Walking through town just before lockdown began (seems a long time ago now!) I was struck by the number of empty shop units. A sign of the times and a trend to online retail. I was dropping some shoes in to be re-soled, not something I could ever imagine doing with an online service.
But, in fact, there’s so much more we can do online than ever before – and it seems so easy! As an example, I recently bought a pair of prescription spectacles online. A friend had just done it, so I gave it a try. I did have some doubts, however, as I have varifocals, which are very tricky to get right.
I downloaded the app, which prompted me to take a selfie, then superimpose different glasses – it was actually quite a fun process! I selected four that I liked and a few days later they arrived. I tried them on and one looked good, so I updated the app with my choice.
Then I took a photograph of my prescription on the app and paid my money. The glasses were at least half the price of my regular optician and a full refund was available within 30 days if I wasn’t happy. So, I thought, why not give it a go?
About a week later they turned up and were perfect. Glad I didn’t go to Specsavers!
So, what’s that got to do with getting my shoes resoled? Well, buying varifocals online made me focus on the fact that a lot of consumer behaviour is driven by ease of access and ease of processing. We’re finding out right now which retailers are good and which have a lot still to learn. In Timpsons, I paid for the repair with my Starling Bank debit card. “Ah” said the chap serving me “I’m with them, great aren’t they great? “
Starling is one of a breed of new start up banks, Monzo is another example. The only way to access is by using a phone app, not even a website. It’s big with the kids; having said that I’m 58 and signed up last year and the chap in Timpsons looked to be around my age.
Recent research shows that smartphones and apps are now the way that most of us access the internet. The 2019 Deloitte Mobile Survey shows that smartphone ownership is now 80% in the age 55-75 age group.
Starling’s application process is just so easy. Download the app, take a photo of your driving licence, record a selfie - that’s it. No need to take a passport, utility bill and an application form into a branch. The process took me about two minutes.
The technology behind it is now being adopted in a number of places. It’s very secure and in some cases more robust than traditional ways of verifying IDs.
Members are real people
So, in the pensions world, what lessons can we learn to help us engage better with members?
- Firstly, consumers are expecting more and more of their service providers. We continually talk about members as if they are some sort of alien life form. The pensions industry offers a consumer service; scheme members are real people like the rest of us. The more they do on-line the more they expect to do on-line.
- Secondly, age is increasingly less of a predictor of how people engage with services and technology.
- Thirdly, there’s a lot of noise in the pensions industry at the moment about getting people engaged. So, how about a pension phone app that you can register for with a photo of your driving licence and a selfie? Passwords and two factor authentication, which can be real barriers to engagement, are consigned to history. Instead, logins can use the phone’s biometrics, thumb print or facial recognition.
We can make pension engagement a reality – for everyone!
Anyway back to where I started. It cost me a trip into town and £65 to re-sole a pair of shoes. A trip to the shops right now would be very welcome, but using an app could be even better!