eBay Motors’ FOR SALE Sign Direct Mail

Ebaymotors_protectionsLooking for a way to boost your market share in direct vehicle lending? Consider setting up an online used car emporium either using eBay as the transactional platform (recommended) or programming the site yourself.

Even though you could do it yourself, it would be difficult to match the auction giant’s powerful set of FREE buyer protections including (click on inset) including:

  • Purchase Protection: Reimburses up to $20,000 for fraud and material misrepresentation after a $100 deductible
  • 30-day, 1000-mile Service Agreement: Provides a 30-day warranty on major breakdowns on most cars under nine years old after $500 deductible
  • Ebay Feedback Rating: Prospective buyers can review the seller’s track record via the eBay feedback system

In addition, users can review the vehicle’s history by searching Experian VIN # records via an online link. Cost is $7.99 for a single VIN # search, or $14.99 for up to 10 searches. Finally, buyers can order a pre-purchase inspection of the vehicle for $100.

Financial Institution Opportunities
Here’s how a financial institution virtual vehicle site could work:

  1. Using eBay programming tools (eg. APIs), create a website that aggregates local vehicles listed on eBay.
  2. Buyers would handle the transaction through normal eBay channels, but you would have the first chance to make the loan. In order to maximize the returns, it’s recommended that you allow buyers to make purchases from anyone. As you’ll see later, the eBay fraud protection programs mitigate much of your risk in making "person-to-person" auto loans.
  3. To further boost volume, consider helping sellers market their vehicles in any of the following ways:
  • create downloadable FOR SALE signs complete with purchase details and/or referring potential buyers to the online auction (see inset for a version recently distributed by eBay in a direct mail program)
  • provide a customizable template for users to create their online auto listing
  • integrate customer listings with your own inventory of repossessed autos for sale
  • provide "incentive financing" programs that sellers could use
  • offer a wide variety of loan options for cars sold through the site

The virtual auto emporium would have several marketing and promotional benefits:

  1. Creates interest and publicity about your website
  2. Drives traffic to your lending area
  3. Increases vehicle loan volume
  4. Creates an interesting program that could be featured in website, statement, and direct marketing campaigns (see eBay DM samples below)

Addendum: Ebay Direct Mail
Here are close-up views of the recent eBay direct mail received in early July. We may have been targeted due to recent activity, our second eBay Motors vehicle purchase.

Ebay_4_sale_dmThis 9×12 inch cardboard sign looks very similar to a sign you might purchase at the local drugstore to stick inside the window to advertise a car for sale. The FOR SALE is in bright orange and includes references to the FREE $20,000 purchase protection and FREE 1,000 mile service agreement (not visible in this scan).

This eBay version is intended to be displayed within the car and highlights the eBay listing number for more information. The back of the sign (click on the image below for a close-up), lists the features and benefits of selling your car through the auction site. It also includes an offer to return the $40 listing fee if the vehicle doesn’t sell. Sellers also pay a $40 flat transaction fee ($80 in total) if the vehicle sells.


Citibank Logout Screen Example

One neglected area of the online customer experience is logging out. Are you thanking your customer for banking online? Reinforcing that their secure session has safely ended? How about a little cross-promotion from time to time?

We’ve logged off more than a thousand times from dozens of financial institutions and it’s never been particularly noteworthy.

Citi_signoff_screen However, this week Citibank’s logoff screen caught our eye (click on inset for full screenshot). Not only did the bank thank us for our business, they posted an attractive promotion for its banking rewards program.

You may not have offer something quite as elaborate as the Citi program, but you can effectively use the logoff page to highlight service improvements, call attention to upcoming events, or highlight community involvement and volunteer opportunities.


New Debit and Credit Card Activation

Usbank_atmcard_activationOur new Visa debit card arrived today from U.S. Bancorp. As we were reaching for the phone to activate it, we noticed a new URL on the holder <usbank.com/activate>.

Curious as to how the bank handled security on the process, we went online for activation. It turns out you must be enrolled for online banking. If so, you simply login, navigate to customer service, choose ATM/debit card options, type in your card number, security code on back, and expiration date (click on the inset to see the full screenshot). .

