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Rethinking the Digital Agency RFP Process: Collaboration Is Key

By:
June 5th, 2014

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Businesses of all types are struggling to figure out how to reshape their digital experiences to better engage customers and drive business success. As a result, we at EXTRACTABLE are seeing an uptick in RFPs distributed by companies looking for the right digital agency to help them.

While EXTRACTBLE does receive its fair share of these RFPs, we’re finding that the traditional RFP process isn’t the most effective or logical way to choose a digital agency. Specifically, we feel it’s critical that the digital strategy, plan and budget are not set in stone before bringing on the agency. In this brave, new – and constantly evolving – world of digital marketing communications, many businesses may think they know what they need and go down the road in one direction, only to find out that their newly engaged agency would have recommended a different, more effective approach if they’d had a chance. When strategies and budgets are already locked down, everyone’s hands are tied and the client may not get the results their company desires.

Locked-in decisions can affect the long-term bottom line
Many times businesses make decisions about digital marketing based on what they think they already know, which undermines strategic planning. This makes the RFP process challenging for agencies, especially data-driven agencies like EXTRACTABLE. We make recommendations to a client based on research and data specific to that client. It’s what powers the strategy and the execution, and it’s why our clients reap measurable business value from our work. Without the right data, you won’t know how to reach potential customers in the most effective ways, or how to provide a personalized experience that can be key to moving prospects through a sales funnel.

The problem with traditional RFPs
RFPs are a normal part of many companies’ search for a new vendor, a process mandated by procurement departments that often have rigid requirements. But choosing the right digital services agency isn’t like making a simple off-the-shelf product purchase decision. It requires conversation and dialogue to see if the two organizations can form a productive working partnership. It requires asking experts – before signing off on a final plan – what they think your business should be doing and why.

Here are some issues with the traditional RFP process:

  • There’s very little flexibility with traditional RFPs, which can quash more innovative approaches and cause many companies to overlook or fail to consider a lot of great digital communication opportunities.
  • To quantify deliverables and get apples-to-apples estimates from agencies, business problems and solutions are predefined in a traditional RFP. But what if your assumptions were wrong from the get-go?
  • There’s not a lot of room in the traditional RFP process to engage agencies as consultative experts along the way. More often, there’s a big brick wall between client and agency – prohibiting the input, suggestions, ideas, research and analysis that comprise the value an agency brings to the table in the first place.

 

Missed opportunities
These are just some examples of opportunities businesses might miss when developing an RFP, ultimately resulting in their losing out on some serious ROI.

  • Content audit to determine effectiveness of existing content
  • Tools for creating new content, including content strategy, content models, calendars and style guides
  • User surveys
  • Usability testing
  • Content migration plans
  • KPI frameworks
  • Analytics benchmarking and measurement plans
  • Platform selection process with facilitated requirements gathering and ranking
  • Localization and globalization strategy
  • Personalization strategy and tactics
  • Search engine optimization

 

In an ideal world
RFPs aren’t going away, but we can definitely make the process better for digital agencies and, more importantly, for businesses. Here are some ideas to think about:

  • Start by issuing an RFP, but also engage partners early on who can help you think through all the considerations, requirements, information and questions you haven’t yet addressed. Perhaps at the Q&A phase, open it up for agencies to give recommendations on how to reshape the RFP itself. This will go a long way in ensuring you receive thoughtful, strategic, well-developed proposals from serious agencies capable of doing the actual work. It will also give you a preview of how the agencies think and communicate.
  • Share your budget and other information that an agency needs to create a successful proposal, such as requirements and expectations. Keeping the agency in the dark about important aspects of your business prevents them from developing a holistic strategy that captures all of your needs.
  • Upon choosing your agency partner, be open to hearing and considering new ideas that weren’t put forth in the RFP.
  • Be receptive to taking a fresh look at your existing customer research or to doing additional research that will inform a more successful digital strategy.
  • Consider the larger digital strategy versus focusing on ad hoc projects. A good agency will take several steps back to develop an overarching recommendation from which you can prioritize projects to execute in phases and as budget permits.

