A day hardly goes by just now without one of the major supermarkets being in media, whether it be for another massive profit announcement (damn them), savings to be made on nappies (important in our house!) or the launch of another financial services product - striking terror in the hearts of bean counters throughout the protection and mortgage industry!
The impact of the latter may not have been as big as our industry as first anticipated. Customers, by and large, still have a need for advice and handholding through a sometimes complex process.
I believe this will not only change, but change at an amazing rate over the next 2-3 years, particularly as an ever-increasing number of consumers become more proficient and comfortable with the convenience, savings, and control they have in buying all types of products and services online.
Although our industry may not be ready and still dominated by technophobes, you cannot halt evolving consumer needs. Nor can you avoid the ever-present juggernaught of new technology arriving into the market that will make buying mortgages and protection simpler for your customer online.
To better understand your customers’ needs and behaviours, take a look at Tesco. They launched their Clubcard in 1994, initially introduced as a way of boosting sales. Tesco quickly realised their new card was a valuable tool in analysing trends and providing a database of consumer preferences in a way that had never been thought of before. Each time your card is swiped it is not only your points which are being added, your shopping is also being transferred to a central database for analysis.
We all know they use this information to look at changes in your shopping habits. So if your purchases start to decline or change, the alarm bells will start ringing and you can be sure to find some money off coupons for your favourite goodies dropping through your letterbox to tempt you back into their store.
It’s simple but brilliant marketing, so how do we learn from this? As an industry, we have not been great at post sale scrutiny of our customers and part of the problem is they are not buying from us every week, so you rely on annual reviews or the customer picking up the phone to you. Yet databases are continuously improving and through time we may even shorten the gap in matching retail in this aspect of marketing.
Unlike Tesco’s high street post-sale trend counters, having an online presence is a great leveller to better understanding your “window shoppers” and it’s available at the click of a mouse to everyone today.
How do you know what your internet visitors are looking at when they hit your site? Having a better understanding of traffic on your site assists in planning future development, increases website traffic and provides opportunities to increase revenue through new products and services.
Do you know how long web site visitors are there for, how they hit your site, or what part of the country they're from? You might be receiving hundreds or even thousands of hits a day, but if the visitors are only on your site for 15 seconds each, you have a problem.
At the risk of teaching my granny to suck eggs - yes I am from Scotland - "if it can't be measured, it can't be managed".
Quality web site traffic statistics reporting usually costs a few bob but if you haven’t started yet or are using expensive imitations, the amazing thing is you can now do this for free through a site called www.webstat.com. This gives you access to reports and graphs on monthly trends, visited pages, browsers etc, If you see value and want to have more sophisticated reporting options, they are available for a really affordable cost from £6 a month.
We analyse our server log files regularly to get a better idea how we can improve our site for our visitors. The results of this are in our visitor counts and the types of consumers we target. Our hits are increasing steadily every month through our response to trends that appear in our monitoring reports.
So yes, whether you are a one man band or a growing SME I believe we can go head to head with the giants of retail and match them blow for blow in online marketing. As an industry, I think we need to share knowledge between us to fend off any future challenge, or indeed dominance of a supermarket in our sector. They have managed to do this with just about everything else!
And finally, when all else fails and you are not getting visitors to your site, you can always watch this - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC_2a6FUjiE
Paul Reynolds is managing director of Moneyquest.
The views expressed are those of the author and not those of the company he represents.IFAonline
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