmentation can really help redress that balance.
Of course, it isn’t just new businesses. Many years ago I worked at Bank of Scotland, when it was a really well run, well managed small local bank. We were very lucky to have a great CRM database, a good insight team and a boss at the time who really bought into segmentation. We spent a lot of time breaking the base down into small, manageable groups, getting to know them in detail then creating contact strategies to deliver relevant campaigns. The work was justified by astounding response rates – up to 25% in some of the segments. Even a postcard to just say thanks to an older, long-time customer group brought new products opened by over 10% of them.
Maybe this is where my love for segmentation started as it showed that there are actionable outputs and business transformation can take place with deep customer understanding and clever strategic implementation.
So while a propensity model might give you directly attributable income, and help decide who to target for a campaign, for me a segmentation provides so much more. And now with the additional variables that can be added from the vast quantities of data that REaD Group holds, the joy of sex, age, income and the rest really does add an extra dimension to the segmentations we build for our clients.
30th September 2016
Are you in a relationship? No, not in that way, but with the products you love? Marketers talk a lot about relationship marketing and building engagement with their customers. The theory is that if the brand provides information and advice, even entertainment, beyond the product they are selling then the customer gets more involved (or engaged) and is then more open to being sold to.
And I get that. For me I definitely am engaged with the BBC Sport website. They mix their own factual stories with gossip, entertaining comment and video – both new and archive. I could easily spend a couple of hours looking around. Although this may not be the best example as they are not trying to sell me something but, to be honest, if they did I would definitely buy!
Similarly, I think I have an ‘engaged’ relationship with Amazon. That’s very different in the sense that I am looking to buy, or at least shortlist what I might buy. However, having one place for music, films and books with what’s hot, what’s new and what’s coming next I find fantastic. And the consequence is that I buy way more there than maybe I should.
The thing about relationships though is that, in general, we don’t have that many of them (hopefully). In general, we maybe have one or two deep relationships, a few more casual ones and some fleeting ones that we drop in on every now and again.
So, taking all of this into account, when it comes down to it, how easy is it for an Insurance Company to build customer engagement? No-one really wants to have a relationship with their insurance provider. In reality there are only a few touch points in a year and all of these are pretty painful – such as paying the premium or making a claim. Is it realistic to think that an insurance brand can build a relationship with a consumer and keep them engaged enough to buy when the time is right?
I think, first of all, it is important to be realistic. Of all the relationships that the consumer has with brands, I personally don’t think it is feasible for the main one to be with an insurance company. However, given that we have to buy insurance, being the Insurance ‘best friend’ isn’t a bad place to be. Like the mate you can rely on to go to the pub to watch the football – reliable and available.
It is also key to remember that service is a fundamental basis of a relationship. Bearing in mind the small number of touch points that an insurance company has with the individual, getting that right is vital. Make finding the price easy, be clear on what is included and what isn’t and most importantly, if and when a claim does happen be responsible, fair and easy to deal with. Relationships are all about feelings and when you have lost something, been in a prang and had a crisis, having someone who listens, understands and helps is a real bonus.
Also, and personally I find this really important in a relationship, being recognised is nice. Going back to our friends at Amazon, it is great that whenever I drop onto the website they already know who I am – and ask me to confirm this. I then have to log in to buy anything but that seems fair. Why don’t more companies do this? I think a lot of brands are worried that this seems ‘big brother’ but if you are clear that by using cookies or other tools we are going to cut the time it takes to deal with us, most people will agree to that – and those who won’t get the chance to say no.
With all the information that is publically available about us as individuals, it is also quite surprising that more companies don’t use this to enhance our experience with them – even in subtle ways such as the pictures used on websites or in communications.
Ultimately, how engaged we are with any brand will come down to how much we enjoy the experiences we have with that brand. A relationship is two-way, it can’t be forced from one side only – that is basically stalking. Clearly in insurance there are some fundamentals such as decent and fair pricing and a strong brand that will always be taken into account when making a choice.
However, if the brand makes it easy to meet them, makes it enjoyable when we are together and are sensitive and caring in a crisis then we are much more likely to go on that second date.
16th August 2016
Bringing together research from both You Gov and REaD Group to analyse the problem faced by insurers today, this report explores ways in which this can be overcome and – ultimately – recognise and draw out opportunities for businesses to increase their value and surmount the disruption caused by aggregators.
In 2016, being a direct insurer in a world dominated by aggregators is tough. What was once an industry commonly buffered by brokers and advisors is increasingly at the direct mercy of the individual. Consumers can – and will – delve deep into the market and switch providers at ease.
Many independent bodies support this course of action; endlessly encouraging customers to shop around to get a better deal, often at the expense of true and lasting value. Insurance brands using these sites have become little more than logos against competing costs, and a commoditised market leaves scarce room for innovation and growth. The aggregators are suffocating brand identity and values. It’s time for insurers to take back the relationship with their customers.
What’s more, aggregators are going to be in very hot water come 2018 when the new General Data Protection Regulation comes into play; a piece of legislation will fundamentally change the way businesses can collect, store and use customer data. Insurers simply cannot afford to be over-reliant for much longer and must take this as an opportunity to transform the current model and reclaim the market. It’s high time insurers return to dealing direct with customers and putting people before the policy.