 

How this new approach to RFPs can benefit you – quantifiably
We all know that brand managers and CMOs everywhere are now being held accountable for meeting KPIs and showing quantifiable results. Data-driven strategies for all of your digital communications, from your website to mobile to apps, are essential to achieving your business goals. By taking the time during the RFP process to tap digital agencies’ expertise, such as how to best mine and apply data to develop effective strategies, you are setting yourself up to be able to demonstrate quantifiable results that will resonate with the C-suite.

While those RFPs can be annoying, they do start the process to a largely important relationship. And truly, a business’s digital success or failure frequently stems from the RFP process and the decisions that come out of it.

If you currently are writing an RFP and considering EXTRACTABLE, we would love to partner with you in an open process to help develop the final version. Please email us at sales@extractable.com

 

 

3 Easy Tips to Stay Updated on the Latest Technology Trends

By:
June 3rd, 2014

I am not a tech guru and I don’t profess to be a geek. I am a designer at Extractable and I was recently invited to share my own process for staying updated on technology trends.  As Art Director, working on new site designs for great clients, it is crucial to stay current with fresh inspiration and have a firm grasp of new technology.

New technology and its implications affect everyone sooner or later, especially those of us involved in marketing and advertising.  While some ideas are hyped and then left behind quicker than the QR code, there are new opportunities constantly developing that eventually might become standard. Simply being an “observer” of daily human interaction with technology is not enough if you want to stay ahead of the tech game.

It’s true that we are unwittingly all participants in a sort of giant, crowd-sourced focus group that helps filter and propagate useful technology in our day-to-day routines. In addition, there are three easy steps information seekers can do to consciously stay abreast of the latest tech trends:

1) EXPERIENCE IT

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Surely you have seen a Tesla Model S electric sedan silently glide past you at an intersection, parking lot or the freeway. It’s the second generation of the electric transportation technology revolution.

Seeing a Tesla and experiencing it, are two different things.  Don’t just watch it go by, go to a dealership…if you can, sit in one to truly know the implications of its “user experience”.

What makes this Tesla unique is its 100% digital, reconfigurable 12” cluster and 17” GUI touchscreen dashboard with an upgradable Linux OS interface which controls everything from the navigation system to air conditioning, seat temperature, the sound system, the car’s steering, lighting, ride settings and brake regeneration control. That requires some seriously thoughtful user experience design and futurist thinking.

Why does that matter? Humanity is accelerating and decisions are made quicker everyday—the world of knobs, switches and gauges is not efficient enough. Gesture-driven touch control, quick visual reference and intuitive design are how we are beginning to make all decisions online and offline. It’s enough to make your thumb and index finger tremble in anticipation. We are all becoming spoiled by the interface of our mobile devices, which is spreading to all other consumer goods. How do I know? I sat and rode in a Tesla and you should too.

2) GET WET, BUT DON’T DROWN

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Everyone knows that information is a finger tap away. Blogs, newsletters, subscriptions, posts and feeds. How much noise and information is out there? Some interesting statistics:

Number of Blogs and Web Sites in 2013:

  • Tumblr.com  -  over 101.7 Million blogs with 44.6 Billion blog posts
  • WordPress.com - over 63 Million blogs
  • LiveJournal - over 62.6 Million blogs
  • Number of Live websites in 2013 – 510 Million

That’s a lot chicken casserole recipes. So the point is to be selective.

(Source: Netcraft, April 2014)

So how do you find a good source of information for your particular browsing method? A simple rule is that if a website is responsive and optimized for mobile, it is most likely current in content.

Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Daily shot of knowledge with great technology information:

 

Facebook is not just for your friends’ Yosemite adventure pics. 

