Thursday, December 29, 2011

Google Search Trends for Banks in Singapore - 2011

A known fact - people in need of Financial Services flock to the Internet to conduct their preliminary research. A largely ignored fact - Online Sentiments determine the demand and supply in the 'offline' world and online research helps the customers make their purchase decisions. An excellent example of Sentiment Analysis is how Google's Search Index trends along with the UAE's housing pricing index to show fall in online searches when the property bubble burst. Search engines are one of the most popular ways for people to conduct their research for financial products. Google being one of the most popular search engines is able to give data on customer's online behavior and their search habits. 

I have used few queries to determine the Google search habits of people in Singapore. The below analysis is on Google using 'Rising Searches' and 'Top Searches' for Financial Services Industry in Singapore. According to Google "Rising searches highlight searches that have experienced significant growth in a given time period, with respect to the preceding time period" and "Top searches refers to search terms with the most significant level of interest."
The below data could be used in planning your online acquisitions, positioning your products/channels online, competitor analysis, understanding customer behavior etc.

Banking


The 2011 searches for the "Banking" category shows that, people are actively searching for POSB iBanking. POSB was acquired by DBS bank in 1998, however they continue to serve the customers. POSB branches fall at the 3rd place in the Top searches for banking. HDFC quick remit, a free online remittance service, seems to be very popular in Singapore, as it appears on 2nd, 3rd and 5th rank. OCBC, CITI and DBS internet banking channel also appear in the top 10 list of searched keywords. OCBC branch keyword appears at number 10.
Insight – POSB bank customers are very loyal, as they continue to use the brand services/channels, thanks to its wide spread network and low cost offerings. It is interesting to see people searching for bank branches on Google, showing potential to understand why they are interested to know branch locations. Alternatively, they could be migrated to other cost effective channels.

Cards

In the Cards search category I have queried the 'Top Searches' for Credit Cards category to derive the results in the chart. Standard Chartered card is a clear leader in keyword search.
Standard Chartered’s Manhattan Card is a popular search on Google. CITI bank is another MNC bank that appears in the top 10 list. UOB and OCBC are the only regional banks that make it in the top 10.


I also did an analysis on what are 'Rising Searches' for cards on Google in the Credit Cards Category during 2011. Regional bank, OCBC and Standard Chartered are on the top of the list. May Bank and UOB are the other banks that make it in the list.





Insight – MNC Bank card searches are quite popular. Regional banks may need to step up efforts for their online presence

 
Auto Finance
Cars in Singapore are a luxury. However there are many financing option available in the market. Probably this data can be useful to banks to position their online campaigns. I have queried the Auto Finance category to arrive at the results. The most common terms used on Google search are 'lease' and 'leasing'. People are also looking to Car Loan Calculator in the online search.

Insight – Bank’s should offer calculators on their Public Websites to give customers an idea on financing details.


Home Finance


Loan Calculators also searched on Google, which shows that banks need to invest in having easy to use calculators on their public websites. This could help in acquiring new customers.'


Property prices in Singapore are high; however government has always intervened to provide affordable housing. Keywords like ‘loan’, ‘home loan’, ‘mortgages’ are popular amongst users. ‘HDB Loan’- is part of a government scheme to provide affordable housing. The Housing & Development Board (HDB) is Singapore's public housing authority and a statutory board under the Ministry of National Development.

Insurance 



Insurance is one of the hottest Businesses at present; thanks to all the uncertainness in the world. I have used the 'Top Searches' category for the below analysis. NTUC Insurance seems to be the most searched on Google followed by Aviva and AIA insurance. Car and Life insurance fall at 8th and 8th rank respectively. I am not able to see any specific search for health insurance, my hunch on this would be probably, insurance brands are more popular searches than the type of insurance.


Insight – Travel insurance is the most popular search on Google in Singapore.
Online Banking

Online Banking has been growing in popularity in Financial Services Sector and the channel remains popular among customers to conduct their banking transactions. I have queried 'online banking' and 'internet banking' keywords in the 'Banking' category to determine these results. In the 'internet banking' keyword category UOB clearly takes the lead in the most searched keyword for online banking followed by OCBC. POSB and DBS also make it in the top 10 list.

