CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Don’t use valuable Web page real estate to advertise stuff your members aren’t likely to buy from you anyway. That’s the simple message from Ron Shevlin at Forrester Research, who checked out what credit unions do and what members don’t for a new report titled “Which Products Should Credit Unions Highlight on Their Home Page.” The classic example Shevlin cites is this: “Before a recent visit to a credit union client we looked at its Web site. One the home page was a big ad, encouraging members to open a brokerage account,” he says. “We wondered why they would use valuable screen real estate to pitch a product that so few of their members are likely to want from them?” Shevlin and his colleagues cite numbers to back that up. According to the think firm’s sweeping Consumer Technographics 2005 North American Benchmark Study, 86% of credit union members would consider their credit union for deposit accounts, 55% for auto and other consumer loans and so on. Dead last? Brokerage accounts at a scant 5%. So why would this client CU give prominent play to a brokerage account promotion on its home page? Well, such accounts are more profitable than the savings and draft business that’s the heart of a CU’s business, and that could lead to “internal political pressure,” Shevlin notes. “Here’s how it works,” he says. “A product manager has a goal to open so many thousand new brokerage accounts this year and pressures the Web site group to give up the space on the home page to pitch the product. The CFO, envisioning high margins on the accounts, supports the plea.” Tempting perhaps, but not “a smart business decision,” the Forrester analyst says. That’s because credit union members simply aren’t likely to turn to their CU for those products. There’s also the perception that the home page is cheap space, and since “deposit accounts and consumer loans are the bread and butter of most credit unions’ business, most are reluctant to spend precious direct mail and advertising dollars on products like brokerage accounts and insurance services,” Shevlin says. Contributing to the problem, the Forrester analyst argues, is that few credit unions ask members what they actually would consider buying from the CU. “Without any market intelligence, credit unions turn to their Web sites to push the products they want to sell, even if they aren’t the products their members want to buy from them,” Shevlin says. Meanwhile, he adds, “Walk into any mall and take a look at the display window of a large department store. This time of year you’ll see summer clothes for women and teenage girls. Why? Because that’s who shops at malls and that’s what gets them into the store. “A home page is no different. It’s a window into the site. And like smart retailers, smart credit unions should use this valuable real estate to appeal to consumers with the products and offers that will draw them into the site.” The bottom line here? “Many credit unions struggle to decide which products to highlight on their home page and end up making the wrong choice,” the report concludes. “To make the most of members’ site visits, credit unions should feature their core products, and they should bundle investment products with deposit products to cross-sell their members.” For example, Shevlin says, “Offer reduced fees on a mortgage if a member also buys homeowner’s insurance.” -

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