Join a few pages on Facebook that are insightful and post information regularly on technology that you personally find useful. My top three are:

 

You could also follow thought leaders on Twitter. Here are a few suggestions

 

Network and Participate 

Working at the Extractable office in SOMA in the midst of San Francisco’s tech community, we are lucky to have fresh, innovative energy surrounding us. Location has its inspirational rewards. Events, gathering of the minds and conventions are a truly a great way to stay abreast of trends. Register for groups with events in your area:

If you cant make an event in person, there are plenty of live feeds:

3) FIND A TECH WHISPERER

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Finally, a great way to truly find the right direction in your search for tech trends and innovative ideas is to have the chance to speak with, and collaborate with interesting people. Don’t be too shy to ask questions and start a conversation with people that have experience and vision. If you are lucky, you might have a few in your office. So, find the right time to strike up a conversation in the break room with your company’s talented coworkers.

Here at Extractable, I am surrounded by experienced veterans of Silicon Valley, developers, geeks, and innovators of technology and web design—all of whom are ready to share their insight. When not crazy busy, they are always ready for a good coffee break discussion about data-driven design or the implications of the Apple Developers Conference right down the street.

In my profession, its necessary to stay current on technology, and if you’re reading this blog, it’s probably important to you, too. Challenge yourself to make it a habit to utilize these three easy tips. You’ll be surprised to see what’s waiting just around the corner.

 

 

Extractable in Forrester’s 2014 Interactive Design Agency Overview

By:
May 28th, 2014

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We are thrilled to be included in Forrester’s “Interactive Design Agency Overview, 2014” report by Senior Analyst Jonathan Browne.

The report is designed to help clients find the right agency to assist them with their interactive design projects. To be included, Forrester asked Extractable about our skills, industry experience, and geographical footprint. The report is a summary of their findings and is designed to help customer experience professionals select the right agency to support their digital customer experience improvement initiatives.

With the fast-changing digital landscape, we feel it’s important for marketers to stay current with the fast-changing ecosystem of agencies. Especially, if you are looking for a digital agency with core services around user-centered, data-driven design.  Companies should not assume that partners who led their industry last year are still in the lead.

Key Takeaways

Interactive Design Agencies Are Critical Partners
Interactive touchpoints are core elements of virtually any firm’s customer experience ecosystem today. That’s why it’s crucial for customer experience professionals and stakeholders throughout the business to identify and hire the right agencies to support the design and development of these touchpoints.

Keep An Ongoing Review Of Your Agency’s Evolving Capabilities
CX professionals should conduct periodic reviews with their agency partners to ensure that the agency’s development road map will keep pace with the changing needs and expectations of the company’s customers. Companies should occasionally “test drive” new vendors on ad hoc projects to see if they deserve a place on the firm’s agency roster.

The report, “Forrester’s 2014 Interactive Design Agency Overview” is available for a fee from Forrester here. 

 

 

 

 

EXTRACTABLE Wins IAC’s Best Financial Services Online Video

By:
May 20th, 2014

Award Winning Financial Digital Agency

Extractable created a series of online videos for LendingTree.

To help LendingTree’s customer base and extend the brand’s position in the marketplace, LendingTree sought to produce an educational video series aiming to demystify the mortgage and home loan process.

Extractable produced a seven-part video series that covers a range of topics from mortgage qualification guidelines to an overview of loan types and mortgage terminology. Each video ranges from one to three minutes in length and covers a specific “stage” in the mortgage process. Users can watch the series in order to understand the entire homebuyer’s loan process, or they can self-select by topic.

The videos have been  viewed online across a range of channels, and optimized for search engines.

We are so proud of this amazing win. Go team and congrats to our client partners at LendingTree!

See the full case study here.

 

Insurance Providers Using Digital to Drive Better Customer Experiences

By:
May 7th, 2014

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According to the research service BI Intelligence, 22% of the world’s population will own smartphones by the end of 2014. Twenty percent will own a PC. And 6% — that’s one out of every 17 people on the planet — will own a tablet. With more and more of our daily lives spent in front of one or multiple screens, companies across every industry are seeking ways to become (and stay) relevant in the digital space. The insurance industry is no exception to the rule. Take a look at these examples:

 An insurance startup has simplified an overly complex industry.stry.