In the 'online banking' keyword category the results are strikingly different. DBS takes the lead for the most searched keyword followed by its own brand POSB. CITI Bank is the only MNC to make it in the top 10 search category. OCBC and UOB also manage to appear in the top 10 keyword search list.

It is important to understand how a bank has positioned itself on internet for various keywords. Some banks are able to leverage on the keyword 'internet banking' while other top the list of 'online banking'.


An analysis on the interest level in both terms shows that ' Internet banking' is a clear leader in terms of online search.



Sunday, December 25, 2011

In Spirit of Christmas

Santa gets the iPhone - 
Merry Christmas




Friday, December 23, 2011

Google Search Trends for Banks in UAE - 2011

A known fact - people in need of Financial Services flock to the Internet to conduct their preliminary research. A largely ignored fact - Online Sentiments determine the demand and supply in the 'offline' world and online research helps the customers make their purchase decisions. An excellent example of Sentiment Analysis is; how Google Index trends along with the UAE's housing pricing index to show fall in online searches when the property bubble burst. Search engines are one of the most popular ways for people to conduct their research for financial products. Google being one of the most popular search engines is able to give data on customer's online behavior and their search habits.

I have used few queries to determine the Google search habits of people in UAE. The below analysis is on Google using 'Rising Searches' and 'Top Searches' for Financial Services Industry in UAE. According to Google "Rising searches highlight searches that have experienced significant growth in a given time period, with respect to the preceding time period" and "Top searches refers to search terms with the most significant level of interest." The below data could be used in planning your online acquisitions, positioning your products/channels online, competitor analysis, understanding customer behavior etc.  

Banking


The 2011 searches for the "Banking" category shows that, people are keen to know about the recently introduced "iban" payment system. "Rakbank Online" seems to be a very popular followed by 'emiratesnbd'. HSBC and Emirate NBD's online banking also fall in the top 10 searched keywords. Overall Emirate NBD the largest bank by assets in Middle East, seems to attract lot of searches on Google. IFSC code is another payment system used by the banks in India.

Cards

The search criteria were to use the keyword 'Card' in the Credit Cards category to derive the results in the chart. 'Prepaidcard' is the most searched term in this category. Interestingly, First Gulf Bank card seems to be popular search term among the online users. Emirate NBD is also listed in the top 10 category. NBAD is listed in the top 3 as a preferred search term in the credit card category.


I also did an analysis on what were the Top most searches for cards on Google in the Credit Cards Category during 2011. 

Visa Card makes an entry in this category. "Prepaidcard" keyword is no. 1 in the rising searches category. To connect the dots, probably Visa Prepaid Card was something people may be searching for. HSBC, Mashreq and ADCB also have made it into the top 10 keyword search list.

Auto Finance

There has been a sudden spike in Auto Finance online ads in UAE. Probably this data can be useful to banks to position their online campaigns. The most common terms used on google search are 'lease' and 'leasing'. Availability of second hand cars and steady fall in the price pf popular cards in the region would make the auto-financing a hot proposition.

Home Finance

Post crash of the property market in UAE, there has been several inaccurate predictions with the real estate pundits on how the market will perform in the near future. For the banking industry there lies an opportunity to encourage borrowing. I have used 'home loan' and 'mortgage' as keywords in the Home Financing category to arrive at these results. 
(زايد للإسكان) Zayed Housing Scheme is the top keyword searched on google in UAE.  It is a housing scheme run by the government of UAE to help nationals buy/build a home by granting them loans. 'ADCBloan' is a popular keyword searched online. Calculators also are very popular search, which shows that banks need to invest in having easy to use calculators on their public websites.

Insurance

Insurance is one of the hottest Businesses at present; thanks to all the uncertainness in the world. I have used the 'Top Searches' category for the below analysis. 'LifeInsurance', rank's 2nd in the search list followed by 'healthinsurance' and 'carinsurance'. Medical and Travel insurance fall at 7th and 8th most searched keywords respectively. AXA  and RSA are the only two companies that fall in the top 10 keywords list.

Online Banking




Online Banking usage in UAE has significantly grown and the channel remains popular among customers for conducting their banking transactions. I have queried 'online banking' and 'internet banking' keywords in the 'Banking' category to determine these results. In the 'internet banking' keyword category HSBC clearly takes the lead in the most searched keyword for online banking followed by Emirate NBD. Interestingly two bank, Axis (Indian Bank) and BDO (Philippines Bank) also turn up in the top 10 list.


