Price Comparison Sites – Ads Won’t Save You But User Experience Can

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Price comparison sites have filled our TV ad breaks with high-heeled men, talking meerkats and opera singers in recent years. In 2014, the top four price comparison companies spent a combined £110 million on advertising alone. The immense, inflated cost of customer acquisition is continuing to rise.

But times are changing. People are discovering new platforms. According to AdAge, nearly half (47%) of 22-45 year-olds watch no traditional TV content, meaning the cost of brand exposure and awareness is constantly increasing.

We’ve reached a point where the money being spent on reeling people in through traditional advertising could actually be creating more problems than it’s solving.

People are losing interest in brands that broadcast and are instead engaging with user interfaces that provide opportunities for interaction. They’re communicating with friends, family, and businesses on messaging platforms every day, and using voice experiences more frequently – in fact, 20% of Google searches are now being carried out via voice.

Consumers expect a seamless journey requiring minimal effort. They want to be able to leave an experience and return to the same spot later. Currently, price comparison websites (PCWs) require large amounts of data input by the user every time they visit, and subsequently inundate them with a huge list of insurers, who must appear to be competitive to claim their place at the top of the ranking.

Not only is this front-end experience tedious and time-consuming, but the recommended quotes are often more smoke and mirrors than money saving. The reality behind the results is that often the cheapest policies aren’t comprehensive enough. It’s difficult for people to understand the specifics of what’s included in each quote. Therefore, insurance companies rely on users visiting their own websites where they can upsell features that actually meet their criteria.

Another cause for frustration is that PCWs aren’t utilising the information they collect about their users more than once. They’re visited by people actively seeking renewals, but once that purpose has been fulfilled (which often happens on the insurer’s site, not the PCW) the data collected is not being used to further aid the user. This is part of a wider issue, surrounding the poor treatment of existing customers compared to new.

Meanwhile, banks are getting ahead of the game. They’re beginning to address the demand for better user experiences by utilising consumer spending data to provide relevant, personalised offers to customers. This offering could ultimately diminish the need for PCWs. If that isn’t incentive enough to find solutions that deliver contextualised and rewarding experiences, what is?

With the launch of AutoSergei earlier this year, serves as an example of a company that is already focusing on rewarding loyalty. The bot’s aim is to ‘keep life simples’, by providing checks for better energy deals and credit card eligibility. Meerkat Movies and Meals provide further value and serve as drivers of conversion.

But the fact remains – the majority of PCWs and insurers are so focused on acquisition that they’ve lost sight of the benefits they could be offering current customers.

So, we know that acquisition costs are high for PCWs, who are investing their advertising budgets on traditional channels. We know the user process is long, and people are being swamped with often poor-quality policies and then later upsold directly by insurers. And we know PCWs aren’t leveraging consumer insight and forgetting all about existing customers as soon as the purchase is made. The question is, what can be done to fix it?

It’s crucial that price comparison sites and insurers alike begin to explore other avenues – not just for the sake of their profit pots, but for the benefit of their customers. People expect more personalisation and less hassle. They expect to be recognised as a returning user. They expect to be talked with, not talked at – and they expect this on the platforms they already use daily.

The future is tech. Companies like PCWs must leverage it to retain customers, instead of spending money on hunting new customers down. One area worth considering is voice-in, screen-out experiences. User interfaces increase conversion rates, and web-experiences that harness voice-input are opportunities to not only reach more people, but to provide a far more valuable, customer-centric experience. It’s a chance to give users their own broker that caters to their specific needs, by understanding and comparing products, not prices.

If PCWs are to survive in this era of open banking, they need to target people on new platforms, leveraging the power of voice and offering simple, satisfying experiences. They have to consider the ways they can reward existing customers, delivering benefits beyond the point of purchase. Most of all, they must develop ways to put people first. The profit will follow.

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