Josh Kushner, founder of venture capital firm Thrive Capital shared his frustration with the health insurance space during a recent interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “I opened my insurance bill one day and I realized that I had absolutely no idea what it meant. I’m educated, I run a growing business, and I didn’t know what my benefits were with doctors or hospitals I had in my network, how to file a claim…” Being the young entrepreneur that he is, Josh decided to create a new type of health insurance company — from scratch. His goal was to “make it simple, transparent, understandable, and relatable, primarily through technology, data, and design.”

The result is Oscar, a NYC-based startup with more than 40,000 physicians in its network. The Oscar website includes a robust provider search that includes physician fees and patient reviews; an online quoting tool that enables prospective customers to fill in their marital status, number of kids, income, and zip code in a Mad Libs format; a Facebook-like timeline of the subscriber’s medical history; and, of course, clear billing information that’s aggregated per visit.

 Social media mavens have increased customer engagement.

Ernst & Young’s recent report Insurance in a Digital World: The Time Is Now discusses research that uncovered a “positive correlation in customer satisfaction between quality and frequency of contact, increased cross-selling and less switching to providers, yet we found nearly two-thirds of customers claim they receive no, or just one, annual contact from their insurer.” Certainly insurers could do well to reach out to policyholders more often.

Social media has made reaching out a two-way street. Esurance’s home page encourages customers to “Call us 24/7 or ping us on Facebook, where we have the fastest response time among leading competitors.”

Many insurance companies have taken up residence on Twitter in order to push soft marketing messages and provide customer support. And even Pinterest has gained recent popularity with insurers — American Family Insurance’s  “The house of your dreams” board is filled with pictures of inspirational kitchens and bathrooms, while Allstate’s “For Your Move” board provides checklists and other guides to ease the home moving process.

Customer-focused firms have leveraged mobile to cut costs.

Esurance has proven itself to be a mobile leader by leveraging built-in smartphone features to benefit both the customer experience and business metrics. For example, customers can add a new car to their policy by scanning the Vehicle Identification Number — reducing the probability of errors that can arise from human  error. After an accident, customers can initiate the claims process via the same mobile app and submit pictures of the damage taken with the phone’s camera — the pictorial evidence reducing the amount of time that it takes to process a claim.

And just last month, the company launched is latest mobile innovation: video appraisal. Eligible customers can now use their phone’s video function to chat in real-time with an appraiser. This enables customers to get an immediate claim estimate and also eliminates the time and cost associated with having an appraiser travel to the vehicle location.

Data-driven firms have learned to make decisions based on cold, hard facts.  

The Insurance in a Digital World study showed that an alarming 89% of insurance providers fail to leverage data about customers’ past interactions when making online product or service recommendations. Yet while many firms struggle with the basics of Web analytics and targeted marketing, Progressive has taken data science to the next level by tracking drivers on the road.

Progressive gives policyholders and prospective customers who enroll in its Snapshot® program a small device that sits below the vehicle’s steering wheel. Over the course of 30 days of driving, Progressive records the driver’s habits — like number of miles driven, hard breaks, and late night driving — and makes this information available to the driver online, along with tips for safer driving. At the end of 30 days, the company calculates a personalized rate based on the driver’s average road habits.

These insurance leaders have raised the bar for the entire industry.

Ernst & Young recently surveyed 5,000 insurance customers in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the US. According to the resulting Voice of the Customer report, “Customers expect great service as a matter of course and the fact that they have received it will not stop them from shopping around.” Providing a great digital customer experience has also become table stakes. Digital is no longer an option. It’s an imperative.

But many insurers still struggle to deliver in digital channels. A recent McKinsey survey of U.S. and European P&C and life insurers found that 39% didn’t have a digital strategy that addressed the entire customer lifecycle. Not surprisingly, a large number of the respondents (83%) had digital marketing initiatives, but digital efforts lagged when it came to supporting post-purchase activities like submitting a claim.

What’s the underlying reason? Ernst & Young found that legacy technology constraints topped the list of insurers’ inhibitors to digital growth, but constraints related to internal company structure and culture are also key challenges.

