It’s crucial to understand your customers’ journeys, but don’t think you always know what they want and what they’re going to do next.
For Chris Worle, digital strategy director of leading U.K. investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown, that’s the key lesson from four years spent understanding and optimising the journeys customers make from first encounter to opening an account, journeys that take, on average, 11 months. What Worle and his team found was that you have to be prepared for people not doing what you expect.
“We’d find someone coming to our site, for example, to search for a share price, and they’d look like they were going to open up a share account,” he said. “Four months later they’d open up a pension.”
Worle will be speaking about this project at the Adobe Summit EMEA 2017 session “How to Build a Customer-Focused Experience Business in FSI”. (Click here to register; note that Adobe is CMO.com’s parent company).
Worle spoke to CMO.com recently to explain the background.
Worle: For 35 years, Hargreaves Lansdown has been a direct response business, which set us up incredibly well for the digital era in terms of being able to measure the responses from all the different channels. In recent years, that’s got much more complicated with the number of channels available. Then we’ve increased what we offer clients as well. What I’ll focus on at the Summit is the structure we’ve adopted around measuring, understanding, and improving customer journeys.
In 2013 we began the measurement phase, to understand what’s going on during that 11-month conversion period. It’s important we’re able to see, measure, and understand every touch point—online or offline—so we can understand the contribution each one makes and where we’re potentially losing people. The challenge now is making sense of all the data we’re collecting and getting to a position where we can make use of it.
CMO.com: What were the key insights from that first stage?
Worle: People’s journeys are quite complex. For example, one client’s journey spanned four months, including 12 website visits across three different devices and a call to our help desk. They looked at three different products and came through three different advertising partners. Trying to understand that and its impact was quite challenging.
We found that people don’t follow the path you would necessarily expect. From that we took some lessons around serving content and tailoring it to the audience. It wasn’t about switching messages on or off, because we couldn’t take too much for granted. It was just subtly prioritising certain products and messages.
The bit we’re doing now is the “improve” part—testing and optimising journeys. There’s a tendency when you introduce testing technology for people to test all sorts of things, so we focused on the idea “start small and start big.”
“Start small” means don’t tackle the whole website at once. Focus on the easy wins and learn from those changes. “Start big” means choose the high-volume pages, focus on the things that make a meaningful difference to the client experience.
We focused on our homepage, and on the hypothesis that returning clients have very different needs and expectations to people visiting us for the first time, so we re-engineered the experience for them. Not dramatically—it was about optimising some of the lower-page content and tailoring that. But because it was a high-volume page, and it still made a meaningful difference to the experience, the impact was very significant. Just from that, the uplift in conversion to account was really significant.
That then informed our thinking on pages deeper down. What was the next stage of that journey? What could we do to optimise the product landing pages and where people went next?
CMO.com: What are your key metrics?
Worle: We often find ourselves not focusing on the account metrics because if you need and expect that to happen within one journey, you’ll often be disappointed and you’ll get misleading results. We look at a range of metrics—click-throughs, time on-site, return visits—to see whether a test is delivering the impact we want. Quite often it does feed through to account conversion, but we’re very mindful that a test can have a positive impact in the longer run without showing an immediate and direct account uplift.
CMO.com: What’s your next step?
Worle: There are three challenges we face today. One is complexity. How do we move from relatively ad hoc spot testing of certain pages and certain journeys, to ensure that an entire journey is optimised and tested across multiple platforms?
The second one is around speed. People’s expectations of us being able to deliver content and experiences quickly across every single platform and experience they have are increasingly important.
The third one is around people’s expectations. People no longer judge their experience on our website or our apps against our competitors. They judge us against their favourite digital experiences. So it’s about how we scale up that optimisation and personalisation to ensure we are delivering the best experience across all the platforms.
Over the years, we’ve invested a lot in technology and data. That gets you so far, but you also need the people to support that, who understand the data, and who can then act on that insight to deliver change on the front end.
So what I’ll leave people with at the Summit is our approach of trying to have the best people with access to the best technology to deliver the best experience for our clients. You can have the best people, but if they don’t have the technology at their fingertips, then they’ll struggle to succeed. Likewise, technology won’t do it all, you still need very talented individuals in order to make the most of the technology.