Out of the Inbox: Cascade Bank Drives Customers to Branch with One-Day iPad Giveaway

image I’ve long been an admirer of Cascade Bank, a $1.7 billion bank headquartered in Everett, WA. A friend was marketing director there for a number of years, and I learned a lot from her about community bank marketing and management.

While I used to have a mortgage at Cascade, I don’t have any accounts now; hence, the email I received earlier this week. The bank invited prospective customers to come to one of its 22 branches (today only) and enter their name in a drawing to win an iPad. Five iPads were being given away bank wide.

And while in the branch, hoping to pick up a free ipad, the bank dangled an attractive duffel bag in front of visitors as a premium for opening a new checking account. And Cascade promised to drop an extra $25 in your account if you traded in your old check register from the competition.

Bottom line: Thanks to the iPad and some great graphic design, the mailing had a stunning visual, good title, and compelling offer. Excellent work.

Email announcing the giveaway (received 30 Nov. 2010)

Cascade Bank Email announcing the giveaway (received 30 Nov 2010)

Cascade Bank homepage (3 Dec. 2010)

Cascade Bank homepage (3 Dec 2010)

Landing page pitches free checking with duffel bag premium and $25 bonus 

Cascade Bank Landing page pitches free checking with duffel bag premium and $25 bonus

Note: For more ideas, see Online Banking Report: Growing Deposits in a Digital Age.

Out of the Inbox: Lending Club’s “Idle Cash Alert”

image Lending Club, which recently surpassed $12 million in monthly P2P loan volume (see below), does a great job concisely communicating important account info. The startup earned an “A” in our recent report on transaction alerts (note 1).

Below is another example of its exemplary email alerts. In just 30 words, the company reinforces my impressive rate of return and my account balance. Then it seamlessly goes for the sale, encouraging me to put my cash balance to work by making more loans.

The only improvement I’d suggest is making the call to action, “Browse available Notes,” more prominent. First, it’s not clear that it’s a link. Second, what does that even mean? Ideally, it would be Lend Now, although I understand that terminology is not “SEC friendly,” so Invest Now, should work.  

Bottom line: It’s a win-win to provide encouragement every now and then about how customers might put their idle balances to work. Just don’t overdue it.

Lending Club “Idle Cash Alert” (27 Sep. 2010)


Lending Club loan volume: Aug. 2009 through Sep. 2010

Lending Club loan volume: Aug. 2009 through Sept. 2010

1. See previous post on OBR 181/182 published July 2010

ActivePath Named OBR Best of the Web for Email Banking System

obr_bestofweb In our most recent report, Email Banking: Revitalizing the Channel, ActivePath was named the third OBR Best of the Web winner in 2010. The company was cited for its unique plugin software that turns the user’s email inbox into a mini online-banking center.

We believe that the future of banking information delivery is outside the website. Increasingly, users will rely on information pushed to them through Facebook, Twitter or RSS feeds, to mobile phone apps, and to the email inbox. ActivePath’s solution plays into that trend.

The just-launched Israeli startup becomes the 78th company to win the designation since we began awarding it in 1997. The other two winners this year:


Note: OBR Best of the Web awards are given periodically to companies that pioneer new online or mobile banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important industry development. Recent winners are profiled in the Netbanker archives.

New Online Banking Report Published: Bank Transaction Email Alerts & Real-Time Streaming (Feeds)

image Two months ago when we were sketching out the next Online Banking Report (see note for links to the report), I thought it would be useful to look at the real-time Web and how consumers were becoming accustomed to status update feeds through Facebook and Twitter.

Old-school alerts: Email
As I wrote the report, I realized that most online banking users still want to consume transaction data the old-fashioned way, through email and over the Web. We did a quick consumer survey that confirmed our hypothesis, with email preferred 2-to-1, over text and voice messaging. Even among the under-35 crowd, email and text alerts were tied.

So we also took a detailed dive into email alerts, developing 22 recommendations for state-of-the-art email messages. And we graded 16 alert examples from 13 financial institutions. Overall, our sample scored very well with Bank of America, Lending Club, Mint, ING Direct, PayPal all earning A grades. Also U.S. Bank, Schwab, Wells Fargo and Prosper were just slightly lower, each with a B+. 

