Partner Advisors recently conducted market research in order to better understand consumers’ experience when searching for financial products and interacting with providers. The results were surprising and full of implications for provider marketing strategy. The majority chose search engines as the primary resource when searching for financial products, like a new credit card or mortgage. Seeking advice from family and friends was identified overall as the secondary resource. While these findings alone may not surprise you, it was interesting to learn how these results differ between men and women. While men mirror the overall sample, women indicated that checking with family and friends is the vastly preferred information resource when shopping for financial products. Also while women are slightly less likely to open direct mail solicitations than men, overall 84%% of our sample claims to never or seldom open mail solicitations. This confirmed our hypothesis that direct mail is no longer very effective for many products.
With search engines so popular, we were curious to ascertain how search engines are being utilized from the shopping process through to purchase:
- Approximately 70% use Google or other search engines primarily as a starting point to identify product options.
- Only 29% use search engines to compare and evaluate products and providers and a minuscule 1% utilize search engines to select a provider when they are ready to purchase.
- While 60% find search engines to be most helpful because they provide links to many different product options, many express frustration in trying to identify the next step.
- 32% feel search engines provide too many options.
- 26% dislike that search engines don’t provide links to products customized to consumers’ specific needs.
- 20% wish search engines would direct them to independent third party review and comparison sites instead of product links.
Google reports that the finance industry spent over $4B on Google Advertising last year. Considering these results from our research, it raises the question whether these advertising dollars are being spent in the most cost effective way to convert creditworthy households into customers.
A key implication for providers here is that customers are looking for fewer, customized, options that can be compared and reviewed independently of providers.
More than half of our sample does not trust marketing and product information from providers in addition to finding it unclear and confusing. An overwhelming 82% find the process of researching, selecting and applying for financial products to be a hassle. Based on our research, we believe that consumers are seeing providers’ information in search engine results and are choosing to other links to get to a decision about which product is best for their needs. While Google advertising certainly proves successful to a degree, it is important to consider other alternatives for product placement that reach consumers as they are comparing and evaluating, and ultimately applying. Lastly, as demand for customized recommendations increases, advertising through outlets supplying this need creates the opportunity for providers to reach and capture their target customer more than ever before.
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