The power of aggregators in energy

power of aggregator

In the most recent consumer survey published by the Irish Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), it was revealed that the number of electricity customers who have switched suppliers has increased 5% each year since 2014. The rise in switching suppliers is a key indicator of increased retail competition and is potentially making way for a new kind of marketing in the energy sector focused on consumers’ desire to hunt down the best deals rather than relying on previous experience or trust in a brand.

Recent Global Reviews studies have seen evidence of this across the Irish energy market with an increased use of aggregator sites coupled with a drop in choosing a provider based on trust. In Q4 2017, 47% of consumers were using aggregator sites as part of their research process, and this has since jumped up to 61% in the Q2 2018 study. Benefiting the most from this rise is Switcher.ie which went from 30% of consumers visiting them in Q4 2017 up to 49% in Q2 2018.

After consumers conducted their research online, we asked them what they thought about the experience. Overall most consumers found the process good/easy. More specifically, 32% called out their use of an aggregator and how easy it made comparing providers with some suggesting that they had not previously considered changing providers or what other deals/offers are available and through the process of researching and discovering sites such as Switcher.ie and Bonkers.ie will consider switching in the future.

Consumers felt the experience was easy when using aggregators to research energy

The use of aggregators is impacting which brands consumers prefer

Irrespective of whether consumers use an aggregator or not, Energia and Bord Gais hold their place as #1 and #2 preferred brands at both the shortlist and final preference stages. However, Energia enjoys quite an increase in consumer preferences amongst those who used an aggregator. Overall they were finally preferred by 25% of consumers, but were preferred by 33% by those who used an aggregator.

It is not just the bigger players who are benefiting from an increase in aggregator activity. Newcomer, Just Energy, was shortlisted by 19% of all consumers, but was considered by an impressive 29% of aggregator users bringing them in line with Electric Ireland who was preferred by 39% of all consumers only to see that number drop to 30% amongst those who used an aggregator.

Brands shortlisted Just Energy was shortlisted by more people who used aggregatorsFinal brand preferenceEnergia preferred brand by people who used aggregators

To better understand why there is a shift in brand preferences amongst those who used aggregator sites, we looked at the reasons why consumers prefer one brand over another.

Having the best energy plan and being a reputable brand were both selected by 30% of all consumers as reasons for selecting a brand, however, it is a different story for those who used an aggregator. Having the best energy plan was selected by 36% while being a reputable brand dropped down to 26%. Being a current customer, previous use and trust in the company were also selected by fewer people when an aggregator site was used.

Reason for selecting a brand

Final preference all consumers vs used aggregators

Has the increased use of aggregators when researching energy providers caused the drop in trust or has the drop in trust prompted the uplift in aggregator use? Either way, energy providers obviously need to be turning their attention to aggregators if they want to be considered by consumers.

It should be noted that Irish energy providers are not alone in this apparent drop in trust amongst consumers. The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) recently reported that only 39% of Australians trust their energy provider, down from 50% in 2017. This indicates that this is a global problem for the industry, not just a domestic one. It could, therefore, be beneficial for the energy industry to look towards other industries for ideas on how they can improve the general perception of the industry.

Check out our recent webinar covering the dwindling perception of the energy sector in Australia:

Global Reviews is currently running researching into the digital maturity of brands across the energy sector to better understand what the future holds for the industry as well as what consumers really want from their provider. Contact us to learn more about how energy providers are performing locally and internationally.

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How are providers satisfying the need for human interaction while promoting self-service?

human interaction vs self service

Written by Geri McGann & Suzy Sliwczynski

In our blog post Can buying a home ever be a true end-to-end online service? we discussed the challenges facing providers when trying to make an online mortgage application a truly digital experience reducing the need to speak to someone directly. We saw within an online mortgage application, making sure they had the right mortgage product was one of the key moments that participants were dropping out of the application funnel. Other industries providers also face this challenge of trying to match a product to the needs of a prospective customer.

