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The 3 C's of Customer Experience

Focus on Context Accelerates Card Acquisition

Today’s financial services customers and prospects live in a world of fragmentation. They are consuming more media across more channels and devices to meet a wider variety of their needs than ever before. As a result, Merkle has been focused on customer experience as an organizing principle in this complex space and as a key driver of both online and offline business performance. A strategic approach to customer experience, artfully integrated and implemented, can deliver major efficiency and effectiveness improvements. This is particularly true when applied to acquisition and cross-sell/up-sell programs. 

As background, we see customer experience strategy as having three central building blocks: context, connectivity and content. Connectivity and content are focused on reaching the right prospects in the right channel and delivering the right information and offers, respectively. Context, on the other hand, is about developing and activating the various types of data that are available about the customer or prospect. These then are the planning inputs and triggers that enable the design and delivery of a differentiated customer experience. Context has its own building blocks, which are covered in a previous blog post. I am going to expand on that post through a case study that explores the role context played within a credit card acquisition program at a top-five issuing bank. The approach included a variety of digital marketing and media tactics that drove account volume and profitability.

Within the card acquisition program, the four currencies of context (enterprise segmentation, behavioral triggers and sequencing, lifecycle stage, and value score)  were blended together to create large-scale reach and a customer experience that resulted in high performance against business goals. 

Enterprise segmentation

This involves developing concise definitions of target audiences, which are understood as holistically as possible across the organization. We used actual response data recorded against a wide variety of search keywords (more than 120,000) to develop the primary research parameters that would define segments. In addition, online and offline research tools were used to compile the secondary research that would further clarify high-propensity segments. Blended together, our primary and secondary research yielded definitions of high-value segments and, more importantly, sub-segments within the "rewards" or "fees" motivation groups, as just two examples. Then these segments were targeted and tracked to optimize their performance. 

Behavioral triggers and sequencing

This is the process of reacting to action(s) taken by the prospect. In card acquisition, tracking the ad content that is presented can dynamically alter the next and subsequent steps of the experience. This offers dozens of variations of landing page creative (post-click), but can also involve personalizing site visits through activation of CRM data or modifying second- and third-touch messages on publishers' sites. For card acquisition, detecting and recording the trigger that leads to any response, and continuing to react against that motivation are key to a successful customer experience.   

Lifecycle stage

This is a key signal within customer experience planning; many times changes in lifecycle stage are a major entry point for card acquisition. Merkle deployed advertising test cells against a variety of segments to measure responses and prioritize lifecycle messaging. For example, we found success with prospects seeking a new card with a different benefit related to travel. Others are looking for a second card to accommodate a new need, such as a marriage or a seasonality event. These are just a few of the lifecycle stages that can drive acquisition, and all the stages imply different positions in the decision funnel and different relationships with the brand.

Value score

This may be the most interesting, because it is the key planning input to the financial case for acquisition. Merkle takes a very broad view of value score, conceptually a proxy for profitability, and uses everything from specific, observed actions and measured business impact to modeled, predictive valuation of new prospects. In card acquisition, we activate advertising and optimize media against both completed applications and approved applications. We also use FICO, among other data points (anonymously), to value the approved applications. Fed back into the optimization process, this enables us to balance account volume against quality for efficient, effective advertising spending.

In summary, we can illustrate a successful credit card acquisition program by tying together the prospect segments, their motivations, their lifecycle stages, the ads and the messages, the triggers, and ultimately the value/profitability scores. It also illustrates that context, and its four building blocks, is a key driver of program performance, as well as delivery of a meaningfully differentiated customer experience.

Stay tuned for the next blog post in the Addressable Customer Series, where we connect context and content to optimize your customer experiences.

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