The financial services industry may have a thing or two to learn from technological innovations in other sectors
Uber, the on-demand taxi service, has been such a game-changer the very name has entered the language. The “uberisation” of financial services is a concept on everyone’s lips, but what does it really mean?
The question many people ask is why Uber has been such a success. There are lots of good points to Uber: the user interface is simple; value is being delivered; you feel engaged on a one-to-one basis; you are always kept informed; you can provide feedback. It all amounts to a seamless customer journey.
The key lesson here is to concentrate on the how rather than the product. What Uber does is an enormous amount of analysis about how the customer engages. It maps out that journey in forensic detail in order to provide exactly what the customer wants in the way the customer wants. Get the journey right and the product purchase will follow.
One of the problems the financial services sector has is that it is not selling a massively sexy product – let’s face it, who wouldn’t rather watch a cute panda clip than discuss pensions?
So finding a way to engage the customer is critical to success. Travers Clarke-Walker, chief marketing officer of the international division of Fiserv, believes visual imagery is the way to go.
“Think about how you use Facebook,” he says. “You flick up and down until you see a picture that interests you. The really successful digital businesses are visually engaging.”
He argues that imagery is what’s needed to alter the dynamics in financial services. Make the sector look as interesting and stimulating as Spotify or Twitter; use logos to make it easier to search; create images that prompt human-to-digital interaction. Once customers are interested, they can be led beyond the simple transactional operations that are how most of us use mobile financial services.
Everyone loves a gadget and the healthcare sector has embraced the use of wearable technology – 10 per cent of healthcare companies are investing in wearables, according to a PwC tech trends report published last year. From fitness bands that monitor everything from heart rates to exercise to clothing that can keep you cool when you sweat, technology can not only make our lives easier, but collate data and prompt us improve our lives.
This kind of wearable, contactless technology is making its way into financial services. Last year Barclays launched bPay, a wristband that looks a lot like the Fitbit that offers exercising data and motivation to many people.
Currently bPay is simply another way of making a contactless payment, but there’s no reason why such a product shouldn’t prompt us to think about our financial goals on a day-to-day basis by offering data analysis about our spending.
In today’s fast-moving and interactive world, it can be hard getting us to think long term. Financial services suffer from an image problem – few of us really look forward to thinking clearly about money.
So the sector is starting to use gamification – the concept of applying elements of game playing, whether through scoring points or competing with others – as a means of motivating us.
In some cases it is used as a marketing tool. Back in 2009, Barclays’ Waterside Extreme game, based on a giant waterslide advert, was an early hit. It may be used to change behaviour, perhaps by offering points that can be exchanged for non-financial products every time you use the digital, rather than the high street, bank.
But it is also being used more directly. Aviva’s Drive app, which rates your driving on a score out of ten, is free to use and could save you money on your car insurance.
The pharmaceutical industry used to be all about the big hitters. The giant behemoths of the drugs world spent years and millions on developing blockbuster medicines that would be jealously guarded for decades.
But the past few years have seen a sea change in the industry. Not only has the emphasis shifted from cure to prevention, but there has been a huge rise in the number of small, agile and well-focused startups. No longer can the big companies get away with setting their own prices. A customer-base that is more vocal and more knowledgeable is demanding an improved service based on outcomes rather than products.
Financial services are following the same path. Agile tech startups are disrupting the marketplace with cheaper and better options, while customers are voting with their feet and refusing to accept poor service or poor outcomes. The financial services sector will have to learn the art of partnership.