Helping financial services customers compare apples and oranges

Launching a new financial services product isn’t easy. Here’s how we went from idea to working prototype in just a few weeks - and answered the key question: will customers buy it?

To successfully launch a new financial services product, you need a trustworthy brand, a clear proposition, and a market big enough to support your business plan.

But even this isn’t enough. 

When Walmart tried to build a digital payments system, it had a proposition (payments plus rewards), trusted brand, great distribution channels, early deployment, and a huge market to play in. Nevertheless, people just weren’t interested.

Customers couldn’t see a good reason to switch from using credit cards.

The lesson is clear. Successful new products need to solve a customer problem in a way that’s simple, surprising, and delightful.

The bright idea - and a problem

One firm came to us with an idea for a new finance comparison service and asked if we could help them turn it into a product that customers loved.

The idea, brand, and market were already defined. Our nine-week product definition service was a perfect fit.

We began with the tried-and-trusted model for comparison tools: ask the user to enter details of the product they wanted, and get a table of results. This was what potential competitors would try first.

When we took this approach to customers, there was a significant problem.

The products being compared worked in several different ways. Customers focussed on a few headline numbers, but that meant they missed important differences between products - even when these were highlighted in the comparison table.

Only one in ten users could correctly identify the best product on offer.

Unravelling the opportunity

This was good news - there was a significant customer problem to be solved. But doing so would require a completely new approach.

We took what we'd learned from talking to users and mapped their decision making process.

From this, we saw that the solution was to turn the process on its head. We needed to ask users about the outcomes they wanted and work back towards their ideal product.

The right prototype

For such a complex user journey, we couldn’t test a simple storyboard. We needed a prototype that would work just like the real thing so we could find out whether users got the outcome they expected.

So our developers and designers worked with the firm’s team and created a mobile web app with all the business logic in place so users got a realistic experience.

When we tested it with users, it was a lightbulb moment for them.

‘I’d never have chosen the product I have today if I’d known this’ one of them said. We’d simplified the perplexing financial options and created a product so surprising they wanted to use it for real..

We were on to a winner.

Making it delightful

Of course a prototype that’s good enough for a test still doesn’t look like the finished thing. 

Now we had evidence and data that we could use to build a business case. And a prototype that brought it to life. 

But wanted to give a true sense of the product - so we created a ‘board level’ mobile prototype with the polish and presentation you’d expect from the real service. The board could get a sense of what it was like to hold in their hands.

As for the result… you’ll have to wait to see it for yourself.

The nine-week solution

A great idea is no guarantee of success. That’s why we build business cases by building and testing prototypes. Real data gives you real confidence.

In nine weeks, we were able to identify unexpected problems, prove that we could solve them, and turn the vision into something you could hold in your hand.

It’s the missing piece that helps our clients bridge the gap between failure and success.

Giles founded cxpartners with Richard Caddick in 2004. He's author of 'Simple and usable' and an invited speaker at design conferences around the world.