ClearScore disrupted the credit check market when it launched in 2015 by offering the service for free, and it is looking to do the same thing as it unveils what it claims is a “world-first” service that allows consumers to take full control of their financial health.
Dubbed ‘OneScore’, the new service uses multiple datasets to give people a more accurate view of their spending, assets, debts, savings and protection. It is made possible by the Open Banking initiative, which allows consumers’ financial data (such as bank details) to be shared with third parties.
By seeing all this information in one place, ClearScore hopes to be able to offer users recommendations on how to improve their financial wellbeing, say by shifting money from a savings account to pay off a mortgage, and hit financial goals by, for example, taking out a different mortgage.
Money is not particularly sexy and it is challenging from a marketing perspective because there’s lots of regulation.
Anna Kilmurray, ClearScore
Speaking to Marketing Week, ClearScore CMO Anna Kilmurray says the launch comes off the back of research that reveals 50% of people show some signs of financial vulnerability, while a quarter are either unsure or have zero confidence in making decisions about money. It is these people ClearScore is looking to help, rather than people who might already be good with money.
Building the ClearScore brand
Kilmurray was one of the first people to join ClearScore before it launched in mid-2015. Brought in by founder Justin Basini (who she had worked with in a previous role at mobile payments firm Zapp), she says she was attracted by the challenge of launching a brand from scratch, disrupting an established market and changing the relationship people have with money.
“For a marketer that is an interesting customer proposition,” she explains. “Money is not particularly sexy and it is challenging from a marketing perspective because there’s lots of regulation and it can be daunting and complex to communicate. But being able to do something for the consumer, led by product and design, was really interesting.”
ClearScore has taken a bold approach to marketing from the outset. Because the service was free, it needed to know very quickly if there was a market for its product. So on the day it got FCA approval, the brand dived straight into TV advertising, despite Kilmurray admitting it didn’t have the perfect product or the perfect ad.
Luckily, the gamble paid off. Within 18 months, ClearScore had attracted millions of users, success that Kilmurray puts in part down to its direct response approach to TV advertising.
“I don’t think about brand and response as separate things. We do brand response TV ads, every penny we spend has to show a return. Everything we put out that the customer [sees] is building our brand either positively or negatively,” she says.
“Our ads were pretty single-minded, especially the early ones. [It was a case of] boiling it down to a simple message about trust and credibility, and then getting people to hear about us and coming to the website.”
Building a marketing team
Alongside developing the marketing strategy, Kilmurray also had to build out the marketing team. It is now comprised of around 17 people, but most of those have joined in the past six-to-12 months as the brand’s focus shifts from growth to engagement.
It has two cross-functional teams – growth and acquisition, and engagement – and people who include developers, designers, product developers and analysts. It also has a growing team of people dedicated to CRM as it looks to make the most of all the data it has on people to add value for users.
Kilmurray was keen to keep that team in-house because she sees data and CRM as a core competency for ClearScore. “For us, CRM is just an extension of the product. It is really key because not only are we very close to the data, we are responsible for every touchpoint with the user and understand what that user needs,” she states.
ClearScore now has seven million users, with around 2.5 million of those logging in every month and about 500,000 having taken out a product recommended by the service. This is how ClearScore generates revenue, but Kilmurray says it is about offering customers relevant information and deals so they can get to the right product quickly, not forcing users to “flick through massive long lists of deals”.
CRM is just an extension of the product. It is really key because not only are we very close to the data, we are responsible for every touchpoint with the user.
Anna Killmurray, ClearScore
The launch of OneScore is part of plans to take ClearScore into the next stage of its growth by deepening the user experience. It is also on a rapid expansion programme; having launched in South Africa last year the company is planning to bring the brand to India next month and Australia in December, then 10 more markets over the next two years.
Helping that expansion is ClearScore’s acquisition by its one-time competitor Experian. The deal is yet to go through, but once it does ClearScore hopes its new owner’s scale will help it expand much more rapidly globally, and give it access to even more data expertise.
“[Initially] we wanted to penetrate the whole credit check market, so anyone who knew about credit reports would [use us]. Now we want to be something everyone in the UK can benefit from,” adds Kilmurray.