In the 'online banking' keyword category the results are strikingly different. NBD takes the lead for the most searched keyword followed by Standard Chartered. Mashreq and ADCB are the other two banks who appear in this search.
It is important to understand how a bank has positioned itself on internet for various keywords. Some banks are able to leverage on the keyword 'internet banking' while other top the list of 'online banking'.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Google Search Index v/s Dubai's House Price Index

Below is a comparison of how the Google Search Index varies when the housing bubble burst in Dubai in 2009. From the charts you may notice that a peak in the search of 'Home Financing' category happened few quarters before the bubble burst in UAE. This is very interesting and probably tells a lot about the fact that sentiment plays a very important role in the market movements. Surprisingly, the search for housing information drops before the bubble bursts and stays lower while the prices are wiped off and most of the people lose their homes.
However, at a macro level the trends match and show that online sentiments do determine the demand and supply of a commodity.
There is a surge in the search for property on Google in 2010, which matches with the house price index trend.

Click here to read Google Trends 2011 for Banks in UAE


Image take from - http://www.globalpropertyguide.com

Monday, December 19, 2011

What did Middle East Search in 2011 on Google - Trends Part 2

This series covers Google Trends 2011 for UAE,  Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Oman and Lebanon.

Google has once again released its annual Zeitgeist report, showing the fastest rising searches for countries all over the world. Saudi Arabia and Egypt were covered as part of the MENA region. I have used Google Trends to do the analysis of other countries in the Middle East.

Part 1 covers - UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Part 2 cover Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan


Jordan 

Youtube and Facebook take the lead in the searches. Saraya a popular news website is also among the top 10 searches. 

Gaddafi is a most sought after person on Google Jordan. 4Share a file sharing site is a popular in Jordan.

Interestingly Chrome browser is a among the top 10 rising keyword searches.


Egypt

Egypt has the highest number of Internet Users in the MENA region (20,136,000 as of 30 June 2011, according to internetworldstats.com). 

With all the political action happening in Egypt, no doubt ‘youm7’; a news website is among the list of popular searches.  Terms like ‘

Tahrir Square
’ and ‘Revolution of 25 January’ are among the top rising searches in 2011. Youtube and Facebook remain in the top 10 searched keywords.

Hossini Mubarak remains the most searched person on Google followed by Wael Ghonim one of the key activist in the Egyptian revolution.

Lebanon 

The country has internet usage penetration of 29%. Most of the searched terms are in English language. ‘Twitter’ is also appearing among the top 10 searched words. 

Applications like ‘whtsapp’ and ‘ebuddy’ are popular searches. 

Lots of users are taking interest in searching for the keyword ‘Syria’, assuming out of interest in the current political situation.




What did Middle East Search in 2011 on Google - Trends Part 1


This series covers Google Trends 2011 for UAE,  Saudi ArabiaJordanEgyptOman and Lebanon.

Google has once again released its annual Zeitgeist report, showing the fastest rising searches for countries all over the world. Saudi Arabia and Egypt were covered as part of the MENA region. I have used Google Trends to do the analysis of other countries in the Middle East

Part 1 covers - UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman. 



UAE 

The country has the highest Internet Penetration rate of 69 % (via - according to internetworldstats.com) in Middle East. Most of the search terms are in English. After ‘Dubai’, ‘Facebook’ remains the most search term. In the rising searches, ‘Al Jazeera’ and ‘Dubizzle’ are amongst the top 5 searched terms.

Cricket and related websites like ‘cricinfo’ are amongst the top emerging searches, giving credit to the world cup held this year.  

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia – The country with the highest number of Internet Users (11,400,000 as of 30 June 2011 according to internetworldstats.com) in Middle East region. Most of the searched terms are in Arabic, which shows popularity of the language in the online world. ‘Facebook’ and ‘Youtube’ remain popular searches amongst the internet users. Photos and Game are some of the most searched categories in Saudi Arabia. Spongebob and Twitter are also popular keywords among the Saudi users. With the recent investment of $300 million by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in Twitter, the website’s popularity will surge in the country. 


Oman


Oman – The country has an internet penetration rate of 48.4%. Facebook and Youtube are popular searches in the country. Al Sablah seems to be popular community forum in Oman, which appear in the existing and rising search trends. Hotmail is also among the rising searches in the country. Elakiri Community is another forum listed in the rising searches. 




Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Social Commerce drives Online Business

The below article was published in Qatar Today - Oct 2011 issue. The article highlights the way Social Media has redefined itself and a financial perspective to it.



Text Version

Social Commerce drives Online Business


Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver- Ayn Rand
Human beings always like to be in control of things. However, in today’s world humans are being controlled by money. Internet and Social Media are no exceptions to the greenback.
Last week, I was looking for a SLR camera to gift someone that would be easy to operate. While I would never have taken the time to email or call all my friends to ask which SLRs they liked, I felt updating my status on Facebook and asking for help would be a good choice. Guess what within an hour, a stream of comments and suggestions started to list on my Facebook wall. This helped me to take a decision to buy the SLR.
Social commerce is an emerging buzzword that has caught the attention of many including people who called Social Media a fad. It is an area which may redefine the way people engage with social media, and how will they share information. It may also change the way we share information and content with peers.
As we share information and converse with people on Social Media site, the level of trust has increased, so has our comfort level to perform financial transactions. At present, like any other new trends, social commerce is surrounded by uncertainty on issues like
• how will people use the platform to make payments,
• which type of devices will be used to share content,
• how will the brands capitalize on this opportunity
Currently, major developments are taking place on the Facebook platform, as brands want to engage 750 million active users, and develop a platform to purchase products and facilitate payments. This development has been given a new name called F-Commerce
Buddy Media, a Facebook marketing company gives us examples of how successful F-Commerce is: -
• Groupon made 11 million dollars in one day on a GAP promotion
• Pampers – a baby care website, sold 1000 diapers in 1 hour on its Facebook store.
• Ticket Fly – 3.25 average sales generated through Facebook shares.
“Share” (on Facebook) drives Sales; more the people share and recommend better chances of increase in sales.
According to Buddy Media: -
• The predicted revenue for the social commerce market in 2015 will be over $30 billion.
• 90% of all purchase decisions are subject to influence
• 67% spend more online after recommendations
Coca Cola has also got a transaction page set up on Facebook, which enables a fan to purchase branded merchandise directly on the page and make payments.
Take a look at where have Venture Capitalists invested their money in 2011 to ensure maximum returns.
  • Groupon (group-buy) $950m
  • StoreEnvy (social marketplace) $1.5m
  • PlumDistrict (group-buy) $8.5m
  • ShopSocial (social shopping/rewards) $1.2m
  • Snapdeal (group-buy) $12m
  • VillageVines (flash-sales club) $3m
  • Baynote (ratings, reviews and recommendations) $13m
  • Pose (social shopping/rewards) $1.6m
  • Vitrue (Facebook commerce) $17m
All the above sites are closely related to the Share and Buy phenomenon. Your peers recommend a product or a service which may encourage you to buy the same.
Google has also taken a plunge in Social Commerce and is working to commercialize its homepage. This would help balance the competition, as both the giants’ battle for the market share.
The other side to the F-Commerce is the privacy issue, which Facebook has been battling for a while. Some people may not want their social interactions and graphs to be monetized at all. Rather they could do their 'social commerce' on Amazon, or the actual online retail store.
Some brands may actually try to influence their products and services by writing fake reviews. However in the past many brands have been busted for artificially raising their rankings online.
According to techcrunch.com, PowerReviews, a company that provides customer review technology for retailers and e-commerce sites has raised $10 million in new funding this year. This investment brings PowerReview’s total venture funding to $37 million. It shows how powerful online reviews are and how many companies may try to control and get their hands on it.
The social media hype is good for giants like Coca-Cola and Pampers, as they can afford million dollars in advertising. However, the mom and pop stores need to spend significant time to crack a solution which gives them returns. Social Commerce drivers need to give affordable option to small and medium enterprises to break into this stream.
It’s great to see that we are starting to analyze online conversation using numbers which will highlight the results and effectiveness of social media.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fujitsu Lifebook - T 901

I have recently got a Fujitsu Lifebook T 901, which is an awesome notebook. 



The laptop has some awesome features like: - 
  • Finger print sensor
  • Bi-directional rotatable display
  • Multi touch - screen pad
  • Charge you phones/media devices even when the system is turned off via the USB port
  • 3G port to help you be connected anytime
  • Intel Core i7 vProNext 


Having a Modular bay for an optional second hard disk drive or another battery makes my life so easy and the notebook will become my travel companion. 