Bringing together research from both YouGov and REaD Group[i] to analyse the problem faced by insurers today, this report explores ways in which this can be overcome and – ultimately – recognise and draw out the opportunity for businesses to increase their value and surmount the disruption caused by aggregators. It’s time to put the Meerkat back in his cage.
State of play
The dominance of aggregators is at an all time high, with brand awareness soaring through the roof for the top brands. The vast majority of the UK public have heard of Moneysupermarket (88%) GoCompare (87%) and Comparethemarket (86%).
Meanwhile, brand awareness of the longstanding, traditional insurance providers pales in comparison: only 24% of people have heard of RSA and 37% AIG, for example.
There is no doubt that aggregators have disrupted the sector enormously, leaving behind a fragmented market and a new kind of clientele: the switch-happy consumer.
Of the people we surveyed, 70% stated that they find the process of buying insurance simple and only 20% confirmed they would be unlikely to switch within the year; with the majority undecided and open to changing providers.
What’s more, the current environment has affected consumers’ core motivations when it comes to choosing a policy or provider: for eight out of 10 people, price is the primary factor.
This renders the relationship between insurance brands and their consumer near-on over. With only 10% of shoppers citing brand loyalty as a key factor in their decision-making, customer retention – however attractive a marketing objective – is effectively dead.
The opportunity for change
Things must change. The onus is now on insurance brands to win back the relationship with their customers and ensure they are maximising the opportunities available to them. In light of this, REaD Group’s team of data consultants has identified a consumer-centric solution available to insurers enabling them to return true and lasting value to their business.
Turn the policy model on its head
The ‘Uberisation’ of the business world has fashioned a new set of consumer priorities. Shoppers, whether in the market for insurance or groceries will often shop along the path of least resistance. REaD Group’s research shows that there are no longer obvious pathways to purchase. Attempting to coerce consumers into one-size-fits-all portfolio of policies is a model of a bygone age. And it is broken.
Businesses, in any industry, which sell products in isolation will soon be left behind. In this environment, there is an enormous opportunity for insurers to offer long-term value, which aggregators simply cannot provide. And it starts with the consumer.
Putting the individual at the heart of your offering is the key to success in the insurance market. But the policies we see offered by insurers still show a dangerous lack of understanding of the consumer psyche: what they want, need and expect out of businesses.
Insurers must have a comprehensive understanding of the customer they are courting.
They must offer them a long-term solution dependent on who they are, their life stages, their needs as they grow up.
Great grocery retailers don’t see a consumer in the market for an alcoholic drink, they see a woman agonising over what to bring to a dinner party. Google doesn’t see a person who wants to search the Internet, they see a man desperate to find an answer.
Microsoft sees a graduate who dreams of becoming a business leader; O2 sees a teenager who wants to be taken seriously, Gillette sees a young man preparing for his first date, Ikea sees a cash-strapped young couple moving into a tiny studio.
Insurers need to begin thinking exactly the same way: developing a new kind of intelligent service which people will want to buy into. Through this, they can start to establish themselves as a partner, a trusted advisor; and bring the value back to their brand.
The right data, the right intelligence, can help insurers find the new customers they want, develop valued relationships with the ones they have, retain the ones they want to keep.
Insurers need to start asking the right questions.
Who are they? Where do they transact? How is it best to engage with them? What will excite them? Are they connected with my brand? What level of cover do they need? What is their preferred channel of communication?
It is now possible to combine demographic and lifestyle characteristics with purchasing patterns from the past 12 months, making it a highly predictive tool for the insurance sector and far more effective than traditional geo-demographic segmentation.
This knowledge should go much deeper than the marketing department, embedded right across the business. Companies need to understand how to customise, and therefore optimise, the services they offer to consumers. Understanding them is the very first step.
Customer profiles – understanding the individual
REaD Group’s proprietary tools have identified four clusters of insurance customers, based on the pool of respondents from the panel study, which make up 75% of the entire market.
These have been profiled against all available demographic and insurance variables, as well as transactional data to provide insurance companies a starting point in creating a blueprint for innovation in their sector.
Mostly young (18-44), single and male, these consumers require the bare-minimum from insurance providers (basic motor cover, for example).
Where insurance is necessary, the Mandatory Minimums are most likely to purchase direct from the provider, using a combination of friends, family and internet research as tools to find the best deal.
They find the process simple and aren’t likely to spend much time reviewing all their policy options. Insurance is simply a necessary evil that gets in the way of life. At most, they spend about two hours researching car insurance to find the cheapest deal, but when it comes to other products such as life insurance, they spend a mere 30 minutes.
How to engage with them:
Insures need to capitalise on the attitude of this consumer group. Offering them cheap car insurance deals bundled with other necessary products such as home insurance, will satisfy their needs to cover the basics at minimum cost and effort.
This digital native group has a preference for email as a method of contact and never want to be contacted by phone. Insurers should consider utilising digital channels to communicate with this social-media friendly group, with postal mail as a back-up.