To drive the change towards becoming a digitally focused company, insurance executives need to bring a deeper understanding of customers’ digital behaviors, needs, and expectations to employees across the organization. Customer journey maps are great tools for documenting this information. Insurers should map the digital and non-digital interactions that customers have as they do business with their firm over time, overlaying information about customers’ typical digital habits. Look for pain points and opportunities to migrate non-digital interactions to mobile, tablet, or desktop channels.

Extractable works with a number of insurers across personal, life and commercial lines – building experiences that are improving delivery and service to consumers; enabling brokers and agents to better provide for their customers: and doing so across mobile tablet and desktop devices.

Let us know how we can help you with digital strategy, customer experience delivery and technology integration.

 

 

 

 

EXTRACTABLE Wins Sitecore’s Best Health Insurance Site

By:
May 6th, 2014

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Last year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) asked EXTRACTABLE to revamp its web presence.

Goals were to simplify navigation and organize content more effectively. The redesign project had to address the needs of multiple audiences, including individuals, seniors, employers, brokers, and healthcare professionals. In addition, BCBSAZ wanted to preemptively provide site visitors with new content regarding the recent healthcare reforms. The new build includes Google Search, a custom login using internal authentication, form submissions that integrate into Salesforce.com, social network feeds from Facebook and Twitter, and an internal broker service to power a customized microsite.

Marketers have also created a set of pages within Sitecore that notifies users of their eligibility for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plans. Users then receive relevant information for ACA and non-ACA plans. The site has driven an immediate lift in non-branded traffic and prospects generating quotes. Moreover, areas that are key to the strategy are already showing significant lift in traffic.

For example, non-branded SEO is up 21% and mobile traffic is up 300%. That lift has resulted in more quotes and more leads.

We are so proud of this significant win. Go team and congrats to our client partners at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona!

See the full case study here. 

 

 

Nudge and Digital Design: Driving Online Decision Making

By:
April 29th, 2014

As a Senior Project Manager I’ve seen many complex projects through launch and beyond. I’ve been doing this for the better part of 20 years starting my career at NASA and working on some of the first sites on the web. Over the last few several years, I’ve narrowed my focus to the financial space—including leading the global digital strategy for American Express’s corporate card, the go-to-market digital strategy for an asset-backed debt product being offered by a large energy provider, planning consumer targeted regional personalization for a major insurance carrier, and reshaping defined contribution portals for some of the biggest international record keepers.

A recent article in The Atlantic got me thinking about some of our financial services clients struggling to find ways to create better outcomes for participants in defined contribution plans like 401(k)s. Such plans are historically marred by low participation, low contribution rates, and inappropriate asset allocations.

The article outlined how Square is disrupting the dynamics of tipping by “nudging” people. By simply suggesting a tip amount or requiring users to select “No tip”, gratuities increased by up to 45% in some venues.

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Square’s impact is not surprising to data and economic geeks who have understood this principle since at least 2008 when two professors from the University of Chicago published their seminal work Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. In it, they describe a nudge as…

 …any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.

If this simple concept can push the needle that far when applied in practice at your local coffee shop, what can it do in other areas?

Rational Actors

The financial planners I talk to agree, if we all acted in our own best interest (if we behaved as what economists refer to as “Rational Actors”) we’d all start saving for retirement in our early 20s. Saving a mere 6% of our annual income over our working lifetime when matched by our employer’s contribution would translate into 75% of current inflation-adjusted income for retirement.  So why, according to a study in 2006, do nearly a quarter of employees opt out if their employer sponsored 401(k) plans?

Rational to a Point

The reality is, we live in a world of limited information. We don’t all have PhDs in economics or certificates in financial planning. We live in a world dictated by our access to education and information, and so our decisions always take place in a world of what economists call “bounded rationality”. Many factors contribute including education, income, and age.  Can you remember how difficult it was to imagine life in retirement when you were in our early twenties, let alone predict when you might retire or what income you will need with any degree of accuracy? Everyone is bounded by his or her current situation, and financial planning is one of a number of demands competing for our time.