The notebook only weighs 2.0 kg, which makes it possible to carry around.

The left hand side pic shows a list of items received in the box, including the accessories. 


The items include:-

  • The notebook
  • Additional Battery pack
  • A carry case
  • CD/Manuals
  • Charger/Cables
  • Cleaning cloth
Check out some more reviews of the Lifebook T901 here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Emergence of Mocial Marketing

The below article was published in Qatar Today magazine, September 2011 issue. The article highlights innovative mobile marketing technique adopted by brands. Click on the below pics to continue reading.



"Text Version"
Emergence of Mocial Marketing



Mobile marketing has come way beyond sending the 160 character text. With the growing popularity of smart phones the scope of reaching your customer via the mobile channel has grown.
Mobile and social media are merging and this integration of social networking and mobile will change the way we reach out to our customers.
According to Silverpop, an email marketing firm, a survey revealed the following results –
More than 75 percent of the marketers polled stated that their campaigns are only somewhat “mocially” integrated or not at all integrated.
Twitter and Facebook dominate the social scene, while only four percent of respondents are currently using location-based services, such as Foursquare and Gowalla, in their marketing efforts.
  
QR (Quick Response) is one of the popular tools that has been successfully adopted by Online marketers for mocial marketing. QR codes, a decades-old technology that was first used in the supply chain and now has become a way of mobile marketing.
  
A QR code is a matrix or two-dimensional bar code readable by dedicated smart phone (camera enabled).
How do you use QR code: when you see the code on a billboard, magazine page, on the metro, etc, scan it with a smart phone that has the necessary code-reading software. The code can contain a text, image or can a redirect the person to a mobile website.
How can marketers use it – Share your campaign information that can include anything from special promotion and competitions to images. Use it on your print media to share additional info or some other message.
  
Benefit – You can always change the URL code in the QR to show different content. Unlike in print media, if there is a mistake in your marketing campaign you don’t need to reprint the content. When you hand out brochures, collection of data is almost close to impossible unless you conduct a survey later on. QR marketing is able to collect details of each access of the QR Code instantly.

QR Codes Fact Sheet (via Queaar a social communication platform): -

  • Q2-2011, QR scanning traffic was rising at an astonishing rate of 9840% vs Q2 2010
  • QR codes are scanned more by women (64%) than men (36%)
  • 35-44 year old users have scanned the most
  • 87% of users expect a coupon or deal when they scan a code
  • 68% of scans are done via iPhone
  • New York is the leading city in the US for QR code scanning
  • The most QR codes scanned globally are in Japan

Who is using QR Codes?

Starbucks wanted to allow their customers to pay for their latte’s via mobile media. They thought it would be an old fashioned way giving them prepaid cards and then swiping them on POS machines. So they decided to develop an app for iPhone to help customer pay and top up their ‘e-card’ using their own mobile phones.

It works like this –
- punch in your Starbucks card info
- verify some details, and the iPhone app becomes the gift/e-card.
- A secure QR code is generated for the store to scan when you pay the bill.
This payment mode is now enabled over 1000 Starbucks stores in USA.
Nissan Motor Company has begun fixing QR codes on vehicle window of their 2012 Altima. The QR codes link users directly to a mobile optimized page that includes videos, features, vehicle inventory levels and more. The customer can give feedback and know more about the car they have bought.
  
Try creating your QR codes on : -

http://www.mobile-barcodes.com/
http://www.createqrcode.appspot.com/

The study of human behavior shows that incentives offered for completing a task, tend to be addictive.
An outright example for this is location based website – Foursquare. The mobile app encourages people to share their location wherever they are. The users try to check-in to locations several times to receive one of the several badges offered by the site.
  
