- Strategic inconvenience: how inconveniencing consumers can help brands build profits, read the cover feature here
- Vente-privee, a French ‘flash’ sale website, doesn’t have a search function – click here to read how it works for them
- The other side of the coin: why John Lewis thinks strategic inconvenience is a ‘cheap trick’
Marketing Week (MW): How does the credit report industry use the ‘inconvenience’ strategy?
Tom Ilube (TI): Consumers have to give payment details up front [to get credit reports], and then remember to cancel. Even if they do cancel, the company will probably treat the cancellation as giving a month’s notice, then take one final payment [after the 30-day free trial]. Consumers don’t like it very much but they say there is not much they can do about it because it seems to be how the market works.
We asked them, if a proposition existed in the market that was a genuinely free-for-life, no-strings-attached credit report, would they sign up for it. About 67% of people said yes and 88% of consumers who had previously had a credit report said yes. They realised this would be a valuable thing to have.
There are consumers who do like the credit report product but not the proposition. The way it is being sold makes them feel they are being ripped off.
MW: Why have you made consumer credit reports free under the Noddle brand when the rest of the market charges for them?
TI: The request to me was to build a large-scale consumer business. That was key in my thinking of how to tackle this. If the request had been to take the business that is turning over a few million a year and add 10% or 20%, then I might have taken a different approach.
Our research shows that consumers are surprisingly aware of credit reports. But only about 25% of people had ever looked at them, so it was obvious to me that there was some sort of barrier.
The other thing that consumers were not happy about is what has become the norm in the industry – that you get a free credit report that is actually only free for 30 days, then providers start billing you.
MW: How do you expect to make a profit?
TI: We will offer consumers other propositions – upgraded services and cross-sell products – that they can take or not take. If a proportion of them take up these propositions, it will fund the business model. That is essentially the risk that we are taking.
MW: Will this eventually transform the business model of consumer credit reports?
TI: If companies are going to charge the consumer for their credit report, they are going to have to add more value. Either way, the consumer wins because those who keep charging are going to have to innovate and justify why the consumer is having to pay. These companies will no longer be able to rely on customer inertia.