This feature certainly falls into the "nice to have" category rather than "must have." The two-minutes it takes to phone in for ATM card activation once every two years is not on anyone’s pet-peeve list. And doing it online doesn’t even save much time, if any.

But, the bigger issue is making sure that all the routine customer service issues can be handled online, so customers think to go there first to manage their account. Overall, that behavior will save the bank money and if implemented well, improve customer satisfaction.


Holiday Bank Marketing – Fourth of July

Before we head out for the long holiday weekend, we took a quick tour of the top 50 U.S. consumer banks and found only a handful taking advantage of Independence Day to give their website a patriotic theme.

Wamu_4thjuly_homepageWashington Mutual was the only mega-bank using the 4th of July in a homepage promotion, a clever "Home of the Free" pitch for its free checking account (click on the inset to view screenshot).

Other banks with patriotic window dressing included: Hudson City Bank, MBNA, USAA, and Zions Bank (click on thumbnails below to see full screenshot).

Hudson_4thjuly_graphics Mbna_4thjuly_promo Usaa_4thjuly_promo

Zions_4thjuly_promo_1 Analysis
Ing_4thjuly_logoFor U.S. banks, there couldn’t be a better holiday to associate with, "banking, apple pie, and the Fourth of July." As we mentioned in our original holiday marketing post, we think it shows savvy on your part to tweak your design around the holidays. However, it doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Just flying the flag, like ING Direct, shows you are actively managing your online presence.

Want more ideas for your holiday marketing? Check out the Interactive Financial Marketing Database from our sister publication, the Online Banking Report.

Debunking Search Marketing Myths in Banking

Contributed by Mike Bailey, Compete, Inc.

Compete_logo_1Every day millions of consumers use the internet to search for new deposit accounts, loans, and credit cards. As a financial marketer you understand connecting to the growing online demand for financial products and services is a competitive necessity.

But what is the most effective way to understand and even predict how a potential customer thinks and behaves online? What search strategies will be most effective to allow you to tap into an online community of potential customers?

To find the answers, Yahoo! Search Marketing sponsored a study, conducted by Compete, Inc., a predictive analytics firm specializing in the financial services industry. The results provide some surprising insights that can dramatically influence your success in attracting and retaining customers.

First let’s look at two of the search “myths” we uncovered:

Myth #1 – People searching for credit online are not good prospects

The first thing we discovered is that consumers who use search to research deposit, loan and credit card products are affluent, have great credit and have a higher likelihood of applying for the products they have searched for than consumers who use other channels for their research. With 49% having an average annual income of more than $60,000, these prospects are 67% more likely to start an application than a typical online shopper and loan searchers are 59% more likely to apply.

Myth #2 – Brand names are not relevant in search marketing because those searching for specific banking institutions must already be customers there

As it turns out, searchers who type in a specific retail bank name are not just looking to log in to their existing accounts. A full 30% are potential new customers researching new accounts. And of those 30%, about 80% are looking for an alternative financial institution. So in search marketing, your brand and the terms associated with it provide three opportunities:

  1. Service your own customers
  2. Acquire new customers looking for specific services
  3. Access competitors’ customers

Most financial institutions have worked hard and spent marketing dollars to build a brand with positive and credible attributes. The good news, as our study shows, is that consumers looking for deposit and loan services hold brands in high regard. Consumers searching for particular brands make more than two-thirds of the search-generated deposit applications in a typical month. And a hefty 80% of credit card shoppers start their online searches with brand names, including the highly advertised brand names that you would expect, as well as partner and affinity cards, such as “air miles card.”

So how do you achieve better results with your online marketing? We recommend three strategies:

  1. Establish a balanced portfolio of terms. We have seen that deposit and loan searchers balance the types of terms they use. Credit card searchers, on the other hand, are inclined to research brand-related terms, including partner cards and affinity relationships. As a marketer you will need to adjust your portfolio of keywords and terms to make sure you have as broad access as possible to all potential customers.
  2. Leverage brand terms to attract deposit customers. Consumers who look online for major retail bank brands are most interested in deposits and cards and least interested in loans. Create copy that reflects this insight and tailor your incentives toward what your customers want.
  3. Measure and reflect offline conversions in search marketing ROI calculations. Without measurement how will you know how effective your efforts are and how to make adjustments? At least 50% of conversion volume occurs offline at a branch or call center, but the bank, product or service was researched online first – so tie your offline transactions to search.

