Is the Next Big Bank a Bank?

Amazon recently announced that its Amazon Lending service surpassed $1billion in small business loans over the past 12 months.

Wait, Amazon? Small business loans? Amazon isn’t a bank, but that doesn’t seem to matter. And that got me thinking, could Amazon be a bank for consumers, too?

Most likely, yes. Trust is the foundation of any relationship, especially when money is involved. Market Strategies’ financial services market research reveals that half of consumers would trust a company that does not specialize in banking to provide their banking. Of those, 26% would trust Amazon, 22% would trust Apple, 21% would trust Google and a whopping 63% would trust PayPal. Not surprisingly, younger consumers (58% of those 18-34) are even more likely to trust a non-bank to provide their banking.

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Insights from the CHARGE Energy Branding Conference

K.C. Boyce at 2016 CHARGE The Worlds First Energy Branding Conference At the end of September, I had the good fortune to present Cogent Reports’ work at the first-of-its-kind energy branding conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. The conference brought together CEOs and CMOs from utilities across the globe, and provided valuable insights into the challenges utilities face and the ways they’ve successfully overcome them. Several key themes emerged from the conference:

1. We’re All in the Same Boat

Regardless of whether utilities were state-owned or investor-owned, whether they were regulated or deregulated, or the role they played in the grid from generation to distribution, nearly every utility that presented shared common challenges that will sound familiar to U.S. utilities. These challenges included making the business case for brand (more on that in a moment), figuring out how to pivot business models, and effectively engaging consumers.

As Nick Gorgoglione, a former senior brand manager for the telecom firm Vodafone said, “We’re not an Apple. People don’t listen to us. People don’t want to listen to us.”
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Combining Technology and Service to Optimize Customer Experience

2016-01-lift-lineAs my wife and I entered our 40s, we decided that—rather than pursuing all the dreary mid-life crisis stereotypes you see in the movies—we would coordinate a single, joint crisis. No silly cars or cinq à septs. Instead, we were going to learn how to ski. A decade later, we’re devoted powder hounds and consider Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) our home away from home.

So, despite the drama around Vail’s takeover of PCMR*, we were delighted when the massive resort operator announced that it was combining Park City and the adjacent Canyons resort into what is now the largest ski area in the US. With 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, you can now spend the better part of your day skiing from one side of the resort to the other, eating lunch, and skiing back without ever seeing the same trail twice.

As part of their $50 million capital campaign, Vail upgraded a four-person lift named King Con to a six-person version. Four people? Six people? You may not think it makes much of a difference…but King Con was situated in a place that made it a mountain bottleneck and the upgrade represents a 50% increase in lift capacity. It’s an expensive technology investment aimed directly at improving the customer experience. The question is, is it worth it?

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A Researcher’s Moral Dilemma with Unrealistic Goals

Unrealistic goalIt is the glory month for people like me: Type A, perfectionist and other less-appealing descriptors. I will exercise more. I will eat better. I will perfect things that I thought I might have perfected last year, only to realize more perfection was possible. My tendencies don’t drop away completely after January, but fortunately the fire isn’t always fanned by countless articles emphasizing ways to do better. Unfortunately, not everyone has this reprieve after January, and a recent experience reminded me of the goal-setting perspective I aspire to this year.

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FreshMR 2014 Yearbook

2014 Word Cloud

It’s the tail end of December, and we’re taking a look back at all that we’ve mused about, waxed poetic on and dug into over the last 12 months. In 2014, we ran a total of 75,009 words across 124 posts, covering an increasingly broad scope in terms of research topics and the industries and research specialties on which we focus: Energy, Healthcare, Financial Services, Technology, Telecommunications, Consumer & Retail, Qualitative and Syndicated Research.

Looking back at this year’s body of work, we’ve increased our coverage in a few key areas that align with our 2014 research portfolio.

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Branching Out: Bank Research Trends in a Digital Era

2013-11-fsI live in a small town about 50 miles outside of New York City. While it’s been many years since it was the center of local government and many more since it was a bustling hub of industry, the downtown remains a focal point for the community. Its recent revitalization (while not complete) is a source of pride and excitement. Nestled among the niche retailers, bars, restaurants, theaters and everyday services are branches for three of the largest banks in the US. Two of the three occupy space that many consider to be historically and aesthetically important. Unfortunately, they are usually empty.

Down the block is another community institution sitting all too empty—the public library. As a member of the board of trustees, I see how much of management’s time is aimed at rethinking this physical space in a time when Google has replaced the librarian and a Kindle can hold more books than most people read in a lifetime.

Consumer technology has changed at such a rapid pace over the last decade that whether we are talking about libraries or bank branches, two fundamental questions arise:

  • How can we optimize the physical location in an environment where assets (books, money) and interactions (research, transactions) are not housed there?
  • How can a physical location thrive as part of broader digital infrastructure?

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A Virtual Line to My Overused Wallet

2013-09-FSWhen Ecommerce and Mobile Payments Threaten Satisfaction

While Christmas shopping on eBay one year, my 4-year-old son placed a bid for a Wii game console. Imagine my surprise when I received a message from eBay congratulating me on submitting the winning bid of $3,475.

Last month, I opened my cable bill to find an unexpected increase, thanks to the convenience of movies “on demand” afforded my children on summer break.

After granting my youngest son permission to download a “free” baseball app on his Kindle, I received a number of $1.99 charges on my account for the purchase of “special bats” and add-ons.

My family has embraced technology by owning a number of devices that can access the internet, including smartphones, game consoles, tablets, TVs and computers. We take advantage of the conveniences of PayPal, Amazon Prime and iTunes. The possibilities all of this technology affords are seemingly endless, but the convenience comes at a premium by providing a direct line to my wallet, albeit virtually in some cases. Continue reading

Market Researcher as Customer Engagement Tool

Three separate studies investigating the cost of customer retention all came to the same conclusion: It costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain one–four to ten times more, depending on the study. It is not hard to imagine that the costs associated with lost customers can be tremendous, but did you ever consider that we, as market researchers, have an exceptional opportunity to enhance customer engagement? And, I’m not just talking about the data.

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Attitudinal Data and How I Finally Climbed Down from my High Horse

There was a time not long ago when I would have argued behavioral data was the only information worth analyzing. If I wanted to find a solution to a problem, I needed transactions, account and customer data. However, since coming to Market Strategies a year ago, I’ve found that integrating attitudinal and behavioral data using a strong design, solid methodology and scientific rigor can create a comprehensive, actionable view that is rarely achieved in our field. As obvious as this step might seem, it wasn’t a simple transition for me or others of my kind. You see, I’ve been a ‘big data’ guy all my life.

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The Customer Experience: A Journey Best Understood in Reverse?

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” –Soren Kierkegaard (Danish, 1813-1855), the first existentialist philosopher

Even after decades of study (and oodles of actual studies), the “Customer Experience” remains a top focus for large and small companies alike. Work from McKinsey about the consumer decision journey (references below) is just one of many recent examples. Millions of dollars and labor hours, and prodigious efforts, are spent on the subject.

From time to time, clients ask—usually around the annual budget-setting cycle—“What should our priorities be in evaluating customers’ experiences?  What’s the first, most important thing we need to understand?”  My answer often echoes Kierkegaard’s assertion above: To best understand and prioritize, begin at the end.  Although this list doesn’t include every possible flavor of CEM study, here’s my ranking and rationale for some major types:

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