The future: Real-time streams/feeds/updates
While email, text or voice messages work well for alerts, they are not as desirable for keeping users informed of all their transactions. Once you start getting multiple emails each day from your financial accounts, it becomes overwhelming and you stop opening them. That’s why transaction feeds are a promising means for keeping customers up-to-date on an ongoing basis. In a world where so many consumers are following a Facebook news feed, Twitter feed, or good old RSS, it’s only natural that financial transactions will join the mix.

But it’s still a long way off. For the most part, consumers do not want commercial messages cluttering their news feeds. And they are understandably confused about privacy/security settings, and don’t feel confident that bank transactions delivered via Twitter direct message, are not being displayed to the world.

However, once we get past that educational challenge, we believe a significant number of consumers will prefer tracking their finances via feed (mostly via mobile) instead of logging in to online banking multiple times per month.

To learn more about what could happen in this area, we looked at three transaction-feed startups:

Bottom line: Real-time feeds are the future, but many years away from making it past even the earliest of adopters. For most financial institutions, the important thing now is to make sure you have great email and text alerts. But for those looking to differentiate with technology, feeds provide an intriguing opportunity. 


1. The report is available at no extra charge to OBR subscribers here; and can be purchased for US$495 by others here. See the Table of Contents here (PDF). 

Chase Bank Offering Small Business Clients $2,000 in Free Remote Deposit Capture Services

image Two thousand is the largest banking premium I’ve ever seen, although Chase’s out-of-pocket costs are probably less than $500. The offer was made last week via email (see first screenshot) to existing business-banking customers not already enrolled in Chase Quick Deposit, a scanner-based remote check-deposit service.

The details:


From: Chase Bank 
To: Business Banking clients
Date: 10 June 2010 (1 PM)

Offer: Two years of free remote deposit services (Chase Quick Deposit), normally $50/mo, plus the $855 Panini 50-50 business-class scanner to power it. Total retail value = $2,055 

Fine print:
— Users must deposit at least 10 checks per month to maintain fee-free service
— New Quick Deposit users only; not valid for current or previous users
— $500 cancellation fee if discontinued within 12 months
— Offer good through July 31, 2010

Notes: This offer does not appear to be available to the general public. On the bank’s website, the current offer is a free scanner with a 2-year contract at $50/mo.


Analysis: It’s definitely attention-getting and will drive new remote-deposit business. But I’m a bit surprised Chase is giving away both the razor and the blades (see note 1). Perhaps the bank is testing different offers. But it will be two years before Chase finds out what percentage of its users convert to paying customers. Of course, they are also banking on an account-retention lift to repay the significant cost of the offer.   

Email from Chase offering free remote deposit services (10 June 2010, 1 PM)


Landing page


Users accepting the offer must first log in to their account to enroll


1. Offer made to a single-service (DDA) small business checking client converted from WaMu.
2. For more info, see Online Banking Report: Micro- and Small Business Online Banking (published Oct. 2009)

Out of the Inbox: ING Direct’s Year-End Pitch for IRAs

image This is one of the better times of year to market tax-deferred accounts. ING Direct targets consumers plotting New Year resolutions with this intriguing headline:

Subject: Is an IRA on your “to do” list?
From: saver@ingdirect.com
Received: 22 Dec 2009, 5:07 PM Pacific

There’s not much to the message. No offer. No graphics. No tease. Just a solid message reiterating the potential tax benefits and emphasizing ING Direct’s no-fee options.

Grade: B+

Email screenshot
Note: This message was sent to an existing customer with a savings account and Sharebuilder account, but no IRA.


Landing page (link)
Note: Landing page URL is <retirement.ingdirect.com>


Out of the Inbox: Upbeat Customer Email Message from Umpqua Bank

image I recently opted in to the Umpqua Bank email list. And even though I’m not a customer, I received an upbeat message this morning from bank president Ray Davis (screenshot below).

This email appears to be geared towards businesses (see the closing line below). And that makes sense because I’d recently been looking into its business social network (note 1). But the message is on-target for consumers as well.

