MoneySuperMarket is hoping to “unlock” growth by boosting engagement with the brand outside the core times when people are looking to switch, which it hopes will improve loyalty and reduce its reliance on Google.
The first part of that work involves personalisation, particularly within the MoneySuperMarket app. The company is the only price comparison site to have an app that offers the same functionality as its website, having launched the tool in 2016. In comparison, Confused.com only has an app for car insurance, while Compare the Market’s app is focused on its reward scheme and GoCompare has no app offering.
MoneySuperMarket is looking to boost the functionality of its app by offering complementary services, for example free MOT and car tax reminders. In early tests among a small number of Android users, 68% made use of the functionality.
Another area MoneySuperMarket is exploring is making its service more active, going out to customers rather than waiting until they come to it. For example, it is testing how open banking could be used so price comparison shows up in users’ current account based on their direct debits.
And it has launched a venture, called Podium, that aims to digitise the mortgage application process. Currently, while people can search online for mortgage offers, they then have to talk to a mortgage broker over the phone and provide paper documentation to complete their application.
“The work on the strategy is all about how we drive a more engaged relationship with the customer, give them a reason to come back and add value beyond saving money,” says MoneySuperMarket Group’s first chief customer officer, Darren Bentley, who has just been promoted from marketing director of the MoneySuperMarket brand.
“We are not the only brand trying to crack that challenge. This is a relatively low-engagement category – we are selling financial services, no one wakes up in the morning getting excited about switching their car insurance and it’s relatively low frequency.”
We are constantly balancing that attention between short-term and long-term results.
Darren Bentley, MoneySuperMarket
As Bentley suggests, boosting engagement and loyalty is a challenge for the whole price comparison industry, not just MoneySuperMarket. Having encouraged customers to be promiscuous when it comes to their relationships with suppliers, it is no surprise those same customers jump between price comparison sites depending on which one is offering the best deal.
However, different players in the industry are adopting different strategies. Compare the Market and GoCompare are focused on reward schemes, such as two-for-one cinema tickets and free membership to dinner clubs that offer 50% off.
Bentley says while MoneySuperMarket is “keeping an eye” on what its competitors are up to, it has chosen not to go in that direction. “Our differentiation exists in our strategy, and how we bring that through into the comms in a way that captures attention and drives the business,” he adds.
Switching its marketing strategy
The strategy shift has precipitated a rethink of its marketing. The company put its creative account up for pitch earlier this year, much to the surprise of many after previous agency Mother delivered some hugely successful campaigns.
It has since appointed WCRS as its new creative agency, with the first work expected early next year – though Mother’s final TV-led execution will still run from September.
Bentley describes the pitch process as hugely productive but not something he is keen to do again any time soon. He picked WCRS because throughout the whole process it “stood out slightly”, and because of their strategic capability and breadth of creativity, although he describes the process of working with all four agencies that pitched as a “privilege”.
“Pitching is a huge privilege from the client perspective,” he admits. “It is crushing for the ones that don’t succeed. It’s a very one-sided process and I was conscious of that all the way through.”
WCRS is now tasked with creating a new brand platform for MoneySuperMarket that goes through customer experience and its paid, owned and earned channels, and highlights its point of differentiation.
“[Our advertising] hasn’t always had the substance behind it to differentiate it within the category. That was partly because the proposition wasn’t differentiated to a great extent, but we’re making real progress on the reinvention strategy and we feel we’ve got an opportunity here to ensure that the way we’ve got our comms and advertising and brand stands up and can come to life across all touchpoints.”
Another marketing challenge is to reduce MoneySuperMarket’s reliance on Google as a customer acquisition channel. One of the key measures of success for the company is marketing margin – the percentage of revenues that it invests in marketing activity. That currently sits at 62%, and Bentley says the only way to improve that is to drive up the volume of customers coming through CRM or direct to the brand.
While that is partly a brand and creative challenge, it is also a media challenge that the company is working through with its media agency MediaCom and econometrics agency Red Route International. Simply turning off or down Google activity overnight would be a “huge gamble”, admits Bentley, but the company is testing changes to its media mix.
“We are trying to adjust the mix away from Google in favour of brand and understand over a mid- to long-term period: does that lead to a more efficient marketing mix or a higher return on investment,” he explains.
“We are in a position if we dial up and down Google spend we see a move overnight. If we dial up and down brand spend it takes four to six months and beyond to flow through into business performance. We are constantly balancing that attention between short-term and long-term results.”
Bringing product and marketing together
Given that, MoneySuperMarket has put a big focus on optimising the customer experience and personalising its CRM. Some 96% of CRM comms are now personalised and changes to the customer experience led to a 23% year-on-year increase in its home services business in the first half of its fiscal year.
To continue that work, it has just hired a new chief product officer in Rafael Orta to fill a role that had been open for a while. The company is also planning to double the size of its engineering hub in Manchester by the end of the year.
The job now is to work out how marketing works with product and engineering teams and to rethink the role of marketing so it less about simply advertising and more about customer experience.
“Historically, when we’ve spoken about brand, what we mean is advertising and what we see on the TV is primarily what we associate the brand team to be working on,” says Bentley. “[What we are thinking about] with a more integrated brand platform that is brought to life across the whole customer experience is how marketing works in partnership with product on customer innovation.
“There are certain instances where there is a disconnect, where you have marketing looking after customer acquisition and the product teams looking after the website and app customer experience, and they don’t always join as seamlessly as we would want them to when we think about an end-to-end customer journey.
“It’s a ‘ways of working’ challenge, ensuring our marketing and product engineering capability are working hand-in-hand across the customer experience.”
Darren Bentley will be speaking at the Festival of Marketing, taking place at Tobacco Dock, London on 10 and 11 October. For more information and to buy tickets visit www.festivalofmarketing.com