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Simon Johnston - Striata

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Why would you segment your eStatement client base?

20 February 2012  |  2513 views  |  2

Too many companies assume that when a product is universal, it must appeal to everyone and the same message, sent to all recipients should be enough to convince them to sign up. 

Not so. 

Even in the niche space of eBilling (versus the broad spectrum of eMarketing), there is still value in profiling your clients, as it allows them to choose how they wish to experience your service. Sending the identical communication to everyone in a client base is inadvisable. 

Engagement Marketing

A concept that has recently grabbed my attention is ‘Engagement Marketing’. Essentially, how do you market to a client base in a way that holds their attention and keeps them loyal to your brand? 

Meeting your customers' needs is at the core of engagement marketing and the best way to know what your clients’ needs are, is to ask them - individually. 

It is important to engage with your customers in a way that gains you maximum loyalty. Remember that adage: “the customer is always right.” If we want to call ourselves engagement marketers, we should take that a step further and say “let customers choose what is right for them.” 

Research shows that when customers have the power to choose what they receive, when and how often; they will also choose to maintain a fuller, more enriching and rewarding relationship with you. 

eBilling - a great opportunity to engage with your customers

Asking your clients what they want from you in their eBill, enables you to not only open up a dialogue, but also to discover their preferences. To that end, creating and implementing a preference center * will empower your customers and enable you to connect more strongly with them. The more you engage with your clients, the more you can segment your client base and make each of their experiences tailored to their own preferences. Now you’re thinking - that’s going to take forever! 

So let’s start small. 

Because your eBill is a compulsory monthly communication to your client base, it is an ideal way to find out more about your client using polls and surveys. Firstly you need to find out where each client prefers to read their emails and their eBills. What device do they use; a PC, laptop (netbook), tablet, or phone or smartphone? 

Consider your audience

In many developing nations, the majority of mobile Web users are mobile-only: Egypt is highest at 70%, India at 59% and South Africa at 57%. In Africa, 85% of the mobile-only Web users access the Web with a feature phone. Email makes up 46% of the mobile activities for mobile-only users in Africa. It has been predicted that smartphone penetration in South Africa is likely to reach 80% by 2014. 

In 2011, it was predicted that over 85% of new handsets would be able to access the mobile Web. Today in the US and Western Europe, 90% of mobile subscribers have an Internet-ready phone. 

The time for choice is now

In order to give your clients the option to read their eBill on their mobile device, you will need to hold a preference table of what device each customer prefers. In order to start segmenting your clients according to what they want in their eBill, perhaps you should consider meeting them where they are and on whatever device they prefer! 

* A preference centre allows subscribers to tell you how they would like to be communicated with, citing for example, their preferred language, channel (email, text), device (smartphone, tablet, PC).

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Comments: (4)

Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 21 February, 2012, 12:56

@SimonJ:

Nice article. Wanted to check your views around passwords used in eBills. Would customer's preference for / against passwords be a valid candidate for inclusion into the preference center / table? Or, would that be dictated more by regulatory factors? As I've pointed out in the following Finextra post, I personally hate passwords. Since my eBillers don't offer me a choice to receive eBills without them - or to change the password to one of my choice - I'm left with no recourse but to insist on printed bills.

http://www.finextra.com/community/fullblog.aspx?blogid=6106   

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Simon Johnston - Striata - Johannesburg | 21 February, 2012, 14:14

@Ketharaman

Thank you for your feedback. With regards to passwords in eBills, it is a hotly debated topic! The question boils down to the risk the eBillers are willing to take, and how to mitigate that with the level of service they are looking to provide.

To answer your question, the preference table would be the ideal vehicle to hold whether a client requires a password or not, and if the system allows, what that password should be. However a user-defined password requires an entire, expensive password management system. This is because the provider would be expected to hold the entire history of passwords for every user should they at any point wish to enquire what their password was for last year’s statement! Most billers are recommended to therefore use what we call a shared secret – which is a piece/pieces of information that the client know about themselves that the company know about them. Ie, your combination of name and mobile number.

The security of the eBill however and the confidential client information therein is the real reason for the passwords. Your argument is valid though, that an email addressed to you lands in your inbox to which only you have access. Therefore the need to password protect the actual document attached is unnecessary.

However, the risk to the biller is that your email address is wrong because of whatever glitch happens to a database and your eBill goes to another recipient. Your private information is now in anonymous hands and because there is no password protection, they have access to your information. If that risk was spelled out to you when opting for no password protection as one of you personal preferences, the company could distance themselves from your breach of privacy. But most billers are unwilling to pass on that risk because of a potential loss of business and reputation.

As you can see, it is the weighing up of security breach versus positive customer experience. And some billers prefer one over the other!

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Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 21 February, 2012, 15:27

@SimonJ:

Thank you for taking your time out and providing a brilliant explanation for this apparent quandary around passwords for eBills. I can easily understand the risk of my eBill going to someone else because the Biller has got my email address wrong. However, IMHO database glitch is not the only cause of this. Anyway, after hearing all this, I'm led to wonder even more about whether email is a suitable medium for bills and statements except for the nomadic set.

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Simon Johnston - Striata - Johannesburg | 22 February, 2012, 15:14

@Ketharaman 

Thank you also for the feedback. In our ever-expanding digital world though, I believe that email is the simplest, most efficient and cost effective way of getting statements and invoices to customers. It is a great method to reduce the Days Sales Outstanding and to get paid quicker. This, is an illustration of the Push v Pull argument. Ie, do you get a better response to ‘Pushing’ the statements to customers, or is it better to promote a portal to Pull them towards their statement, where they would log on and view their details there. The inherent inertia of the human race has been shown that we prefer to have our bills delivered to us and the less effort involved the better!

The increase recently in the capacity for email to deliver highly interactive eBills and increased functionality has provided more compelling argument for the Push solution. The Pull solution has the benefit of all statement data and client details are held securely in once place, and not in every client inbox. The security and data is therefore much easier to control. But the research we have has indicated that the adoption rates of a Pull solution are about 1 – 2% against 15 – 20% of email Push adoption. The personalisation and interactivity on the eBill now provides a much better customer experience. The costs and inconvenience of print billing is also outweighed by the email Push solution.

I do agree with you still though, that a password protected eBill should be a preference indicated by the client. Further to ‘database glitches’ there are definitely important ‘customercentric’, (where customers are communicated with directly), reliable and secure methods of updating email addresses that should be adhered to!

 

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