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Customers recognize the value in reviews but it’s not clear whether they use them to shop for financial products

  • Ally Bank found that people don't use reviews when buying financial products.
  • Its new marketing campaign attempts to draw customers out of complacency.
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Customers recognize the value in reviews but it’s not clear whether they use them to shop for financial products

Ally Bank is running a new advertising campaign urging people to consult financial product reviews like they would when choosing a plumber or a sushi restaurant.

Ally’s new creative campaign highlights the importance of ratings, with exaggerated scenes of what can happen if you don’t read the reviews before purchasing a product or service. The “Ratings” campaign debuts with a 60-second “The Name is the Idea” anthem spot and three 30-second spots, “Sushi,” “Dentist,” and “Mechanic.”

Users seek out reviews to help with purchase decisioning

User reviews are an important part of the buyer journey in many industries. In a recent Harris Poll conducted by Ally, 49 percent say online reviews are extremely or very important in helping them decide which products and services to buy.

As marketing becomes noisier and products become more commoditized, product reviews are one way firms and products can stand out. From their earliest days, eBay and Amazon used customer reviews to help people decide which products do what they purport to do and to a make a purchase decision.

Customers may be complacent with their financial providers

But when it comes to buying financial products, this same survey shows something very curious: people don’t use reviews. Only 23 percent of adults claim to have used online reviews when choosing a bank or other financial services provider in the past year. For an industry that ranks lowest in 2018’s Edelman Trust Barometer, consumers could be using tools that infuse their financial relationships with trust, but it appears they’ve grown complacent.

Ally is calling consumers out. “We want consumers to realize that this lack of research and complacency with banks means they may be putting up with low quality or downright poor service they would never tolerate in other areas of their life,” said Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and Public Relations Officer at Ally Financial. “That is the key insight in our ‘Ratings’ campaign. We want people to realize they can and should expect more from their bank just like they do for other purchases.”

Third party review sites in finance

Some financial institutions, like Chase’s credit cards, host ratings on their own sites. Others turn to third party sites like TrustPilot to power customer ratings and reviews. Though anyone can leave a review, participating financial institutions encourage their customers to leave reviews and rankings on TrustPilot. This way, more verified customers participate in the reviews, making overall ratings harder to game. TrustPilot works with about two dozen financial services firms like Western Union and Chime.

Gaming reviews

Not all review sites are created equal and many of the review sites that appear after Googling for a particular product are nothing more than lead generation sites. These firms get paid by advertisers for leads. This economic agreement puts pressure on a review site by incentivizing good reviews and rewarding higher placement on the page.

“Unfortunately, some review sites employ ‘pay to play; tactics that come at the detriment of consumers looking for real reviews as well as general information that accurately reflects the consumer experience,” said Rebecca Graham, content Manager at BestCompany. BestCompany claims it provides unbiased reviews of various financial products like business loans, personal loans, and student loan refinancing.

Reviews say people don’t trust financial services

In TrustPilot’s own research, financial services firms get a lukewarm response when they come to engendering trust with consumers. Nearly half of 15,000 consumers polled last year by TrustPilot said that at best, financial services firms are ‘somewhat trustworthy‘.

As challenger banks and new fintech providers join the digital offerings of financial incumbents, consumers have more financial brands and products available to them than ever before.

“Mainstream historically-traditional institutions like Goldman Sachs are now dabbling in mainstream retail products, like high-yield checking accounts, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit,” said Zachary Pardes, director of advertising and communications for North America at TrustPilot.

“I’d argue that this has created more of a need for ratings and reviews. Consumers need a way to delineate between the flood of offerings that have come to market, from robo-advisers right on through more traditional offerings, such as checking and savings accounts.”

TrustPilot has found that consumers are open to authoritative channels when measuring trust. 41.9 percent of the people it surveyed said they use a third-party review site to determine whether a finance company is trustworthy or not.

Reviews as marketing

Reviews and ratings of financial products are also good marketing, contributing to better conversions when they’re displayed on a a financial firm’s site. Healy Jones manages financial product review site FinvsFin and has seen reviews and ratings increase consumer form fills by 10 percent to 15 percent if done correctly. More applications submitted generally lead to more account openings.

Reviews and ratings can also improve search engine rankings for firms that publish them. “If you use the proper HTML, Google will pick up the “stars” in their search results,” said Jones. “And these stars will drive additional clicks to your website, thus increasing your organic web traffic as well.”

B2B financial products are also experiencing this trend toward customer reviews and rankings. Review sites have cropped up that review enterprise software and services, too. Firms like G2Crowd and IT Central Station. But while they have categories for banking related software, they have very few reviews.

Ally prioritizes customer service

In an attempt to boots its own ratings and reviews, Ally gives its customer service associates a lot of leeway when it comes to helping customers. It’s not uncommon for a bank employee to send a gift card or Ally swag to a customer having a bad day. The company’s tagline is “Do  It Right”.

This approach to delighting customers was captured in the firm’s Banksgiving campaign, where associates granted customer wishes way beyond their banking needs. Ally gave away gift certificates, trips to see friends and family over the holidays, and granting $55,000 to a customer who helps others.

Ultimately, it’s not for lack of reviews that people don’t use them when choosing a bank. It’s most likely complacency and that’s what Ally’s new marketing campaign hits upon.

“The campaign aims to shake people out of their complacency to realize that a better bank is out there – one with better rates, better customer service and an overall better experience,” said Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and public relations officer at Ally.

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