This makes it all the more important that UX designers at Extractable create an experience that encourages good decisions each time a user logs on to their company’s retirement portal, whether that’s to sign up for the first time or make changes to their asset allocation. Other areas where people operate in bounded rationality might include healthcare and peer-peer marketplaces.

Designing for Good Decision-Making

As the Square example shows us, nudge theory plays a significant role in designing digital experiences that emphasize good decision-making. It plays an even more significant role when building complex experiences including guiding retirement plan participants toward more beneficial retirement outcomes, for example, by nudging employees to participate by asking them if they want to opt-out.

Studies have shown that individuals participated at a much higher rate when they had to opt-out of a company retirement plan rather than opt-in.

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Another powerful tool in the UX designer’s’ tool-belt are default options when presenting choices as, for example, choosing how much to contribute to their plan.

default-choiceBy preselecting an option for the user, we gently nudge them to take full advantage of an employers matching contribution.

These are just two examples of ways well designed digital experiences help nudge users in the right direction and solve the dual problem of limited time and limited information when faced with important life choices. The implications, of course, extend beyond retirement savings portals to other arenas. For example, having a patient cancel rather than schedule an annual physical or helping a seller to price a good or service to sell it quickly without unnecessarily giving up value.

At Extractable, we design these experiences all the time.

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Further Reading

To learn more about Nudge Theory, check out these resources:

 

 

Have You Gone Responsive or Adaptive Yet?

By:
April 11th, 2014

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As a senior developer for Extractable, I’ve been involved in many assignments that have to do with our clients wanting to “go mobile.” And you may be shocked to know that many businesses have yet to have a mobile site or even a mobile presence of some sort. Late last year I remember reading an article stating that if you don’t have a responsive site by 2014, (or are planning to do so in the near future), you’re going out of business. Now that’s a pretty bold statement, but one that is not that far off.

The fact of the matter is that mobile usage is increasing on a daily basis, in fact, mobile internet usage is projected to overtake desktop internet usage by 2014. (Source: Microsoft Tag). Consumers use their mobile devices to check email, get quick info about a company, search for products or services or just to do browsing as they do with their laptops. If these consumers don’t find your site to be mobile friendly, stats show they will immediately “jump ship” and move on to your competitor’s site whose site may be much easier to use.

So how can you meet the needs of this mobile user? By creating a mobile experience that works best for your content. There are two ways this can be done: Develop a Responsive site or develop an Adaptive Site. 

You may have heard these terms written in many articles and blog posts with the direction that one method is better than the other. I believe it’s a case-by-case decision. What may work for one website may not work for another.

Below is a brief description of each along with pros/cons.

Responsive Website

A responsive website automatically changes to fit the device you’re reading it on. A key difference between Responsive and Adaptive is that Responsive design is client-side which means the page is sent to the device browser (the client), and the browser then modifies the way the page looks in relation to the size of the browser window. The website initially serves the same content to every device but the layout will change depending on device size. This may result in content that is removed or a layout that looks rearranged in order to better fit the screen size at hand.

Advantages:

  • Single Website (one URL)
  • Adjusts to screen size on page load
  • Only one place to make changes

Disadvantages:

  • All content is downloaded whether it’s used or not
  • Pages will load much slower because of #1
  • You can typically triple the time it takes to build the website due to the complexity of accounting for all screen sizes

Adaptive Website

In Adaptive design, we develop a redefined set of layout sizes based on device screen size, then what served is “adapted” to the detected device. The web server detects the user’s device and will load the appropriate version of the site that is optimized for that particular device. This is a “server-side” approach because the server determines which version of the site to send to the user.

Advantages:

  • Single website (one URL)
  • Faster loading as it only receives content specific for that device
  • Can have completely different content for each device

Disadvantages:

  • Completely different sites
  • In most cases it will require more maintenance

In comparison, the visible difference is that responsive design will  alter its layout while you resize your browser window while the adaptive design will load a specific layout for the device you’re viewing the site on. If you resize your window with an adaptive website it will jump to a different breakpoint when you reach a screen size that suits another predefined layout.