Within the health insurance industry, consumers can be faced with over a hundred health plans from which to choose from. In the energy industry, while it’s a lot less, they can still have up to 10 different plans to choose from. So what trends are we seeing that reduce the need for prospects to call a provider, but still provide that important human interaction that many still require to ensure they are getting the product that’s right for them?

We have seen two distinct patterns emerge that seek to reduce direct contact by:

  1. helping prospects choose a product that’s right for them
  2. still provide a human-like interaction

These patterns centre around the use of ‘conversational’ design patterns to help match a product to a user’s need, and the increased uptake of online chat to support customers throughout the acquisition funnel (a feature whose usage and expectation has increased amongst consumers).

Conversational design patterns act as a Q&A-type interaction to help understand user needs and direct them to a suitable product. One of the first initial adopters of this pattern was US health insurer, Oscar, but we are seeing it being implemented by Australian health insurers like Frank, Australian energy providers like Dodo, UK energy company Bulb and Irish health insurer Vhi.

frank dodo bulb vhi

Most providers start by asking a series of questions upfront and then show suitable plans/products. In the Frank example, Frank keeps it to simple initial questions before showing 13 products which might suit. Users can then add additional criteria to reduce this number down further.

Vhi also use it to show prospects how the number of plans available to them initially are reduced by entering criteria that’s specific to them. In the example below we see the number of plans going from 71 to 5.

vhi narrow down quote

These approaches serve to:

  1. not overwhelm users with loads of different options upfront, which make it difficult to know where to start
  2. help users determine what initial criteria is important to them, and from there they can make additional tweaks and alterations to tailor their plan further
  3. help users find a plan in a user-centred way, using language they understand, as opposed to a provider-centric approach where, for example, products might be listed in alphabetical order

A recent Global Reviews mobile study1 of Irish health insurance providers suggests the Vhi model works better when matching to needs with participants having a greater chance of finding a plan that suits their needs and less chance of abandoning.

Online chat is being increasingly sought after by users who are still not confident and need help. For the last four years we have benchmarked 182 brands across 14 industries and have been tracking what users would do if they encountered problems on a website. Online chat is the channel that has seen the largest growth and is an expected channel in almost all the industries we conduct studies in.

Question: If this was a real-life situation and you encountered problems on a website whilst researching, please select what you would do next

Question: If this was a real-life situation and you encountered problems on a website whilst researching, please select what you would do next (online chat)

 

Click Loans – a 100% online mortgage company – provide online chat and also offer other alternative channels referring to them as ‘Talk to a human’.

click loans online chat or talk to a human via phone or skype

Some providers are using the chat model as a complete end-to-end solution. US insurer Lemonade, which offers renters and homeowners insurance online and via mobile, mimics a chat interaction with “Maya” from the beginning of journey. This ‘humanises’ the process making it feel more like a conversation than a form-filling exercise.

Lemonade maya

Making users feel in control and giving them freedom of choice is important however this needs to be balanced by not overwhelming them with choices either.  Conversational design patterns provide a ‘humanistic’ approach to helping users filter and sort through plans and products. But sometimes they need more reassurance when buying particular products and services where they might be locked in for a period of time and/or paying significant sums of money. In this instance an online chat feature can serve to provide timely intervention and help mitigate drop-off even after the consumer has left the site.

Increasingly we are seeing more instances where the chat model is moving beyond the website and into messenger programmes and apps. This enables brands to continue the conversation even when the customer has left the site. This style of chatbot is typically designed to send notifications to customers, update them on their purchases and remind them of upcoming events.

Bank of America has recently launched an AI-powered chatbot powered app called “Erica” who acts as a personal banker. “Erica” marries together self-help tools and customer service, giving consumers a sense of human interaction while also delivering on self-service.