The entire experience of achieving the “Mayor” status of a particular location gives users immense pleasure. The commercial side of this is that many retailers give their customers discounts/freebies upon achieving “Mayor” badge (or any other badge prescribed by the retailer). E.g. Dominos pizza in UK offers exclusive discount to anybody who checks into their outlet frequently and becomes the Mayor of that particular outlet.
As per a report published by ICT Qatar in 2011, on average, each household in Qatar owns 3.9 mobile phones and the country has a mobile penetration rate of 99%. About 57% of the individuals who own a mobile phone access internet via mobile. With access to high speed networks combined with usage of smart phones, makes a clear case of experimenting with Mocial Marketing in the country.
The emergence of this new marketing technique gives marketers a new channel to reach out their customers and build relationships. Customer engagement via mobile would be taken to the next level once brands are able to customize the experience.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Online Reputation Management - A Middle East Perspective

The below article was published in Qatar Today, August 2011 issue, highlighting how few brands in Middle East have started thinking about online reputation management. The article highlights issues faced by brands who completely ignore the importance of monitoring their online presence. Click on the below pics to continue reading.


"Text Version"
Online Reputation Management

On 17th June 2010 @sandeepgeetla tweeted the below rumour which led to a slide in the ICICI shares by 3.5 % in the intra day trading hours, however within hours the stock price recovered due to prompt action by the bank.

@gulpanag ICICI committed 3k crore fraud in US. Sebi fined 1 billion dollar on ICICI bank as the news goes..

ICICI bank is known to monitor 3-5k tweets per day via its Twitter handler @icici_care. The bank also monitors online conversations on Facebook, Blogs and other social mediums, to help stop rumors.

The bank responded to the user on twitter as follows:-

@sandeepgeetla These r baseless rumours abt ICICI Bank, request u to not pay heed to them & also not spread them further…”

ICICI has gone ahead and filed a complaint against the person with the cyber crime cell of the police and market watchdog SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India)

This is just an example of how a false rumor could damage your brand’s reputation online.

But, how many brands in GCC monitor Social Media Conversations?

The person may have had a bad experience with your brand; however there is a possibility that he or she was never heard. However, customers have found the web to share the experience with people.

There are many groups on Facebook, where customers share their experiences with other potential bank customers, which do influence choices to an extent. Many people resort to share their personal experience about anything on the web as it is a feasible medium to voice their opinion. This makes many brands vulnerable to online abuse, as some of these opinions may be rumors, which further emphasizes the need to have online monitoring tools.

You can use some of the below listed tools which are available online for free:-
Blog Monitoring - BlogPulse – is a blog search engine with several complementary tools such as Trend Search and Conversion Tracker that analyzes the data it collects.

Twitter Monitoring - Monitter – A real-time Twitter monitor for up to three keywords at a time.

Other Tools - Google Alerts – Your keyword search results are sent via e-mail for keyword mentions in news, web, blogs, video and groups categories.

Digimond – an online competitive intelligence solution company – has forecasted that by 2013, 4 million SMEs will be using online reputation platform to monitor their brands. According to Digimond 58% of the executives believe that risk reputation should be addressed by the management, however only 15% of them monitor it.

Recently there have been similar incidences in the online world in Qatar. Many Qtel users retorted against the poor customer service of the telecom company on Twitter using the hashtag #qtelfail. Qtel instantly responded to customer complains on Twitter to address issues.

I personally witnessed a change in the customer service of Qtel when I tweeted them about my Internet issue. I was called back by a service representative to understand my issue and a technician was at my home within few hours.

Recently Arabian Business reported that Qatar Airways was facing a series of complains from customers that claim to be local nationals about its services on Twitter using hashtag #qatarairwaysfail.

What is the Impact of such online posts? One bad customer experience would cost your brand many others.

Does the brand monitor these tweets/posts? It could be competitor brand spreading the rumor.

Many organizations have Internal Communication Departments who monitor print media for news but discount online conversations. What can a brand do to minimize the impact?

- Have a communications team to monitor online conversations and tackle rumors/complaints.

- Hire a PR/Marketing agency that can monitor the web 24x7.

- Have a strong e-Marketing team that can create a positive perception of your brand online.

- A negative review/complain demands special attention. Post public responses to apologize and try to win back the customer. You can privately message the reviewer to get detailed feedback.

Negative comments about your brand can hang an albatross around your neck if they appear frequently in online searches. A positive comment about your brand by clients is traditionally the best source of new business; online forums and recently sites like twitter and facebook act as a powerful word-of-mouth. Having an online presence is a must but tackling rumors/complains is a challenge. Brands will have to bear the brunt of online conversations if they continue to ignore this medium. Online conversations will make or break customer relations in the future as more and more people seek feedback from peers on the web.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Iwep Features in Creative Commons Qatar

I wannna Express blog has been listed on Creative Commons Qatar website as one of the featured works. This is a proud moment for me. A bit about creative commons - Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization headquartered in Mountain View, California, United States devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.[1] The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons licenses free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. (via Wikipedia). 