The well-written 185-word letter covers three main topics:

  • A cautiously optimistic message about the overall economy
  • Some tangible evidence (new banking division, new lending teams, new capital, and 20,000 hours of community service) that the bank is a forward-moving survivor
  • Reassurances to customers that they were well-capitalized and moving closer to repaying TARP money

The tone was completely soft sell. There is a link to its online switch kit at the bottom and links to its LocalSpace business social network and Twitter feed (note 2) on the right. It’s more “we’re in this together” than sales pitch and closes with this wonderful line:

As we wrap up 2009 and look ahead, I encourage you to commit to the spirit of recovery and take action that positions you for the future.

We recommend that every other well-capitalized bank and credit union send a similar message before the holidays. We are about to move into the annual “year in review” exercise in the media, and this year’s 100+ U.S. bank failures will be high on the list. Remind your customers, members, employees that you are still a vital member of the community. And that for every financial institution that went under, there were a 100 like yourself that did not. 


1. For more info on the small-business market, see our latest Online Banking Report: Small Business Online & Mobile Banking.
2. Umpqua dreamed up one of the most compelling reasons we’ve seen to follow a bank, or any company for that matter, on Twitter (with the possible exception of the tweeting bakery): updates on its truck handing out free ice cream (Umpqua Twitter page).

Out of the Inbox: ING Direct’s ShareBuilder Encourages Customers to Follow on Twitter and Facebook

image An email from ShareBuilder arrived in my inbox this morning. Basically, it provides links to the company’s Facebook page (4,000 fans) and Twitter feed (1200 followers), so customers can easily sign up to follow the company on these key social networks.

Call to action: Get our latest offers and more anytime via Facebook and Twitter.

While the email effort will get action from serious fans, it has a nice branding component for everyone. With very little effort, it demonstrates ShareBuilder’s commitment to interacting with customers wherever they happen to be online. The ING Direct unit has also added Facebook and Twitter signup widgets to its homepage (see screenshot below).

Bottom line: To really drive numbers to its social network sites, ShareBuilder needs to add an incentive, such as a sweepstakes. But a general awareness message is a good first step.

ShareBuilder email to existing customers (link, 7:01 AM Pacific, 15 Sep 2009)


ShareBuilder Twitter page (link)


ShareBuilder Facebook page (link)


ShareBuilder homepage


1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report: Connecting to Customers with Twitter.

Out of the Inbox: Credit Karma’s Monthly Email is Hard to Ignore

image I get dozens of newsletters and marketing pitches from my various financial accounts every month. While they are interesting to me as an analyst, for the average consumer there’s rarely any actionable information.

However, one financial company consistently drives users to its site month over month with their email missives. And they don’t even have to change the creative.

Free-credit-score provider Credit Karma simply reminds users that it’s been more than two weeks since they last checked their credit score. The company goes on to encourage users to check in every month to to make sure no adverse changes have occurred (see first screenshot below). It’s a simple yet powerful message that drives traffic to the company’s ad-supported site (see second and third screenshots).

I’ve received this message on the 16th of each month this year, except May, when I must have already visited Credit Karma in the two weeks prior. A large yellow button invites the reader to click through to see the latest score (see first screenshot).

And the technique seems to be working. Traffic, measured in unique visitors by Compete, is up six-fold in the past 12 months, to 310,000 visitors in July (see chart below).


Credit Karma email (received 16 July 2009; 10:05 AM Pacific)
Subject: Credit Karma update image

Current landing page after clicking “update” button in email (13 Aug 2009)
Note: Virgin Money’s friends-and-family mortgage offering is the lead product placement while The Easy Loan Site has the top banner. Lending Club is also running a banner across the top.


Landing page two months ago (16 June 2009)
Note: Virgin Money’s friends and family was also the lead product placement, while ING Direct’s Sharebuilder had the banner.  Virgin Money also has a product offer in the middle of the page.


Note: For more info on the market for credit scores and monitoring see our Online Banking Report on Credit Report Monitoring (published Aug 2007).

Pitney Bowes Goes After Remote Deposit Capture Market with Email to Postage-Meter Clients

image Pitney Bowes (PB) hit me with a cross-sale message this morning, and surprisingly it was for a banking service, remote deposit capture (see email below). Because we already do ACH transactions through PB to load our postage meter, it’s something I would consider buying from them, especially since our business bank does not offer RDC.  