Adaptive or Responsive – What’s The Right Choice? 

As mentioned previously, the decision to make a responsive or adaptive site should be a decision that is made case-by-case. Responsive websites generally work well for content-heavy websites with not a lot of difference in what the user should be experiencing between mobile desktop.

An Adaptive website is the winner most cases where user intent on mobile differs significantly, and website performance becomes a crucial factor. While both responsive design and adaptive both have their advantages it’s best to determine which one is right for you by putting your customer’s needs as the primary concern – (all while keeping in mind your own business goals.)

One more important note – As a developer that has seen countless sites… LESS IS MORE. Just because you have a desktop site that is packed with information and interactivity does not mean that all that content and interactivity should be scaled down to the mobile website. Simplicity, ease of use, and getting the necessary content to your user is critical and should be your number one priority. 

The future of the internet is no longer associated with just your desktop or laptop computer. Phones, tablets, game consoles, TVs, watches, glasses, etc., are all being used to browse the web. Is your site ready for these devices? If not, you should get to it!

 

Can Data-Driven Personalization Save Banks?

By:
April 2nd, 2014

Award Winning Digital Agency

An explosion of venture-capital backed startups is rapidly increasing consumers’ expectations for the companies that they do business with. Uber has introduced both transparency and courtesy in the brusque taxi industry. Warby Parker has made it easy to shop for cheap, chic eyeglasses from the comfort of your couch. Nest has eliminated your smoke alarm’s annoying low-battery beeps in the middle of the night.

Each of these startups — plus myriad more that have arrived on the scene over the past several years — solves a real-life problem, and does so in a way that makes it extremely easy for people to benefit from the solution. In fact, these apps and websites almost feel like personal assistants; they provide services that appear to be extremely tailored to each of us as individuals (even if they’re not).

As we’ve come to expect this new level of personal service from startups, it’s not surprising that our expectations of established companies, including banks and credit unions, are changing too. A recent study from Scratch, a unit of Viacom, showed that 53% of Millennials don’t think their bank offers anything different than other banks — in other words, they’re not getting that sense of personal service they find elsewhere. And one in three respondents said that they’d consider moving to another bank in the next three months.

But probably most damning for today’s big banks is the fact that 73% of Millennials would prefer to get financial services from Google, Amazon, Apple, PayPal, or Square than from their traditional bank — and 33% believe that they won’t even need a bank five years from now.

How will banks survive this impending disruption?

We’ll undoubtedly see some acquisition activity as big banks come to grips with startups like Square and Coin. But banks and credit unions also need to invest in overhauling their existing services and interactions to make them more personalized  — and create that perception of a trusted and necessary personal assistant.

Large financial organizations already sit on a mountain of data about their customers in aggregate and on mini-mountains of personal data, both historical and contextual, about each individual customer. But how many actually use that data to engage with customers on a personal and meaningful level? When someone launches your mobile app, do you show him relevant options based on the time of day, his location, and account balance? When a customer calls your contact center, can the agent see what products she has and her most recent interactions, all in one screen, and then tailor the conversation accordingly? And, perhaps most importantly, are you using your knowledge of customers’ needs and pain points to create new products that are tailored to how they really live their lives? As business visionary Peter Drucker said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

Data-driven personalization can help banks stay relevant to their customers throughout the upcoming decades. Those that fail to leverage big data as a key asset will see tech-based startups usurp their positions as financial leaders.

 

 

 

Unlocking User Research Data to Advance Your Visual Design

By:
March 26th, 2014

 

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Conducting research on your visual design concepts can be a very useful way of understanding user preferences. However, the data that determines your outcome is only as good as the quality of your testing.

Surprise, Surprise

Recently, we conducted visual design testing for a client for whom we are redesigning a website. We had previously conducted two rounds of research prior to this testing—including general background research and wireframe testing. And as a result, we felt like we had a pretty good grasp of the target audience’s likes and dislikes. So imagine our surprise when the concept we thought would win actually ended up in last place.