Online search is a powerful consumer tool allowing people to easily find the information they need to make decisions about banking and financial products. As a marketer, make sure to do the research and analysis so you can create the most effective multi-channel and measurable marketing programs.

Mike Bailey is Managing Director of the Financial Services Practice at Compete, Inc., headquartered in Boston

Summer Banking Sweepstakes

There's nothing like a good old sweepstakes to add a little life to your summertime marketing efforts.

We especially like the idea of contests tied to online usage, especially bill payment. Resource Bank is the latest we've spotted with a bill-pay sweeps. This homepage announcement sums it up:

Pay 3 bills online during the month of June and you will be automatically entered in the "Let Us Pay Your Bills" Sweepstakes. The winner will be reimbursed for all online payments made during the month, up to $300.

This three-month contest (June, July, August) is ultra low-budget — a total prize pool that maxes out at $900 ($300 times 3 months) — but it's still effective.

It would be even better if the bank spent a couple hundred bucks on professional graphics and boosted the monthly maximum payout to $1000 or more. If you are lucky, you won't have to pay out more than a few hundred dollars anyway, so why not make it sound better?

Pnc_scratch_game2On the other hand, we're not so sure about PNC Bank's latest, an online "scratch" card you take into the branch to check for a match. Matches are rewarded with the prize shown (iPod Shuffle, portable DVD, or digital cam).

We live outside the PNC footprint, so we can't check it out firsthand, but I'm guessing the branch is supposed to cross-sell like crazy when you show up to get the official "match card" to see if you are a winner. But more than likely the branch sales staff will be otherwise occupied during the lunchtime rush when most online users stop by, so sales impact will be low.

Also, it's too easy to win. With 5000 total prizes across 700,000 maximum entries, the overall odds are 1:141, pretty sweet for prizes worth $100 to $200 each. With such a rich prize pool, and relatively low hurdles to entry, the bank risks being overrun with repeat entrants. Granted, you can only enter once per day, but it would be hard to stop users from going to multiple branches. Even if everyone abides by the rules, the bank may see the same faces day after day, reducing sales opportunities and clogging the branch at busy times.

Doing the math: If the average number of entries is 10 per person, PNC will interact with just 70,000 unique customers. Assuming a 2% conversion rate, that's 1400 new product sales. Just considering the $700,000 prize pool alone, that's an acquisition cost of $500. That does not include other sweepstakes and marketing costs.

In comparison, it makes Resource Bank's $300 sweepstakes look pretty cost effective. Probably better would be something in-between, not so rich that you attract too many people out to game the system, but not so stingy that your customers wonder why you are even bothering. 

If you'd like access to more financial interactive marketing ideas, check out the Interactive Financial Marketing Database from our sister publication, the Online Banking Report.

Keeping Tabs on the Financial Blogosphere

Blogpulse_logo_1 Writing in The Wall Street Journal’s MarketPlace section, William Bulkeley discusses a new technique for tracking consumer opinions of products, companies, and other topics. The article, Marketers Scan Blogs for Insights, explains how marketers, PR departments, and brand consultants are using free and not-so-free tools to scan the so-called "blogosphere."

We tested Intelliseek’s BlogPulse on some security topics we’ve been researching and found it to be an effective tool. There were more blog citations than we found in a Google search, and they were better organized. Also, BlogPulse provides a trending tool to gauge the relative strength of a search term over the past 6 months.

Blog_plus_trendingHere we compared "phishing" to "online banking" and found similar activity levels for both terms (click on the inset for a better look).

While this tool won’t replace traditional market research, it may be worth checking out from time to time.


American Express Spruces Up its Email Confirmations

American Express, long one of the savviest financial marketers, recently updated the look of its routine "payment received" email confirmation.

Amex_payment_confirmation_1It’s a nice change from the typical text-only message. Key features include:
– last 5 digits of card number for verification
– account login
– balance transfer offer
– Blue Cash offer

But the "Dear Cardmember" salutation is a mistake.

