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Friday, 6 January 2012

Will 2012 be the year of mobile?

It's amusing to think that for a decade you'd consistently see the question 'Is next year the year of mobile?' pop up in every end of every year digital round up. Amusing mainly because we're quite definitely through that time and mobile should now be central to all brand's plans. With the penetration of smartphones now beyond 33% in the UK and rising fast putting mobile first is not desirable, it's essential.

So we thought we'd outline the 5 things we believe will be central to thinking next year.

1. Less reliance on apps and more investment in mobile web. The diversity of smartphone device types means that building apps will start to become an expensive and far less scalable solution than building a high quality mobile web solution and we will start to see serious investment in holistic mobile web development.

2. Development of APIs as a central tenet of mobile strategy - data as a centralised resource will become the oil in the company's mobile strategy, by developing centralised APIs companies will cut out the costs associated with developing multiple apps per business unit and work off a centralised data resource.

3. Dedicated mobile web development for campaigns. Too many mobile campaigns are pointing to landing pages optimised for a PC experience. 2012 will see the power of HTML5 harnessed to deliver true mobile advertising innovation.

4. Geo-location as an embedded function – as social media is transformed by the use through mobile devices understanding how to use location to build campaigning strategies will be essential. That could be through companies well versed in geo-fencing for campaigns such as O2 with its More product or by analysis of brand mentions by geo-location so that a more flexible less campaign based approach can be taken.

5. The explosion of contactless payments through smartphones – as manufacturers start to build smartphones with Near Field Communication (NFC) chips as standard, wallet functionality will start to be adopted quickly by consumers. The Olympics will be the contactless games and this will lead to increased adoption.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Teamspirit Group appoints Group Digital Director

Chime owned-Teamspirit Group, the specialist integrated financial services agency, has appointed David Jones as Group Digital Director. He will be responsible for growing digital consultancy across the Group’s business including advertising and communications, public relations and professional services businesses.

Jones is a veteran of the digital marketing and communications sector and brings with him a wealth of experience from cross-platform working. Previous experience includes 3 Monkeys, and Conde Nast as well as founding Galileo Digital Marketing in 2008. He will join the board of Teamspirit.

Commenting on the hire, CEO of Teamspirit Group, Jo Parker, said: "Digital work already generates 28% of the agency’s revenue and we have been doing exciting work for clients from social media through to developing digital news channels. But with increasing demand for us to be the guardian of content in all forms of media for our clients, this is an important hire for us. David has fantastic experience which spans digital agency, public relations and publishing, which will help us to develop new exciting propositions that work across all media."

David Jones commented: “I am delighted to join Teamspirit, a genuinely integrated business. As content continues to be King in 2011, I am excited about working with our clients and being part of a full service offering (hosted all under one roof) which is rare in this industry.”

Teamspirit is part of Chime Communications Plc. In 2009, Chime filed record full-year results with a 14% rise in profits. Enjoying similar results, Teamspirit experienced a 17% growth last year making the agency 66 strong. The fully integrated agency offers services which include digital, project management, online marketing, brand and public relations.

To find out more about the agency please call 020 7360 7878.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Eeny, meany, miny, mo...

Choosing digital channels has become increasingly complex in the past few years, with so many platforms to operate from and limited budget and resource brands are spending a huge amount of time calculating where best to reside. Earlier this week Brian Solis released Version 3 of the conversation prism which further underlines the sudden explosion of potential channels you as a brand could be using.

For those new to the market, undoubtedly the choice (whether correct or not) has been, whether to plump for Facebook or Twitter and this week two sets of figures emerged. The first from Visible Banking unveiled the most popular banks by Facebook fans, revealing that in the UK Barclays and RBS were out front by a long way. Interestingly while their Facebook presence is solid, their Twitter activity is far less co-ordinated. Around the same time it was revealed that in the US 45% of asset management companies had a social media presence, but it is evidenced that there is more engagement activity through Twitter and less so on Facebook.

So what? Well a couple of interesting pieces emerged this week that pointed to the future value of Twitter versus Facebook as a sales channel. Forrester research suggested that Twitter followers had a 37% propensity to purchase from the brands they followed as opposed to 21% on Facebook. This is a stark difference, but given the comparable numbers of users Facebook is still going to win out on sheer volume alone, in terms of its ability to drive leads. All of this has to be contextualied however, following a statement from Twitter's departing CEO, Ev Williams who stated, that the Twitter user base has the potential to reach 1 billion users. That number puts a different veneer on the scale of opportunity for brands.