The service called Click Deposit (note 1) works with any bank or credit union checking account and is powered by Jack Henry ProfitStars. The cost runs $39.95 to $149.95 per month, depending on volume. You get up to 150 monthly scans at the lower level and 1,000 at the high end. Buyers must sign a nine-page contract (PitneyBowes_RDC_app.pdf), committing to the service, and leased scanner, for 36 months.

Because I don’t want to lock us in at $500/yr for three years, I think we’ll pass on this deal. Hopefully, we’ll be able to tap a lower-cost iPhone-based service in the near future, such as that offered by WV United FCU (see previous post).  

Email from Pitney Bowes (22 July 2009, 9:36 AM Pacific)


Landing page (link)


1. Although, Jack Henry announced the relationship in May (press release), I found no mention at the main Pitney Bowes site (pb.com) or the services site (pitneyworks.com), so this may be a marketing test.  

Email Unsubscribe Best Practices for Banks, Credit Unions and Other Financial Services Companies

image It’s been three years since I last went through my inbox to unsubscribe from the marketing and information lists I no longer read. At that time, I still used email to keep up on ecommerce and banking news. Now, that task has moved almost entirely to RSS, and I rarely read any broadcast email these days. 

During a two-hour paring process to delist 40 to 50 subscriptions from email, I paid close attention to how each company handled that bit of negative news and jotted down a few best practices for banks, credit unions, and other financial providers (note 1): 

  1. Put your branding on the unsubscribe page, don’t simply default to your email service provider page.  
  2. Greet the customer by name and/or email address.
  3. Provide customer testimonials on the value of the email subscription.
  4. Empathize with their situation (e.g., Getting too much mail?), but reiterate the benefits of staying in touch with you (e.g., We really want our customers to get the best deals!) and gently see if you can change their minds (e.g., Are you sure? Try us for another month, and we’ll do our best to bring you only pertinent offers.) 
  5. If that fails, offer alternative ways to maintain contact, for instance:
    – Less-frequent email (see first screenshot below)
    – RSS feed(s) (see second screenshot below)
    – Better-targeted email on just certain subjects
    – Use a different email address
    – Change email format (HTML vs. text)
    – Use SMS instead of email
  6. If applicable, explain that customers will still receive account-related email messages.
  7. Provide a feedback form so users can tell you why they are unsubscribing.
  8. Confirm the request online and provide links to other areas of your website.
  9. Send an email confirming that the unsubscribe process is complete.

Step 1: TigerDirect unsubscribe page (20 July 2009)
Email subscribers clicking on “unsubscribe” are first asked if they’d prefer to receive fewer emails.


Step 2: After unsubscribing, customers can sign up for RSS or catalog delivery image

Update: Staples…another good example of offering choices on the main unsubscribe page (screenshot 22 July 2009; hat tip to Loren McDonald, note 2):


1. U.S. emailers must comply with CAN-SPAM regulations at all times. 
2. Here’s a good presentation from Loren McDonald from Silverpop on the subject. 
3. For more info on email marketing, see our Online Banking Report on Email Marketing in Financial Services (published June 2006).

Out of the Inbox: ShareBuilder Email Thanks Customers After Second Month of Automated Investments

image This is the first time we’ve seen a financial services company reach out and congratulate users for a job well done. In this case, ING Direct’s U.S. retail investments unit, ShareBuilder, sent a congratulatory email message to me after two months of investing through its Automatic Investment Program, which pulls money from outside checking accounts.  

The message has several purposes:

  • To reinforce the investment decision
  • To encourage customers to use ShareBuilder Research
  • To incent users to move other brokerage accounts to ShareBuilder with the $100 bonus offer (see landing page, second screenshot)

What’s not to like here? It’s timely, relevant, to-the-point (only 75 words in the main body copy) and makes users feel good about themselves. The same thing could be done with loan payments, debt reduction, savings account balance growth, and so on.

Email: ShareBuilder automated savings congratulations
(3 July 2009, 6:41 AM Pacific Time)


Landing page for $100-bonus offer
Note: The offer is co-branded with Wells Fargo, which is where I originally set up the ShareBuilder account eight or nine years ago.


Side note: Online account opening warning box
When looking at the new account application, we encountered this popup when attempting to leave the unfinished app and navigate to the ShareBuilder homepage (see note 1).  


1. For more info on the subject of online apps, see our Online Banking Report: Online Account Opening, published two weeks ago.