With all the hysteria about phishing and email fraud, the opening should be personalized, both to differentiate itself from SPAM and to insulate cardmembers (and itself) from phishing attacks. This is especially important in a communication which includes a built-in login button, an inviting target for phishers.

American Express does provide several unique identifiers: the last 5 digits of the card number, the payment date, and payment amount. But those aren’t instantly recognizable to all cardmembers. The combination of account name and the last few digits is much more effective (see Citibank article).

A  for look & feel
A- for cross sales (two offers might be a bit much)
A for self-service with five links to popular online card management functions
B- for security (last 5 digits included, but no cardholder name, no mention of how to verify the authenticity)
A- overall


If you’d like to learn more about the bank and financial services email trends, check out Email Marketing in Financial Services: Leveraging the Inbox from our sister publication, the Online Banking Report.

Financial Institutions with the Longest Online Archives

In the most recent issue of Online Banking Report, we outlined an important competitive feature going forward: online archives.

We sampled 50 financial institution websites and found the longest archives as follows:

Statements – 24 months at The Whitney Bank
Transactions – 58 months at ING Direct (since inception of the bank)
Images – 84 months at E*Trade Bank

Frost_logoWe’ve just been alerted that Frost Bank has real-time statement archives dating back to 1997, a full 100 months and counting. That’s nearly 5 times the length of our previous front-runner, The Whitney. And effective July 17, Frost will also have 18 month image and transaction archives, double the average length of our sample banks.

Finally, if you sum the archive length across all 3 types, Frost’s 136 (11 + 18 + 18) is the clear winner. Runner-up is E*Trade at 126. No one else is higher than 70.

Keep those cards and letters coming. Email me if you know of anyone who has longer archives than those listed above.

P.S. Another one we got partially wrong: HSBC provides 24 months of archives for deposit products and 12 months for credit cards. We reported 12 months for all.


Chase Ends Last Major Experiment with Scan-and-Pay Bill Management

PaytrustEffective Monday, Chase Bank will end its four-year experiment with so-called scan-and-pay bill payment (download the email announcement below). Popularized in 1999-2000 by Cyberbills, PayMyBills.com, and PayTrust, the service allowed users to have their mailed bills redirected to the service provider where they were scanned and posted to a website. Users were alerted to the new bills and could pay them through a variety of methods.

Download final email announcing the termination of Chase Bank's "Premium Plan" total bill management service

As demand failed to materialize, the three service providers all ended up under Metavante ownership. Last year, Metavante sold the remaining PayTrust business to Intuit. Chase was the only major bank to offer the service, using it as the premium option in a three-level product line (see OBR 82, p. 8).

This is a service that sounds great on paper, but is too complicated for the benefits provided. Winning electronic bill payment services need to provide quick payback with a minimal learning curve. That's what so nice about CheckFree's new system that allows users to add a new biller by simply entering the biller's phone number.

While the few users who took the trouble to redirect their bills and set-up automated payments were quite satisfied, it was just too much trouble for all but a fringe group of highly-organized computer-savvy types, the kind of person who is a long-term user of Quicken. So it makes a lot of sense that the sole remaining provider of the service is Intuit.



Low-Cost Bank Logos

Vista_by_logoworks This isn’t the kind of thing you usually find in The Wall Street Journal, but today they ran an article in their Small Business column about low-cost graphic design services from LogoWorks.com. Their financial clients include Peach State Bank and Vista Federal Credit Union.

For $385, three different designers will each provide 2 or 3 logos based on your written input. The flat-rate price also includes unlimited revisions to the designs and turnaround time is 72 hours. For those on a really tight budget, a $265 option puts just two designers on your account and limits revisions to two rounds.

Distinctive logos are a great way to improve the professionalism of your website and LogoWorks makes it extremely simple and cost effective to get just what you need in a timely fashion.

For more information, read Online Banking Report (100/101), Financial Website Usability: Homepage 


Update: Bank of America’s SiteKey Goes Live in Tennessee

Sitekey_coming_soonBank of America issued a press release saying that it went live today in Tennessee with its OBR Best-of-the-Web-winning multi-factor authentication system. However, a search of the bank's website, using Tennessee as our state, found no mention other than the "coming soon" paragraph that's been posted for the past several weeks (click on inset to read).  

">Read our previous article.