Frankly, at the bottom of this social mountain we have begun to climb the message has to be - keep testing. See what works, invest more in that area and then keep on testing. There's nothing to say that either of these platforms will even be recognisable in 5 years time so there's little point in watching and waiting it’d be better to get involved and see where it takes you.

Crispin Heath
Head of Digital

Thursday, 7 October 2010

ASB New Zealand opens first Facebook bank branch in the world

Three weeks ago ASB in New Zealand opened the doors (or whatever you term the online equivalent, launched I guess) to Facebook's first online bank branch. We blogged some months back about the potential for Facebook to become a major player in banking services and what ASB have done is recognise that potential and faced it head on, moving their services on to the social network. It's a brave move but one that was inevitable.

Last week we tried the branch out. It's a very simple service. At its heart it's an online chat interface built directly into Facebook. There are a selection of advisers to choose to talk to, all of whom are named and photographed individuals, to increase the person to person appeal that is the hallmark of social networking and you are able to choose from those available to chat.

We spoke to Elysse to find out how the launch was going? She was friendly, personable and very knowledgable and stated there had been considerable interest in the service. Although ASB are at present unable to offer services to those overseas, she said they had had considerable contact from New Zealand travellers who were able to sort out their issues quickly and easily through Facebook.

We went on to have a brief Twitter chat with Anna Curzon the General Manager, Internet Banking for ASB who confirmed the interest

That second statement really underlines the point of introducing this branch concept in to Facebook. In a time impoverished and globalised environment brands need to be in the places their customers are. Financial services brands are definitely behind the curve in following that trend, but ASB has made a huge step forward.

While the services through the ASB Facebook branch are currently limited the mere fact that they are there speaks volumes for their foresight and ambition. This is a bold first move and we’re sure it will be the first of many. We will keep an eye on whether ASB benefits from first mover advantage.

Crispin Heath
Head of Digital

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Geo-location is where it's at, but should financial services brands check-in?

An interesting video was uploaded by a French developer this week. In a few hours he'd developed a product called Track Dropper. This allowed users to leave musical 'treasure' for passers-by in specific locations. Do what? In simple terms you choose a music track from your mobile device and attach it to your location. Users who then pass that place in the future and are using the same software would be able to pick that track up, upload it to their mobile device and listen. Why's that of any use? Well it could be used by brands that have music as a core element of their strategy. So for O2, at the O2, or maybe for Diesel in their retail outlets, this could provide fantastic brand value.

Geo-location has been the building story of 2010. Since SXSW in March this year the fight has been on to win the geo-location battle. The main protagonists so far have been first Foursquare who has successfully built 2 million followers by tapping into the enthusiasm for gameplay. Users who 'check-in' are awarded points and badges while sharing their location with their friends. Second there's Gowalla who allow users to attach pictures and videos to locations for other users to pick up when they next check-in. Then on the horizon is the big beast Facebook with its Places product, with 100 million users updating on their mobiles, the opportunity for Places is absolutely monumental as people start to share their location on a huge scale.

But what are the implications for Financial Services brands. There's been plenty of chatter about location-based services, but that doesn't mean brands should really be worrying too much at the moment. There's a place for experimenting with some accounts as an individual, and/or setting up profiles for your organisation's locations, all these new services should be tested out to identify utility. But there's no pressing need to plough into it right now. There are some applications that we feel could work well for the insurance or mortgage lending space, but at present the services need to mature, add addtional richer layers of content and users need to start getting involved more deeply before location will have real impact. Already new services like SCVNGR are beginning to show what the future could be, with both gaming and content elements wrapped into the same application, and by linking with Facebook Places they are already gaining enormous amounts of followers. We'll be watching the space with interest as it expands.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

FSA social media review reveals misunderstanding of the medium

Last week the FSA produced a paper on the use of social media by Financial Services companies. The paper was an analysis of 30 Facebook and Twitter accounts held by different organisations - both big and small - across the sector.

The FSA stated that when financial services firms do ‘make use of new media as a platform for advertising they must make sure that the information stays accurate and relevant’ and does not go beyond ‘image advertising’. It was also keen to point out that the guidance around promotion of product applied in new media in the same way they do to other mediums.