Developing Quality User Research for Visual Design

Having your projected first-place winner fall to last place could have been a huge letdown, not to mention very confusing. But because we had developed the testing in such a way as to avoid personal biases such as, “I like blue better” or “I like sunsets but I hate the beach,” we were able to gather focused data about the design and layout. And by knowing what layout works for users, we can extend those design principles across the site in a more detailed way. Here’s how we did it:

A Level Playing Field

To ensure that participants weren’t zeroing in on design because they liked one image over another, we used the same imagery on all four concepts. This forced the participants to evaluate the layout and presentation of the content, not the imagery, which can be all people see sometimes. But because imagery is such an important part of the equation, we had a separate exercise where we presented a series of discrete images, and asked participants to evaluate them in the context of a website similar to the one we were redesigning. Participants told us whether they found the images to be positive, negative or neutral. In this way, we were able to identify a set of images that we could incorporate into the winning design direction.

Exercise 1: Quick Exposure Exercise

In our first exercise we started on a laptop and showed each of the four concepts to each participant for ten seconds. After each quick exposure, we asked the participant what he/she recalled about the concept. This is an excellent way of gaining feedback about first impressions and determining what stands out about a particular layout.

Exercise 2: Design Reaction Exercise

Next, we asked the participant to select three words from a grid of potential words to describe how the design made them feel. Since these feelings are elicited after only 10 seconds of exposure to the design, we’re able to truly capture a gut reaction. (More about the importance that these words played in our outcome later…)

Potential Design Reactions:

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 1.50.22 PMExercise 3: Ranking Visual Design Preference

After seeing each of the concepts for a brief period, the participants were asked to view them all as side-by-side printouts on boards. After spending a few minutes looking at the designs, they were then asked to rank them in order of their preference from 1 to 4.

Next, we moved back to the computer, where we asked a series of questions about the participant’s chosen design, including:

  • Why did you make the choice that you did?
  • What are the three things that you like most about the design that you selected?
  • Does seeing the design on the computer change your mind about your choice? If so, why?
  • Does seeing the design on the tablet change your mind about your choice? If so, why?
  • How do you feel about the font size? (If prompting is needed: Is it too small? Too big? Or just right?)

Getting the answers to these questions starts to dig into the designs in a deeper way, providing qualitative data about what works and what doesn’t. It also helps to uncover whether or not device preference affects how the user interacts with and perceives the design.

Exercise 4: Design Reaction Exercise, Part Deux

Remember that grid of words we used in Exercise 2? We brought it back and asked the participant to choose three words to describe how their chosen design made them feel now that they’d had more time with it. Of the 20 participants we interviewed, only one circled the same words for their chosen design during both reaction exercises—after the initial quick reaction and when they had spent more time with the design. This speaks to the power of first impressions, whether accurately formed or not.

Gathering Focused Data from User Research

So how did we focus this data to come to a conclusion? First, we took the visual design rankings and assigned a point value as follows:

1st place = 6 points

2nd place = 4 points

3rd place = 2 points

4th place = 0 points

Then we applied the point values to all of the rankings and tallied them up to determine an over all design score (the higher the score, the better.) But as you can see, we had a tie for second place.

user_research_extractable

But not to worry, we have more data to draw on, including all of the words that participants circled in the Design Reaction Exercise. These provide excellent context into the participant’s preference beyond merely ranking the designs.

Further Analysis for the Top Three Scoring Designs:

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 8.56.09 PM

The Design Reaction Analysis reiterates the first-place ranking for Concept 2, and provides some additional data to make a determination that gives the edge to Concept 4 over Concept 3. At this point, if the client wanted to move forward with refining two directions, they could feel confident about selecting Concepts 2 and 4. If the user research had been more limited, this decision would not have been as well supported by data.

There’s Always a Place for Data

Just as this example illustrates, there’s always an opportunity for data to help us make better decisions. The trick is having a firm grasp on what you want from data, and asking the right questions of it. At EXTRACTABLE, data is at the core of everything we do, and we’d be happy to help you ask the right questions so you can find the answers you’re seeking.