Bank of Ameria Erica

Not all chatbots are humanised in the way that Lemonade’s “Maya” and Bank of America’s “Erica”. UK insurance provider, Aviva, clearly present their chatbot as being just that…a bot. It does, however, still employ a conversational tone making it easy to interact with.

aviva chatbot

Gartner has predicted that “by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.” This is not to say that chatbots such as “Erica” will take up 85% of the interactions, but increased use of chatbots will certainly contribute greatly towards the total.

In 2016, 1.6 billion people were using mobile messaging apps, in 2018 that number is expected to reach 2 billion people, or 80% of all smartphone users. This means that the use of chatbots gives businesses a huge opportunity to reach consumers to help drive awareness, acquire customers, provide customer care, and enable transactions.

Whether it be in-site, through specific apps or via Facebook messenger, there is no doubt that chatbots are going to be playing an instrumental role in the future of digital customer service and brand interaction. While providers always need to give users a choice of how they would like to interact with them, they also need to promote self-service and reduce costs. These two patterns provide a nice way to meet both users and business needs.

1Global Reviews Mobile Fruition Ireland Q3 2017 (N=147)

Global Reviews is currently running researching into the digital maturity of brands across a number of industries. Contact us to learn more about how companies are using online chat and what the future holds for digital.

 

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University Series: How a university’s website Information Architecture impacts user behaviour!

In the digital landscape of cluttered and disorganised information, how can your university website break through all the noise?. How can you design pathways on your website, such that it adds value to the search of your prospective students?. The latest break-through insights from the Global Reviews Higher Learning Digital Sales Effectiveness programme answers this very question.

In Q4 2017, Global Reviews, as part of a longitudinal study, conducted research to understand the behaviour of 796 prospective students while they searched for a course on their desktop devices. The research evaluated the websites of 22 Australian universities to analyse industry best practices, and summarise corresponding recommendations based on the results of the study.

This blog post is part 2 of a blog post series on Higher Learning. If you haven’t already, you can read part 1 here

In this post we will uncover insights on how a website’s information architecture impacts user behaviour when they search for a course on a university website.

During the research study conducted, it was observed that most university websites display information in a definite pattern:

  • Of the 22 University websites evaluated in the study, 20 were found to have a Top-Level navigation presenting further navigation tabs.
  • Out of those 20 Universities, 14 have a mega menu in the Top-Level navigation for user interaction.
  • And of the 14 Universities, 8 list course categories in the mega menu.

The information displayed is consumed in a way that:

  • 55% of prospective students interacted with the top-level navigation of all 22 university websites when searching for course information.

University websites displaying course categories in the mega menu– Average success rate of 71%

Example – La Trobe University displays its course listing in its mega menu as seen below:

University websites with no course listing in their mega menu- Average success rate of 57%

Example – The University of Adelaide has no course listing in their mega menu

Websites with no mega menu- Average success rate of 64%

Example – Swinburne University has no mega menu on their website

Summary & Recommendations

Universities with course listings in the mega menu perform the best in terms of success rate and time taken to locate a course range.

  • The time to locate information on a university website plays a crucial role when students are actively considering to pursue a course.
  • Pay attention to labelling and to the way you display course information on your website in the top-level navigation.
  • Consider prioritising your top-level navigation to be the single point of entry to display course options.

Speak to one of our experts to see how the data we have can increase conversion rates, leads and traffic on your university website:

Darren Watson – Senior Commercial Director
T:         +61 3 9013 0531
M:        + 61 413 017 959
E:         darren.watson@globalreviews.com

Tony Carveth- Senior Commercial Director

T:         +61 3 9013 0531
M:        +61 438 081 496
E:         tony.carveth@globalreviews.com

 

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Motor insurance quote forms are too long according to 31% of consumers

motor insurance

The most common issue faced by consumers when applying online for motor insurance revolves around the length of the quote form and how long it took to complete it with 31% reporting it as being a problem.

Two key questions asked by insurance providers are:

  1. How should I set the quote tool?
  2. What is the impact that the layout has on the actual and perceived length of the form?

Essentially, should it be one question per page with a longer click journey or should the form be presented on one long page in an accordion format?