However, reading the contents of the report is a little worrying. The paper has the feeling of a holding position for the FSA, while they get closer to and start to understand the medium and how best to approach its regulation.

The focus on Twitter and Facebook is the first alarm bell. Considering the wealth of sites out there that can be considered social the task of assessment is going to be enormous. The second was the use of the word advertising. This suggests a misunderstanding of the social web as a conversational medium. The third and somewhat more worrying alarm bell was a statement that appeared on OUT-LAW asked the FSA 'if promotions on Twitter that provide a link to further details are likely to fall foul of its rules on stand-alone compliance. An FSA spokeswoman said 'the FSA would not be prescriptive on that point''.

There are similar vague responses to the specifics of how regulation would apply in the medium. Overall there is an overarching feeling that Providers and IFAs are going to be left to interpret the regulations themselves. In an industry that has such stringent compliance procedures this position could very effectively dampen the growth of use of the medium for all but the most confident of companies. In a context where no regulation has been specified firms could take the view that it's simply too risky to enter the arena, or moreover social presences will become stiff broadcast mediums entirely unsuited to the new conversational online world.

The FSA needs to quickly get up to speed on this issue and offer much more specific guidance. This doesn't need to be a huge tome, in fact I'd suggest anything but, but it does need to provide examples of good and bad practice.

Maybe radically it could convene a loose working group that could help shape its approach to regulation in the medium. I know Teamspirit would certainly be keen to get involved in that. So how about it FSA? I'm having to ask you here because I couldn't find you on Twitter.

Crispin Heath
Head of Digital

Monday, 14 June 2010

Is sharing purchasing behaviour a step too far?

A new invitation only Beta was launched last week for Swipely. From the introductory video it looks strikingly similar to Blippy. Both services are essentially set up to track our purchasing behaviour. As a user, you choose the vendors you wish to add to your profile - mostly online currently, think Amazon, EBay and iTunes - then each time you make a credit card purchase that information can be shared online with friends, selected associates or with the entire world if you wish.

Along with location based applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla these online services are the latest attracting ‘why would you want to share that information?’ type attention, just as Facebook and Twitter have in the past. However, arguably, sharing purchase information or location information is more valuable to your friends and followers than updating your Twitter or Facebook profiles.

Let’s face it, you’re either a person who shares or you’re not. Even if you’re a person that shares, it doesn’t mean you have to share everything and all these services allow you to select what you choose to share, or not. The point with Blippy and Swipely is that by sharing your purchasing behaviour you potentially reveal far more about who you are and what your preferences are, than if you share your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook. So, if you’re interested in building a personal brand, as a opposed to a public image, these services start to become essential.

From a business perspective, this type of purchasing information becomes invaluable. For years now the large food retailers have built huge levels of data about their customers’ buying habits, and with it they’ve built strong relationship-led businesses. Services such as Blippy and Swipely potentially offer the same level of personalisation to financial services companies. Certainly credit card companies will be hugely interested. However the opportunities for personal finance products are potentially huge and who knows, as the services mature more structured products could start to become contenders.

Crispin Heath
Head of Digital

Monday, 7 June 2010

RDR: Simplified Advice

With a mooted 30 million UK adults beyond the scope of full advice (consumers with less than £257 a month to save can’t be economically served by full advice) and only 18 months to go until final RDR implementation the industry got together to ask “ where on earth are we?”. After a spot of good old show and tell from the ABI, KPMG, the FSA and several providers, here’s the consensus…

Friday, 7 May 2010

The price of politics on Financial Services

While we’re in the grips of a hung parliament and the shape of the future government is still to be defined we thought it would be good to look at the policies of the three parties. In particular how they’ll affect the economy and the financial services industry in particular.

Here’s a quick overview of the likely changes that the three main parties will attempt to bring in over the next parliament so long as any one party has a clear majority.

David McCann

Planning Director

Posted via email from teamspirit's posterous

Monday, 26 April 2010

The North Sea Bubble?

Interesting report from Mark Easton last week on political parties views on property prices. No surprises that every single one of them sits on the fence, but all financial brands need to be thinking about this given the long shadow that home ownership casts.

