Price comparison websites continue to squeeze out big brands


Price comparison websites are squeezing out traditional financial brands online, taking more than 60% of all online traffic in the sector, according to the latest Stickyeyes Intelligence Report.

The Stickyeyes Financial Services Intelligence Report highlights the current state of play in the online financial services sector and explores the impact of key Google algorithm updates, regulatory changes and a shift in consumer behaviour in the market. It reveals that brands including Money Supermarket, MoneySavingExpert and combine to take more than 60% of online search traffic across the financial services sector at the expense of established banking and financial services brands.

This is particularly true in the insurance markets, where five comparison services combine to hold 67% of the overall click share in the highly competitive car insurance market and 78% in the home insurance market. In the current accounts market, direct retail brands accounted for 80% of the ten most visible brands in the market in 2012-13 but 12 months later, this has fallen just 50%.

Price comparison websites continue to dominate the online financial search market at the expense of traditional brands 

Whilst traditionally dominant within organic search, price comparison websites (PCWs) are shown to be growing their share of the paid search market. PCWs claim 36% of search visibility across the industry within the paid channel, and 48% of the market for core products such as savings, current accounts and mortgages. In these lucrative markets, PCW’s have grown by 60% compared to 18 months ago.

HSBC suffers a 77% loss of market share for current accounts products, compared to 18 months ago 

Whilst consumer friendly price comparison brands have seen positive growth, the traditional retail competition has experienced a loss of market share. Some of the sector’s most established brands, such as HSBC, are among the biggest fallers in 2014. HSBC earned the second highest click share in the current accounts market last year, with 13% of the combined paid and organic markets but now, has just 3%, after losing its high rankings for a number of core search phrases.

Post Office experiences positive growth in the travel insurance market, in line with the privatisation of Royal Mail 

Post Office is a new entry into the organic top 10 index for the travel insurance market, climbing from an average ranking position of 10 at the end of 2012 for the primary term travel insurance, to position 1 in Q1 of 2014. It has also seen notable improvements for travel insurance UK and annual travel insurance. In line with its ranking movements, interest in the brand is also seen to trend positively over this time.

Barclays Bank tops the social media index, though its activity could be optimised and is currently hindered by a lack of direct social integration across other brand assets 

Barclays Bank’s leading position in this index is underpinned by its ability to balance the volume of social touch points with effective deployment of content to engage its customers. However, the lack of direct social integration on its website represents a lost opportunity to develop a seamless user experience and push traffic towards social assets, as well as ensuring that customers are aware of the brand’s level of accessibility in the market

Financial brands still struggling with social media 

Due to a historically uneasy relationship with social media, many brands in the financial services industry are failing to leverage the power of social media platforms and as such, their assets are underdeveloped and underutilised. Using a unique social score carding system, which takes into account volume, engagement and quality of interaction, Stickyeyes has identified a number of brands, including first direct, Nationwide, Virgin Money and Sainsbury’s Bank, that are missing out on key opportunities to engage with new and existing audiences. Anxiety regarding the use of social has allowed sites such as MoneySavingExpert, Compare the Market and Money Supermarket to acquire significant market share.

Stickyeyes’ Head of Insights, Phil McGuin, said: “Some of the industry’s most established brands have lost out on significant online market share in core services, with brands that were in the top ten in last year’s report falling completely off the radar in 2014. There is no doubt that it is the price comparison websites that are dominating the market in 2014.”

“Whilst it is no surprise that financial services brands have been reluctant to engage in social media, this report highlights the true cost of failing to engage with their customers on a key communications platform.”

“The challenge for retail financial brands is to understand exactly how social media can work for them and to claw back not only the positive sentiment of their audiences, but vital online visibility from price comparison services.”

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