Tesco Bank on how building its own social network is aiding recovery after brand scandal

Tesco Bank has quietly built a social network; not a Facebook or a Twitter but something more akin to Reddit, which anyone – customer or not – can use to ask questions about banking or find out more about financial products and receive a little guidance from fellow users.

Although still in its infancy, having only launched six months ago, the platform is going some way to boosting consumer confidence in the brand after the accounting scandal which hit the grocery-arm in 2014 as well as keep it competitive to the emerging ‘Fintech’ banks which are beginning to take hold.

“It’s really about transparency,” Tesco Bank’s head of digital marketing, Manila Mclean told The Drum. “It’s helping us be seen as a more approachable bank. That really is important. Ultimately, we want to be seen as the natural choice for Tesco shoppers. It’s about showing we’re helpful and easy to do business with.”

There are three main pillars to the platform, which has been built on Lithium Technologies' ' Total Community Platform'. Chiefly, the chat facility where users can post questions about banking and insurance while fellow users are encouraged to comment, with Tesco representatives jumping in as and when they see necessary.

The platform currently claims around 7,000 regular users but Mclean believes this number will double in the coming months as it plots a marketing campaign to drive awareness. This will predominantly revolve around digital and social channels although it has some above-the-line work planned for 2016 for the overarching Tesco Bank brand.

Tesco claims brand advocates have swiftly emerged thanks to the “gamification” element where, much like Reddit, frequent contributors earn points. One user has become so prolific on the site that Tesco works with him to find out which elements are proving successful.

By taking a step back and letting its customers interact with each other, Tesco Bank has also hit on a handy resource where it can clearly see the most discussed issues or services that customers want.

According to Mclean, this is constantly reshaping Tesco Bank’s strategy for how it implements future tech. For example, when Apple Pay launched last year it was not a priority but Tesco Bank very quickly noticed its community take interest.

“Seeing customers talk about it with each other was powerful and in response we moved [Apple Pay] up our priority list and worked with Apple to launch it. That was the customer influencing what we planned,” explained Mclean.

Elsewhere, there is an information hub which it populates with content as well as an area where users can suggest and shape products or services.

This is all contributing to the promise of “transparency” through which Tesco is trying to rebuild the brand. In the case of Apple Pay’s integration, Mclean says “it shows that we listen and respond” while the nature of the open conversations has meant Tesco now “feels confident” in explaining to someone why a feature a customer wants might not be viable.

“We’ve taken quite a conservative approach to it," said Mclean."Less heavily regulated industries have been doing [social media] for years but the more heavily regulated ones are just starting to play with it now. Traditionally, there’s been a nervousness and a bit of 'what can we say', especially in finance where it could appear as giving advice if a customer is asking about a product."

She continued:“But more and more of our customers are turning to online first when they need help and support and this feels like the next natural step to engage with them. It’s been a low-key launch to build the confidence and see how customers engaged with us and now that we’ve done that and see that it’s a valuable tool we’ll start to promote it much more heavily,."

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