Get your CC license from Creative Commons website today.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Financial Institutions and Online Media - finding the right hook



The below article was published in Qatar Today magazine - July 2011 issue. The article summarizes various initiatives taken by banks to adopt Online Media to communicate with their customers. Click on the below image to contiue reading.





 
***TextVersion ***

Today most of the financial services companies are on a recovery mode and looking for optimistic signs in their books. While the financial pundits predict the possibility of economic recovery, I believe listening to your customers is what’s missing in most of the companies. Many financial and non financial companies are busy implementing what they want to but not what the customer needs.
In the era of Internet, Financial Institutions need to cautiously but firmly make place in the Online Media world to interact with the customer. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn are some of the many sites which can act as agents for these companies to spread their message.
Many banks have presence on Facebook, but lack of transactional capability may not attract customers to become a fan or member of that particular page. Having an information page about the products and services would be a good way to start with, but may not be immensely popular with the customers. Tapping Facebook will require banks to come up with a tricky formula of entertainment, sales and information in addition to providing a secure environment. Yet Facebook’s urge to go public with its user data may be discouraging for many financial intuitions to associate themselves with this website. To meet the legal and compliance requirements would be another horrendous task.
During my research, I came across an application on Facebook that allows users to perform financial transactions - Fiserv's My Money, which is now only available to credit unions, and may be offered to banks in the near future. Facebook users download the application, which helps them find and join a credit union, view account histories and balances, and make transfers.
Bank of America, Wells Fargo, ING DIRECT and First American Bank are among the many financial institutions using Twitter for marketing. Twitter is a tool which can be used to directly interact with your customers and inform them about the services. The online reply facility on Twitter can help a company obtain feedback or resolve customer issues.
The National Bank of Australia has managed to effectively use Twitter as a tool to deal with customer complaints and enquires. The bank gets 30 million calls a year on its Call Centre channel and Twitter may be an alternative to it.
Twitter can help banks build long term relationships and give more personal feel to it.

1. Reaching customers.
Public websites hold the transaction capability and remain the primary form of communication for the banks with customers. Increased communication and transparency, would help banks gain customer confidence and trust.  Having online presence would allow your customers to evaluate and discuss the bank’s brand and offerings. Direct feedback from customers would help banks improve those offerings and brand image. HSBC Direct, a U.K based bank uses its interactive website to get and publish customer feedback and discuss community issues. It uses blogs, Facebook and Twitter to interact with "Generation C," or the “Connected, Communicating, Content-centric, Generation."

2. Reducing costs.
Online communication would help the bank reduce costs significantly. Selling products, cross selling products to existing customers would help justify the online presence. Twitter as a communication medium is being seen as an alternative to Call Centers. It may not replace call centers but definitely help in optimizing call center resources. Usage of new technologies can help cut branch operations cost; for example, Deutsche Bank in Germany uses video chat for interacting with customers, thus reducing customer dependence on expensive channels like branches.
As I said before, financial institutions need to be Cautious with their presence in Social Media. One of the possible threats could be a fraudster posing as a bank employee and asking customer for credentials by setting up a similar profile. Online squatter could register themselves on behalf of financial institutions on social media sites and then negotiate with the companies to buy them back. Alternatively, phishing attacks are anyways looming on the Internet and you may be redirected to a site where there is possibility of compromising your personal details.
Banks are experimenting with this space but are yet to come out with a successful working model. Expecting a ROI on spend is not the way forward, as Social Media is still in its adolescence trying to develop such a model. This is just another form of communication tool available to reach to your customers which will ultimately in long term bring the dollars.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Internet v/s Social Marketing

The article gives a visual depiction of Internet v/s Social Marketing, published in Qatar Today Magazine - June 2011 issue.



Internet v/s Social Marketing 

In my previous post I had given few tips to convince your boss to adopt social media for commercial purposes. If you have managed to even partially convince your boss on introducing social/online media in your organization, the next step is to determine the possible ways of reaching your customers on the web. In the initial days of the web, one of the most common ways to advertise your product was by placing a banner ad on a website, or a pop up ad to get the attention of the website visitor. We have come a long way from those days and have more intelligent and less annoying ways of creating awareness for the product/services.