The Thatcherite Revolution did many things but perhaps the biggest was creating the Cult of Property. Unlike many of our neighbours, Britons believe that owning bricks and mortar is an inalienable right and will do almost anything to achieve this. Including, as is clear with mortgage fraud cases and repossessions soaring, lying and borrowing way beyond what is sensible. Of course with rents still high and public housing stock pitiful this isn’t going to change any time soon. But surely every financial business has a real interest in educating their customers as to how and why they need to control their finances?

Organisations like the IFS School of Finance are attempting to do this, but until all companies that offer credit of any time take the issue seriously they are only scratching the surface.

Jim Poulter
Client Services Director

First Direct Live- 6 months on

It is coming up to 6 months since First Direct launched First Direct Live. The site has been hailed as a triumph of the open and honest sharing of customer feedback in real time. First Direct is still really the only UK retail bank that has successfully engaged with its customers online. However, in reality the online experience isn’t ‘amazing’. The persistence in using white out of black in the design is still an accessibility minefield, however because it looks different it has been allowed to pass and while the First Direct 'Retail Experience' is so much better than other competitors it tends to be regarded as highly successful. However, if you place the offering next to some other large consumer brands it doesn’t stack up as successfully.

Now this is not to say that First Direct is not a decent experience, but it could be better and it is against this backdrop that the questions around First Direct Live come. There has been little critical evaluation of the site. It does seem to have snuck under the radar with little scrutiny, so 6 months on from launch there are 5 areas in which we feel the site could definitely be improved as a true reflection of customer sentiment.

1. Ratings - The ratings widget is an automated sentiment scoring system at present. In reality there isn’t currently a sophisticated enough algorithm to replicate true human sentiment, so the scoring needs to be taken with a bit of a pinch of salt.

2. Curation – the filtering of content appears to be moderated, or highly selective and you don’t seem to get a full view of all feedback. It would appear that not all comments are posted and you get no feel for the volume of comments received.

3. Live words don’t really mean as much as they could and because you can’t click through to any of the content that the tag cloud is made up from it’s difficult to understand context. There is also a mismatch between the positive and negative scoring and the overall sentiment scoring and it hasn’t really been explained why. As an additional point, the words that make up the cloud and how they are rated negative and positive bring into question the overall sentiment algorithm again.

4. The platform is still all about push and destination web thinking. There’s almost no interaction and the lack of a human face makes it feel quite corporate.

5. The fact that the site’s been leveraged with a campaign leaves a suspicion around the original motives for the site. The satisfaction proposition is indeed very strong, if a little unspecified, but again this feels suspicious.

Now we have to say that what First Direct has done is laudable. It’s certainly much better thought out and executed than many brand forays into social media to date in any category. However, it’s more controlled than other attempts and that’s where the conflict exists – control is not what you’re looking for if true transparency is to be achieved. Now maybe we haven’t reached a point where true transparency can be achieved for a corporate company and in terms of First Direct taking things forward it’s brave and still unique within UK financial services. The digital community has unbelievably high expectations of what brands can currently achieve given the corporate structures that remain in place and until businesses are modelled around social we won’t see truly social businesses, so I guess where First Direct is, is good, however we do need to consider First Direct Live with a more watchful eye.

Crispin Heath
Head of Digital

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Could a billion people break the existing banking model?

In February Thomas Power the founder of eCademy wrote a blog entitled ‘What happens when Facebook becomes a bank?’. It sparked a huge debate around the role of social media in banking something that was firmly on the agenda at SXSWi last week with Smartypig, CreditKarma, Mint and Lending Club sitting on the panel. We hope to report back on the outcomes from that panel next week, however while SXSWi was running Power followed his blog up with a clarification of his position on video.

His argument runs that when subscription levels to Facebook hit a billion - as predicted by the end of 2012 - that it will hit a scale and organisational maturity that will not only facilitate the sales of simple products such as loans, insurance and savings, but will mean groups of individuals will be in a position to come together to execute group purchases and lending on a huge scale. It would be a simple task for Facebook to integrate a facility such as Zopa onto it’s platform and then users have access to all the tools they need.

If we work on the basis that Facebook's 2008 poll has some validity then 13% of users would be happy to use the platform as a bank. If we then assume an average £1,000 deposit with the bank of Facebook then at a billion users that's a £130 billion business, something financial institutions would have to sit up and take notice of.

Mark Zuckerberg is an ambitious man. Scale is his goal. The product will develop itself and as Power says the person with the biggest number of names wins the game. Financial institutions need to take note.

Crispin Heath
Head of Digital