Ask the expert: how do I increase usage and engagement rates among my customers?
Greg Watts is our resident expert. He is the founder of Demand Creation Partners, a London-based growth consultancy that helps fintechs and paytechs to scale. A visiting lecturer at the American University in Paris and regular industry speaker, he was previously head of market acceleration at Visa Europe.
QUESTION: How do I increase usage and engagement rates among my customers?
Does the following scenario sound familiar?
You’re a growing fintech that has closed a range of commercial deals and your technical offering has gone live with retailers, banks and other partners. However, you’re not seeing the adoption rates you were expecting – nor that you promised partners and investors.
Your sign-up and activation rates are low, with usage and engagement rates below forecast. But why?
In this column we’ll examine why some fintechs struggle to drive usage and provide tips on how to deepen engagement and create case studies for future growth.
- Why is engagement and active usage important?
Until recently, many fintechs tended to focus on the number of signed-up or activated users, with headlines often proclaiming hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of new users.
However, this metric can be misleading when it comes to assessing the health of a business. It’s not difficult to attract a new user with a compelling introductory offer – perhaps by offering a financial incentive to join or sign-up – and only tells part of the story.
From a fintech’s perspective, it’s important to know that a product, service or app is actively being used and is genuinely useful to customers. Active users indicate that people are interacting with your product or service and serve as a sign that you’re doing the right things.
Determining the number of active users over time can help you assess the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and whether you’re providing the right customer experience. It’s also important for calculating other metrics. For example, the lifetime value of customers cannot be calculated without knowing your retention rates, and customer retention rates rely on data on whether users are active over time.
To put it simply, the number of active users provides a measure of the general health of the business and enables other, more informative metrics to be calculated.
- Ensure your commercial agreements include an activation and usage plan that’s mirrored in commercial teams’ objectives.
When forming partnerships, there is often a determination among commercial teams to get deals closed as quickly as possible. That’s understandable – as without such deals, a business has nothing.
However, solely focusing on getting a deal done and going technically live can overlook how a product or service will be used by target customers.
This can be overcome by creating an activation and usage plan from the start of commercial discussions. Key areas to cover are:
- How will the product or service be marketed to potential users? Which partners’ marketing channels should be used to drive awareness?
- What training mechanisms does the partner have to create advocates among team members? For example, in an in-store environment, how can frontline sales teams be trained or incentivised to promote the product or service at checkout?
- In an online environment, what messages should be conveyed to encourage sign-up? How can a homepage or checkout be used to drum up interest?
- Once a new user has signed up, what’s the plan to encourage ongoing use and engagement?
The output should be an agreed plan between the fintech and partner to promote the product or service from the word go, with the plan providing the basis to measure the campaign’s effectiveness.
- Focus on training at the point of sale.
One often-overlooked area for fintechs trying to drive activation and usage among bank or retail customers is the checkout.
As mentioned earlier, significant focus in your activation and usage plan should be on training at the point of sale. After all, that’s where prospective users will decide whether they want to sign-up or not.
What’s the best way to incorporate training into your go-to-market plan?
- Learn how your partner trains their teams – and piggy-back on their sessions. For example, if your partner holds monthly training, ask for a slot to introduce your product or service. Ideally, you should participate in person, but a webinar or conference can often suffice. When introducing your offering, be sure to focus on the messages you want them to share with potential users – and remember, less is more.
- Consider creating an incentive for frontline teams to drive sign-ups. In retail, frontline teams can be competitive, so think about constructing league tables amongst stores or regions that play to their natures.
- In an online environment, agree with the partner how your product or service will be messaged throughout the journey – for example, what do you want potential users to see on the homepage and at checkout? Creating advocacy and awareness at checkout can yield stronger results than any other marketing activity.
- Roll out to staff first to identify and fix issues.
Before going live to consumers, it’s worth conducting an initial roll-out to staff who can identify any bugs.
That might sound obvious, but there can be a tendency – perhaps because of investment pressures – to launch to end users as soon as the ink is dry on a commercial agreement.
That’s a mistake. At least four to six weeks should be invested in launching the offering to the frontline teams who will advocate your product or service to end users.
Set up regular sessions with a subset of these teams to gather feedback and report back on what’s working and what’s not; and implement responses to their feedback quickly to ensure they remain positive and engaged.
Finally, ensure you have clear go/no-go criteria in place before going live with a full launch. Failure to do so will almost certainly lead to an ineffective launch.
- Create a structure – and behaviours – for successful delivery and client success.
Congratulations, you’re live! You’ve agreed an activation and usage plan, you’ve conducted training at point of sale, and you’ve successfully launched to frontline teams before end users.
How can you keep up momentum and ensure you hit your numbers? And, crucially, how can you create a successful and compelling case study that proves the commercial success of your product or service?
Many fintechs – and indeed many technology companies – have created a business function called Client Success. Years ago, this would have been called Account Management.
The remit for this team is to ensure that the company achieves its business and commercial goals.
However, it’s important to make success a company-wide effort. After all, if existing clients aren’t successful, the business will struggle to scale and grow.
One way to do this is to bring other members of the business into partner reviews – often known as Quarterly Business Reviews. Consider bringing in a member of the marketing team to talk about ways to deepen engagement, or ask a representative of the tech or product team to discuss how the product roadmap will sustain user interest.
Bringing it all together
Fintechs that have spent months cultivating a relationship with a partner are often tempted to launch as quickly as possible once a contract has been inked.
However, this overlooks the primary goal, which is to create active and engaged users of your product or service – and a compelling case study for investors.
Spending more time on the commercial process up-front – and moving ahead in lock-step with your partner – will yield better long-term returns.