In our previous post ‘Five (plus one) strategies to fight price comparison’ we argued that, with regard to customer engagement, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, the companies that are so much feared by insurers, have in common that they literally carry pull in their genes. Obviously, there is so much insurance carriers can learn from them. We therefore decided to analyse the pull platforms of these companies, but also from the first financial institutions, fintechs and insurtechs who have established successful pull initiatives, and last but not least outside the industry best practices from among others Nike, Danone and Unilever - in total some 30 pull platforms.
Our analysis revealed that these 30 pull initiatives all have their own mix of eight key characteristics: (1) they solve real problems, (2) leveraging content, tools and connections, (3) building communities, (4) thinking beyond customers, (5) looking beyond data, (6) fostering beyond their traditional vertical, (7) using network effects, (8) to create unconventional value.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these eight key characteristics, each illustrated by a best practice. We deliberately used examples from outside the insurance industry, to spark your imagination.
1. SOLVE REAL PROBLEMS
Successful pull platforms solve real problems in an unconventional way. Not just frictions, but the real problem; the problem behind the financial need. Using technology, they enable their customers to be more in control, to learn and be better informed, to make better and faster decisions, and to get better service, geared to their need.
Each time I go running, I activate the Nike+ running app. It registers distance, speed and routes, I can track my progress over time, connect with friends to keep each other going or compete and when I’m traveling it helps me to find popular routes in cities abroad.
Nike+ is changing the conversation with its customers on all levels: business model, brand, proposition and customer experience. Nike's proposition now is no longer about shoes that may or may not have shock-absorbing soles. It's also about a range of new services that key in on real underlying needs: making athletes enjoy their sport even more. While obviously, Nike could easily use all the information to determine exactly when you need a new pair of running shoes, Nike is becoming a company that isn't just focused on products and sales, but also on creating services and building relationships.
‘Solving the real problem’ is less trivial than it may sound. Let’s take Alipay for instance, the successful payment system of Alibaba, used by millions of shop owners and other merchants throughout China (and beyond). Sabrina Peng, president Alipay International, shared with us: “Alipay isn't just about payments; it's about customer relationships. The whole idea is to bring more value to the merchants and to the users. Payment is nothing more than just a part of the purchase cycle. Merchants don't want a new payment system. They want more customers." This insight is Alipay’s starting point to assist retailers in connecting with Alipay users in all sorts of ways. Merchants can use Alipay to market their services, including special offers, coupons or vouchers. Alipay users can see all the merchants nearby, see pictures, use unique discount codes, and post reviews - resulting in more traffic, customers and revenues for merchants. The payment system plays a key role in the model, but resides in the background.
Alipay shows that it is essential to really understand the context to provide real added value and to play an active role in the ecosystem of that context. People are not interested in a mortgage, but in a house. The context of a nice house and easy living offers more opportunities to add value to customers that just the mortgage, or the home insurance, and more opportunities for new revenue streams.
2. LEVERAGE CONTENT, TOOLS AND CONNECTIONS
Pull platforms have a large added value when there is an imperfect, fragmented market, with lots of suppliers, many products that are difficult to compare, products that are distributed sub-optimally, a lot of detailed information on various locations, many who are interested in that information and/or products, and with asymmetry in information. That also explains the popularity of comparison sites for financial services and the large role given to search engines by consumers in the path to purchase. Successful pull initiatives put a specific set of content, tools and connections at the user's disposal.
Danone in developing a pull platform that supports mothers in all kinds of ways, from “becoming pregnant” to their child's first five years, the “early nutrition” stage. Tom de Waard, global digital experience director at Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition: “The BLX platform supports mothers in all kinds of ways, from 'becoming pregnant' to their child's first 1,000 days, the 'early life nutrition' stage that lays the foundation for future health. It includes being present in online places, owned, earned and paid, where mothers gather information and discuss matters with each other, a branded mobile app helping mothers 24/7 with relevant information and services. All these various data sources are used to provide tailor-made services to every parent with the right content, services and tools, and personal advice and offerings – precisely in sync with, for example, the exact age and health situation of the child. Months in advance of the birth, we are in frequent contact with the parents. That provides all kinds of possibilities to establish a connection. The result is that from the birth on, our products are a natural given. The results of the platform are exceeding expectations by far on ‘brand of first choice’, NPS, and the rate of interaction with the brand.”
3. BUILD COMMUNITIES
A vast number of pull initiatives we looked at fulfil a community function, or make use of it. Many offer consumers the opportunity to play an active role, or to share all kinds of content. This way, they lend the authority of credible consumers. Think of the community that Danone is building. Connecting peers ensures ">
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