Internet Marketing is still one of the most popular ways to target your potential customers on the web. It is an enhanced traditional advertising campaign measurement with the addition of unique visitors, clicks, bounces, page ranks, keyword authority, link tracking etc.

Internet marketing is predominately focused around the following *terms: -

SEM (search engine marketing) - is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion
Cost per impression (CPI/CPM) - CPM for Cost per thousand impressions is another way to measure the worth of an online campaign.
Cost per click (CPC) - Advertisers pay the hosting service when the ad is clicked, to direct traffic to the respective website.
Cost per action (CPA) - the advertiser pays for each specified action (a purchase, a form submission, and so on) linked to the advertisement
SEO (search engine optimization) - is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via organic search results.

An online campaign is needed to spread awareness which can ultimately lead to sales. Some online campaigns are purely meant for awareness while other’s prompt the user to click on the banner ads, which direct them to a landing page that has a list of the products available for sale.
You need to help the internet user understand what he/she can expect post clicking an interactive banner. If the expectations are not met in the first few seconds, you have lost your prospective internet partner. You need to develop more interactive ads to get the attention of the person viewing the ad.

Internet has come a long way from Web 1.0 to evolving Web 3.0. We can associate these trends with the following terms: -

Web 1.0 = Content
Web 2.0 = Conversation
Web 3.0 = Convergence

At present we are in Web 2.0 but slowly progressing towards Web 3.0.

Social Media Marketing (SMM) is another form of communication with your customers. I feel it’s all about Conversation. As a product manager if you are successful in speaking to your online audience in their language, you have won half the battle. It is dynamic, vibrant, emergent, compelling and insightful. Hence, Social Media Marketing (SMM) is not just a medium of communication but a place for marketers to understand its target audience.
Social Media as a conversation is not organized, controlled or in a form of an advertisement.
It is the conversation that takes place between Customers, Marketers, Employees, and Investors and web surfers.  On a larger scale, it’s the appeal of belonging in the group as you take action together. “l am trying this brand so why don’t you try it as well?”

Some social media tools that you could use for engaging the audience with your brands

Blogs - I don’t need to define ‘blogs’ for you, however, ensure you regularly update it.  Most corporate companies host blogs on their website. Alternatively you may use popular platforms like Blogger, Wordpress or Typepad.
Microblogging – Twitter is a classic example of microblogging. You need to engage your customers within the 140 characters. Companies use it as a customer service tool.  Check out Jaiku which is another popular microblogging website.
RSS - It a syndication format that allows websites and blogs to distribute their content as feeds to users.  Instead of having to visit the website, users can sign up for the feed provided by the website or blog and using an RSS reader or aggregators like Google Reader, Bloglines to access the feed.
Photo Sharing - Sites like flickr, picasa are popular photo sharing websites. One common technique used by online community a manager is to ask their subscribers to upload photographs on photo sharing websites and ask their friends to vote for the best photographs. Such competitions help the brand to reach out to non-consumers through their existing users.
Podcasts – It is a digital audio that is distributed via the Internet for playback on a user’s computer or portable media device. Link your podcasts to different websites and your blog and make special announcements via it.
Social News and Bookmarking - Social bookmarking allows web users to share their bookmarks of web pages on the Internet. You must have seen websites offering to share their article on sites like Delicious, Digg, Reddit etc are typical examples.
Social Networking – Facebook being the most popular social networking site can be used to engage customers by creating corporate pages and groups. Some other popular social networking sites are Ranren.com (No 1 in China), Myspace, Hi5, Bebo.

Setting the objectives: The SMM goals will be different for every business or organization. SMM can create brand awareness or build idea, increase visibility, leverage existing social media sites to the company’s advantage, help in creating a multi-pronged marketing strategy attract & motivate through Potential Customer Experience etc.

One thing that many digital marketers face difficulty is in measurement and the first step to measure is to set RIGHT objectives. The objectives should be in the interest of the organization and community.

To conclude both Internet and Social Media Marketing have their advantages. To have maximum impact on a campaign combination of both the marketing techniques can be infectious.  

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