In reviewing the presentation of the quote form including how many questions are asked and how many pages of questions there are – we gained some insight as to what is making consumers more satisfied and likely to complete the form and go on to purchase a policy.

Churchill and Direct Line both use the same quote tool which contains all questions within the one page.  Additionally, there are fewer questions within the quote form than any other site assessed with just 32 questions on a single page required to get a quote compared to LV= and Admiral who have 40 and 48 questions respectively presented across three pages.

Based on the quote experience, consumers were asked their likelihood to buy from a particular brand. Direct Line and Churchill had the highest proportion of consumers stating that they felt the website met their needs and they would choose the brand as their provider at 14% and 10% respectively.

Fewer questions in quote form equal more likely to buy

Despite having the shortest quote forms, consumers on Churchill’s and Direct Line’s websites still held concerns over the length of time the quote took.

View our webinar – Optimising the quote process & improving customer expectations

Covering all aspects of the quote form including the impact different question formats (radio button, drop down, text entry) have on the physical and cognitive effort to complete the form.

For more insights download our FREE industry report.

Motor Insurance quote process

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University Series: Understanding how prospective students search on university websites

In this week’s 2 series blog post, we unravel insights from our recent study in the Higher Learning space. The main purpose of carrying out this research, was to find out answers to the way prospective students search for a course on a university website.

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The less obvious reasons why consumers may choose your Super Fund over others!

As part of our intensive study of the superannuation industry and a consumer online behaviour when researching a superannuation provider, conducted in 2017, we asked users which super providers they initially preferred and why

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Can buying a home ever be a true end-to-end online service?

Written by Geri McGaan – Principal Client Advisor

Today we don’t give a second thought to buying online. From products like groceries, clothes, and books, to services like TV subscription, flights, and insurance. For most of us, it’s an everyday occurrence. But what about bigger, more significant purchases, where we are parting with large sums of money? Will there come a time when, for example, buying a house online is common place? Is it even realistic to expect someone to make an expensive purchase without talking to someone or at least having some human interaction? Is there even an appetite there from consumers to be able to do it?

Depending on the product or service, the complexity of consumer concerns differ, for example, when buying car insurance, our studies show that the top drivers for choosing a provider at final preference are price and (provider) familiarity (1). However, buying a home is one of the biggest purchases we will make during our life so, more complex questions need addressing such as:

  • How do I get a mortgage and how do I know if I qualify?
  • What type of mortgage is best for me?
  • Which product offers the best interest rate?
  • What do my monthly repayments look like?
  • How much deposit do I have to put down?
  • How long will the application take?

Making buying a home a truly end-to-end process brings with it a wide variety of challenges for providers. In 1981, 22% of home buyers read newspaper ads to find a home and eight percent used friends as an information source. In 2016, 44% looked for properties online first (2). So what about the mortgage application process itself?

A Global Reviews study undertaken in Q3 2016 identified that 26% of participants (N=250) want an end-to-end online mortgage application form service (figure 1), however completing one feels more appropriate at certain stages in their purchase journey and varies depending on their status e.g. a first-time buyer vs a second-time buyer (figure 2).

Figure 1: Please rate how important the following elements would be on a website when deciding on selecting a home loan

Figure 2: When would consumers interact with a home loan provider’s website?

When reviewing the mindset of consumers around online mortgage applications a further study (3) revealed:

  • Most consumers believe that completing an application form online will give conditional approval (with full approval pending confirmation of details of sale and financial details), not full approval. With most expecting to receive an email more so than any other form of communication
  • First home buyers are more likely to use the website to understand their borrowing power rather and seek conditional approval, pending financial and purchase details, however human interaction at some point remains important
  • Having an online application form is not enough of an incentive to encourage consumers to choose a provider, offering discounts on fees and charges makes applying online more appealing for first and second home buyers

So while the home loan providers website has a place, there are still many who want to speak to someone at some stage, regardless of age.

