A key development in financial services in the last 20 years has been the rise of comparison sites. So, we felt it was a good time to see how they are faring and carry out our own research.
As is common here at Marketing Sciences, we used a multi-method approach, in this case asking consumers directly as well as analysing their online behaviour using our passive measurement tool, Reflected Life. The findings are illuminating.
Not surprisingly, for motor and home insurance, comparison sites are a major part of the customer journey, with 92% of all adults using them and 63% using one in the last year alone. Clearly consumers find it useful to have someone else find the best price for them. So who they trust to do this?
The market is dominated by 4 key players and claimed usage for home/motor insurance is highest (by some margin) for Compare The Market, followed by MoneySuperMarket, Confused and GoCompare. As this is claimed usage (and consumer recall is not always accurate), we also analysed the actual behaviour of consumers on our Reflected Life panel – and reassuringly got a similar finding. Reflected Life also provided the additional insight that MoneySuperMarket has more visits, possibly related to other products it is used for.
So is Compare The Market the most trusted? Well, not necessarily. Consumer behaviour suggests that many consumers don’t trust that any site can always get the best deal. Why else would two-thirds of users visit more than one site to get quotes and over a fifth use four or more sites? Many consumers are clearly sceptical of the claims and are testing them out against each other.
So if consumers are using a portfolio of sites, who is the winner in the battle for business and why?
One measure of success is the number of rival comparison sites which users of each site also visit. Certainly it varies by brand, for instance users of Compare The Market tend to visit fewer rival sites.
Another measure of success is the Quote-to-buy (QTB) ratio. In order to get a referral fee, comparison sites need consumers to click through to the best buy insurer and actually purchase. If consumers just get a quote there is no fee generated, even if they then ring up and purchase. On this measure, Compare The Market appears to win, with a third of recent users claiming to buy – twice the level of its competitors. This may just reflect that Compare The Market has a higher proportion of ‘solus’ users – customers who only use that site. But why would that be the case?
Again, we delved into the data to see if this competitive advantage might be due to differences in the profile of users of different sites. However, the profile of customers is remarkably similar across all demographics for all the main comparison sites.
So maybe Compare The Market has the cheapest deals? Or maybe it provides the best customer experience, which enables customers to have all the information they need and trust in their provider, such that they don’t need to look elsewhere. Or perhaps they really do have the most memorable or engaging advertising campaigns – engaging in the right way that is, the secrets of which only our neuroscience experts could explain!
If you are interested in answering these kind of questions, we at Marketing Sciences Unlimited are experts in researching what drives a market-leading customer experience and how to build trust in financial markets using a range of methods from passive measurement (Reflected Life) to in-depth interviewing – an example of which is here: Tesco Bank case study.
If you would like help driving competitive advantage, contact Nigel Hufton.
Nigel Hufton is a Research Director and financial sector expert in the Technology & Financial team here.