It’s hard to imagine an environment more conducive to launching an online consumer research and comparison platform for financial services than the one we’ve all been living in for the past year or so.
Last year, the continued emergence of online consumer voice and choice collided with the global economic downturn, delivering consumers both the will and tools to demand a greater level of accountability from their financial service purchases.
HelpMeChoose.com.au is an independent platform that allows consumers to find the most suitable and competitive home loans, credit cards, life insurance and health insurance plans. Consumers enter the pertinent details for the financial product they are seeking – cost, coverage, fees, benefits, etc. – and the site narrows down the choice to just a handful of options. On the flip side, it delivers qualified leads to financial service providers, aggregating ‘ready to buy’ customers in a hyper-competitive market sector.
According to Shiffman, the idea for HelpMeChoose.com.au originated back in 2004 while gathering customer experience data for Global Reviews.
“We thought to ourselves, ‘It would be great to really understand the experience that was being delivered to people around the products themselves, not just around the service channels like phone and web,'” says Shiffman. “We were very keen to capture that data, but we realised that it was pointless to survey people hypothetically about what they were looking for from products. The best thing to do would be to actually get people who were in the market for products to tell us what they were looking for. Out of that came the idea of not just gathering research data but actually being able to deliver an unbiased, independent experience for people who were looking for products, to assist them in finding the right results for them.”
Fast forward four years and the opportunity to launch the separate business presented itself. Shiffman is the first to admit that economic conditions played a major role. “The best situation for our business is volatility,” he says. “We love volatility. And you can’t get more volatile than the current market.”
With consumers looking to squeeze every last saving and benefit out of their financial services, and sales becoming more difficult to secure for companies offering those services, HelpMeChoose.com.au has grown in popularity on both the consumer and service side.
The site’s biggest challenge initially was convincing financial service product companies that it wasn’t just another rate comparison website. However, Shiffman says that, in addition to leveraging existing relationships built through Global Reviews, the high conversion rates HelpMeChoose.com.au began delivering to service companies made the issue more of just getting them in the door and letting sales do the rest.
In order to highlight conversion rates, especially to those service providers who are less than transparent with cost-per-acquisition metrics, Shiffman and his team built a sophisticated software-as-a-service platform that enables clients to manage and benchmark sales leads generated through the site.
“When we initially spoke about launching it, there was concern around transparency and the fact that we had to be very confident of our conversion rates in order to want to drive that transparency,” he says. “It’s been a tremendously effective tool for demonstrating why you should be aware of the kinds of sales conversions you’re getting from different kinds of spend.”
When thinking about how HelpMeChoose.com.au will evolve in the future, Shiffman is keen to keep focus on the basics of business – adding value by helping people solve problems. It’s a sensibility to which many web businesses are not exactly anchored.
“There are some important decisions that people make in life that are exceptionally complex,” he says. “One of those is home loans and another is health insurance. Those are the best kinds of decision processes for us because they are where we can add the most value for consumers. So we tend to look for the more complicated decisions and try and facilitate those.”
Paul Ryan is Editor of Anthill Magazine.