When testing the online application form itself, the highest drop-off for completing an online mortgage application, happens at product selection section, where participants are asked to choose their mortgage. Other issues reported were around duration, terminology, security, and support. With providers looking to cut costs and increase market-share at every stage, if they want to move more complex transaction online, like buying a house, key concerns need to be addressed, such as:

  • Reassuring prospects that the product they have picked is right for them – our study showed that the key moment within the application journey where participants drop-off was at the product selection stage, where participants are asked to choose their product
  • Setting expectations upfront:
    – what are the qualification criteria for applying online – only existing customers?
    – how long can they expect the application to take?
    – what information do they need to have to complete it?
    – how will they be informed of application approval and how long will this take?
  • Providing the appropriate level of help and support at the different stages of the process bearing in mind that first-time buyers may need more hand-holding
  • Being transparent and providing information such as the cool-off period
  • Making them feel their information is safe and secure

But having an online application form is not enough of an incentive for consumers to choose a home loan with that bank – monetary incentives, such as discounts and special rates are more likely to motivate consumers.

What’s likely to influence customers to use an online application form?

So, while some financial institutions are already enabling customers to buy their house online consumers current (and correct) perception (and their expectation) is that most application forms are conditional approval rather than full approval. With many challenges that still need to be overcome providers have some way to go before consumers embrace a fully online end-to-end service from mortgage research, to application, to approval. Totally ‘replacing’ human interaction is not currently realistic. New design patterns are emerging that look at supporting the decision-making process and providing that human-interaction in an online context, but more on that in my next blog…

(1) Global Reviews Fruition Motor Insurance IE October 2017 N=201
(2) Nar Real estate in a Digital Age 2017 Report
(3) Global Reviews Home Loans Application Form AUS March 2017 N=103

Download our free report and view our recent mortgages webinar for more insights into industry trends and how consumers are interacting with provider websites.

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NatWest visitors are the fastest and most satisfied when looking for mortgage rates

Home loans Fruition

Finding the right home loan is as confusing and overwhelming as picking the right roof tiles to match the bricks. It is, therefore, imperative that home loan providers make the online research process as straightforward and satisfying as possible in order to minimise confusion and ensure strong conversions.

In November 2017, Global Reviews tracked 350 consumers as they searched online for a home loan provider. Consumers were split across desktop (n=200) and mobile (n=150). After conducting their own searches, they were directed to one of eight provider websites to complete further research.

Once consumers had looked around the homepage, we asked them to find all the available mortgage rate options for first time buyers (new customers). In doing this, it was found that those who completed the task quicker typically had a higher satisfaction rate with the process of completing the task. As can be seen in the chart below, NatWest visitors are the fastest and most satisfied when looking for mortgage rates for first time buyers. Potential customers are getting hugely different experiences across different sites with a 1:28 difference between Lloyds Bank and NatWest.

Time vs Satisfaction home loans

NatWest had the fastest average task completion time with 2:14 minutes and a satisfaction rating of 81%. On the other end of the scale was Lloyds Bank with an average time of 3:24 minutes and a satisfaction rating of 73%.

Whilst a shorter task completion time generally means higher satisfaction, a longer task completion time isn’t necessarily driving dissatisfaction but rather an inability to find the right answer. This indicates underlying usability issues supported by 20% claiming starting where to look was not easy.

The following chart highlights some of the most common issues consumers faced when trying to locate the product range. From a navigation point of view, the harder it is to find where to start looking as well as the inability to find what they’re looking for is bringing down satisfaction levels amongst customers. There is a strong negative correlation of -0.93 between problems encountered and satisfaction.

The most common issues consumers faced when trying to locate the product range

By comparing key landing pages for home loans we can see that allowing visitors to easily find what they are looking for with minimal effort and scrolling is key. Successful sites focus on key calls to action within the hero images and top navigation. Having a clearly laid out site with multiple entry points allows for the different preferences consumers have. Some consumers will naturally gravitate to the top navigation, others will look to the hero image and some will look down the page to find where they want to go next.

