Page 3: Market research
The aim of the market research was to find out whether PC Banking would provide a popular service. The surveys showed that, compared to other banks, First Direct customers are more likely to have PCs, use the Internet and want to use PC Banking. First Direct customers tend to be the first to buy and use the latest technology. This was attributed to the large number of ‘early adopters’ who initially came to First Direct because of the innovative, forward-thinking image First Direct projected. Key survey results in January 1996, showed that:
- 44% of First Direct customers said they would be very or fairly likely to use a PC Banking service
- 6% said they would move bank to use PC Banking
- 51% of customers owned a desk top PC compared to 35% of other bank’s customers
- 23% owned a modem compared to 11% amongst other banks.
The most important finding from the market research was that PC Banking was the most desirable new technological service that customers wanted to see First Direct providing.
Competitor analysis - what is happening in the market place?
Effective market research not only analyses customers and their characteristics, it should also look at the competitors’ ability to meet consumer requirements. Market research in the form of competitor analysis reveals where an organisation stands in relation to rival offers to consumers.
First Direct was not the first bank to introduce a PC Banking service. The decision was made to wait until sufficient research had been carried out to enable the company to provide a service that would meet the very high standards that customers expected. PC Banking also needed to equal the service already offered over the telephone. If this was not the case, First Direct’s reputation as ‘The UK’s leading telephone bank’ could be damaged.
Other banks, including Barclays and TSB already had PC Banking services. Therefore it was important to introduce a service that not only fitted in with First Direct’s reputation but one that would stand out amongst its competitors. First Direct therefore engaged in a detailed development period in order to:
- make the best possible use of the latest technology (including the use of the ‘Java’ programming language) and the most up-to-date security methods to protect the customer
- meet customers’ expectations of a high standard of service.
Matching PC Banking with First Direct’s overall strategy
The overarching brand value of First Direct is to provide customers with a ’Gateway to Autonomy'. In simple terms, this involves enabling the customer to become ’master’ of his or her own finances; to have individual control. First Direct’s PC Banking services therefore needed to support this brand value. It needed to provide customers with a service that offers simple, hassle free products, allowing them to bank at a time and place convenient to them and in a way that suits them best.
Initially, during the trial period, functionality was very limited, allowing customers to view balances and transactions, download transactions to their own PC software and view online help and information. Customers could also access the electronic mail system, enabling them to request information or make a query regarding their account. They could also comment on what they thought of the service.
Now, as the level of functionality has increased, customers can carry out a wide range of transactions over their PC, including transferring money between accounts, opening new accounts, paying bills, accessing on-line help and applying for personal loans, Visa cards and annual travel insurance. One of the key advantages of PC Banking is that it gives First Direct a visual presence. First Direct will become more tangible to some of its customers because they are able to see their personal details and transactions on their computer screens.