Credit Card Marketers Missing Online Opportunity

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A recent study found that many people are willing to apply for credit cards online. Many marketers, however, are missing the opportunity to attract these potential applicants.

A recent study of 850 Internet users found that 80% of them are willing to apply for credit cards online, and 58% say they have already done so. But credit card issuers who make their websites more appealing and easier to use will improve the quality and number of their online applicants, suggests research conduced by website usability firm Web Mystery Shoppers International Inc.

Twelve sites were visited by about 70 users each between August 15-23, 2003: American Express, Bank One, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Discover Financial, First USA, Mastercard, MBNA, Nextcard, Providian and VISA. Consumers were asked to choose a card and begin applying for one online.

At their end of their experience only 41% said they would return to the site they visited if they were in the market for a credit card in the coming year. This varied considerably among sites, however, with BankOne faring by far the best, with an expected return rate of 63%. The lowest site scored only 27% on willingness to return.

The results also underscore that "there's more to a website than a pretty face," said Tema Frank, president of Web Mystery Shoppers International. "That same site that ranked so low on willingness to return had a great, clean home page, and was the top scorer on the appeal of its home page. But it upset a lot of potential customers on the second page, when it asked for a 'reservation number.' It also made a few other classic usability mistakes."

Other key findings:

  •     Interest rates and fees are perceived to be about the same online as offline. "Credit card marketers could save a lot of money by giving people incentives to apply online," said Ms. Frank "They should be sure to mention those incentives even in their direct mail promotions."
  •     There is nothing wrong with emphasizing a promotional rate, but sites should not hide what the rates will increase to after the promotional period. Doing so violates the trust that is so essential to convincing people to apply online. As one of the mystery shoppers put it, "Give the flipping rates if you give one fig for the time of your prospective customers!"

The Executive Summary of the study is available free from Web Mystery Shoppers International at (toll-free: 1-866-211-7027), as are order forms for the full report.

Web Mystery Shoppers International Inc. helps companies increase sales and lower selling costs, by increasing online sales conversion rates. Using large numbers of trained, paid testers, who work from their own computers and provide detailed, page-by-page feedback, about their experience, clients are given insight not only about the web site, but about differences in user perception based on variables like computer and browser systems and Internet experience. Toll-free: 1-866-211-7027.

For further information:

Tema Frank

President, Web Mystery Shoppers International Inc.

Toll-free: 1-866-211-7027 Tel: (780) 444-5645 Cell: (780) 945-7345

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