NatWest directs traffic through a comprehensive menu catering to both new and existing NatWest customers as well as delivering multiple entry points depending on customer research preferences. The menu is split into product, customer type and application stage, as well as grouping in relevant tools such as calculators to help in the research process.

NatWest directs traffic through a comprehensive menu catering to both new and existing NatWest customersLike NatWest, Lloyds Bank also uses the main header menu to direct consumers. However, they also provide additional entry points throughout the homepage. Within the hero image there are quick links to popular pages. Sitting just below the hero image are more links to key product pages. Having three navigation areas caters for different types of browsers and therefore aids in creating a user-friendly site.

Lloyds bank has three navigation areas catering for different types of browsers By giving consumers clear options and starting points can mean a huge difference between keeping them on site or losing them to a competitor.

To learn more download our FREE industry report and view our latest webinar covering off more ways to understand and improve your conversion rates using our Fruition methodology.

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Home Loan Digital Tactics- What your competitors don’t want you to know.

Working on optimising your website and digital strategy to get more visitors can sometimes feel futile. But what if the reason your rankings are not improving is actually your myopic view. Have you ever thought or analysed what goes on in the minds of your prospective customers when they look for a Home Insurance provider?

Have you ever wondered what your customer journey when searching for a home loans provider actually entails? What is your competitor getting right and where are you falling short? It could really be a question of identifying information that your customers need and laying it out in a certain way on your website.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

We recently conducted a our webinar on this topic, where we touched upon what works for leading Home Loan providers and why. Our products are pioneers in measuring benchmarking and optimising customer journeys. We show you the larger picture. We tell you where you sit in the eyes of your potential customer. We tell you how your customer chooses you and why a potential customer doesn’t, which competitor they choose, what leads them to their final choice and what influencers play a pivotal role along the way.

In 2017 we spoke to 1,200 home loan seekers and had them complete tasks on up to 24 brands internationally. We analysed the funnel from start to finish, prioritising performance at key stages such as- Recall, Initial Preference, Visited websites of brands, Shortlisted, Final Preference.

According to the research conducted and the funnel created, some of the results found indicated that:

  1. Service functionality was rated to be of higher importance for Home Insurance seekers in the Australian market as compared to the UK market.
  2. Websites being user friendly is another aspect that veers customers towards choosing a Home Insurance provider.
  3. For prospective customers, after brand relationship and beyond utilitarian product features like fees and rates, presenting options which are easy to understand and suitable to specific needs is key.
  4. For existing customers, service delivery and customer experience is the battleground.
  5. Home insurance providers that have easy to use input fields and easy to use terminology on their websites are ranked higher according to potential customers.
  6. Mobile version of the websites of home insurance providers showing key features in larger text and more details in a slide over which enables users to easily and quickly get back to the range list, is preferred by customers.

A few key points to keep in mind if you are a Home Loans provider, seeking to attract a larger market share:

1.Understanding where prospective and current customers go to meet their needs and being there with the most compelling option.

2.Customers want to know what you have to offer them but you need to tailor that to their needs. Interactive comparison, dynamic filtering and strong breadcrumb strategies are key.

3. Understanding touch points used (research, social media, aggregator, search engine etc.) and most important attributes is key.

4.Having a clear map of the home loan customer experience journey and their differing needs along that journey. Meet them on that journey with solutions that  solves problems.

5.Knowing why you are losing opportunities and ensure you are maximising your share of the customers wallet by pre-empting what they need.

6.When personalising online journeys, maintain strong anchor navigation which clear signposting.

To get a full synopsis of what we covered in the webinar, click here or reach out to Maddy- madhur.advani@globalreviews.com.

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Are we amazed enough by AI?

With the world already waking up to what AI has in store for technology moving forward, the citizenship of Sophia along with her gracing the Jimmy Fallon show has only made our eyes open slightly wider in amazement. Is there anything that technology can’t do?

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