Mandatory Minimums are typically interested in sport, going out with friends and having fun, so insurers will do well to offer lifestyle perks and rewards that will make purchasing insurance less of a drag.
Building positive relationships with Mandatory Minimums at this stage could prove beneficial as they eventually mature and transition into ‘Worth Its’. Read on to find out about them.
Part time or unemployed females comprise the majority of this group. Either co-habiting or married with children, they tend not to own a great deal of policies personally, but pet insurance is the most prevalent.
Though not the primary purchaser of insurance products for their household, Influencers still play an important contributory role in the decision making process. They will often consult friends and family for advice and are likely to make recommendations to the ultimate policy purchaser; most commonly their husband or partner.
Out of the four clusters, Influencers are the most likely to find the process of buying insurance confusing, and will use aggregators for all insurance policies purchased.
How to engage with them:
Influencers’ natural urge is to use aggregators so insurance companies need to use simple, clear instructions when communicating with this group. Though influencers are not primary purchasers of insurance within their household, they consider themselves as key decision makers in the process, so should be treated as such. Influencers have no explicit preference on how they would like to be contacted, however, they tend to use Facebook a lot, so social media presents a useful tool to get buy in from this group. A lot of their interests and activities are family focussed so messaging should centre around this.
Predominately middle-aged and male, the Worth-It’s are often heavily insured, keen to protect assets accumulated over the course of their working life. They will find the process of buying insurance very simple and be prepared to switch regularly to find the best value.
Married with children, and working full time, they are likely to own every insurance type, but approach each differently.
For home insurance, Worth-its will use a combination of friends, family and the internet for research purposes, spending approximately two hours researching, before ultimately turning to an aggregator for purchase.
Decisions on car insurance sees Worth-its spend much less time researching (approximately 30 minutes) going on to use either a broker or an aggregator.
Travel Insurance: goes direct or uses the internet for research purposes, spends approximately 30 mins researching, then uses an aggregator or goes direct to purchase.
When considering life insurance policies, perhaps the most important for Worth-Its, a variety of research tools are exploited over the course of two hours or more. Starting first on the internet and in some cases contacting insurers direct to compare quotes, they will then use a broker/aggregator to purchase.
How to engage with them:
The switch-happy ‘Worth it’ has significant lifetime value for an insurer, if only he can be retained. He is a key example of why insurers should move away from product marketing and instead take a much more holistic approach. By focussing on the needs of the entire household, insurers should offer as much as possible in one package to appeal to this type of consumer.
Any communication needs to centre on the family and security, with email and telephone being the preferred method of contact for this group.
Remember: value driven ‘Worth Its’ are confident, well informed and not afraid to spend time shopping around for better deals. Insurers need to make sure they are fully up to speed with the changing needs of this consumer group and be on hand to offer additional value on an ongoing basis.
‘OAPs (Over-Assured Pensioners)’
Post-family Over-Assured-Pensioners are aged 55 and older, and comprise slightly more females than males.
Retired, perhaps widowed, with no dependent children, the OAPs are regional dwellers with every type of insurance available. They realise they are getting older and need more protection.
Unlike the Worth-Its, they approach the process in a similar way regardless of the type of policy.
Light or non-users of social media and the internet, OAPs are legacy insurance customers who rely on newspapers, advertisements and other media material to research policies before going direct or through a broker to purchase – a process they find very confusing.
How to engage with them:
The nature of OAPs means it is crucial that insurers value them not just in terms of what they might buy, but also in terms of their influence over others. They are extremely social and will be vocal in making recommendations to friends and family based on their own experience. It is therefore imperative that the service they receive is top-notch so that they talk positively about the brand.
Expectedly, their preferred methods of contact are traditional: telephone or post. If nothing else, use these simply to say ‘thank you’ – OAPs appreciate this.
Headroom for growth: The Uninsured
While exploring the research we identified that there is a huge untapped market for insurers which they can capitalise on if they understand who they are and what makes them tick.
We found that:
- 22% of the UK are uninsured, representing significant potential for insurers
- London has the highest uninsured population in the country, with 30% of Londoners holding no policies
- 51% of students have no insurance, despite being a high risk group for crime
- 49% of 18-25 year olds own no insurance products
- Those with less insurance products are highly confused by the process
Conclusion: act now
It’s time for insurers to take control of customer relationships, cut out the middle man and deal direct. If you’re an insurer struggling against the aggregator tide: take this report as a warning. Question your policy model and start building your growth strategy around the customer you want and the customer you can keep.
Profile your customer base using insurance, demographic, lifestyle and transactional characteristics to understand who they are and what they want from you. Personalise your customer acquisition and retention messages, and develop new propositions built around the specific consumer you are targeting. Treat every customer as an individual, keeping up to date with their changing needs and attitudes, and identifying cross and up-sell opportunities in the process.
Work to sustain loyalty from the outset so that when it comes to month eleven, your customers have a solid reason to renew, rather than being lost to irritating jingles and toy rodents.
Now is the time to repair the market and offer something aggregators simply cannot: long term valuable relationships. Simples.
[i] Research conducted by YouGov surveying 2027 members of the British public during February 2016. Additional data and statistics attributed to REaD Group.