Who doesn’t love to see their favorite band live or witness their favorite team sweat it out on the field? The problem—despite myriad apps, email notifications from venues, and social media updates—is that there’s no one good filter to cut through the dross and get to that event of your choice. So Citibank decided to step into the spotlight and launch a Facebook app to help.
That’s right. A big bank is tapping into the events business via Facebook. In Citi’s case, the Match-Up app sprung from its Private Pass entertainment access program, currently available to the bank’s entire cadre of credit and debit card holders, which adds up to 137 million accounts globally. Last year, 10,000 events (about half of which are music) were offered to members and ranged from family-friendly concerts to album previews from chart-topping musicians and club shows featuring emerging artists. The next logical step was to build out a way to allow anyone—not just members—find events easily and share their plans on Facebook.
Did Citi’s developers think they were crazy? "Not at all," contends Jennifer Breithaupt, senior vice president of entertainment marketing at Citi. Breithaupt says that as members’ continued to be active in social channels, Citi was taking notes. Music and concerts are inherently social, she says, "An app was a perfect extension to our efforts to engage prospects and card members on Twitter and Facebook." The latter pulls about 680 million users via their mobile devices, making an app on the platform that much more compelling to a bank hoping to entice clients to access their account via smartphone apps for ease of use.
This development comes at a tough time for big banks like Citi. Though the sturm und drang of the economic crisis has eased, Americans’ confidence in U.S. banks is now at an all-time low of 21%, according to a Gallup poll. When PR firm Edelman asked consumers to rate a group of industries on their trustworthiness to "do what’s right," those responding ranked the bank and financial services sectors dead last, lagging after vilified energy producers and media companies.
To burnish its image, Citi’s been investing heavily in new ways to engage existing clients and create awareness among prospects. An Ad Age Insights report on measured media spending found that Citi shelled out just over $306 million in 2011, about 174% more than the company spent the previous year.
Trust is an important issue, especially as people begin to connect their banking information (even peripherally) on an open platform like Facebook. Breithaupt notes that the landing page for the app offers details about how it works and prompts users to opt in to the email newsletter and how they can opt out. "We have also built in a mechanism that lets consumers choose how they want to share information on their wall," she adds.
But there’s also the question of engagement. Sure, consumers who are satisfied with their bank will keep coming back for other products and services, but without an emotional tie to the institution, most will spend their time and money elsewhere. Breithaupt says the original idea was to create a space for existing and prospective customers to get excited about events, so Citi forged ahead with a gaming function that challenges users to show off their knowledge of music trivia, as well as offer personalized recommendations.
That was back in December 2012. For the next six months, Citi worked with Communispace. The Boston-based firm manages consumer communities online and off to help brands launch new products and build loyalty. Citi’s community members were encouraged to evaluate the app and offer feedback to improve the communications, design, and overall user experience. Charles Schwab used this approach, partnering with Communispace to finesse the details of a financial workshop program to make it more appealing to women. The results of tweaks suggested by the community? In one month last May, 18 workshops reached 4,000 people.
Citi’s community was just as vocal. Positive notes included high marks for the elimination of the pain point of finding out who’s performing before it’s too late. But another suggested the entire experience needed to be simpler. "I go to Facebook to chill, have fun, and relax—I don’t want to do a lot of reading to figure out stuff." Still another wanted ways to game with people outside their friend network. "The app assumes that friends are going to be playing. Personally, it would be better if challengers were randomized, so I do not have to solicit my friends."
When it was quietly launched in May, the finished version of Citi’s Private Pass Match-up app addressed all those requests. Recommendations come based on profile data, as well as suggestions the users and their friends would enjoy based on shared interests (only if the other friend chooses to get the concert info, mindful of privacy settings) and a game to appeal to those hungry for more ways to compete with friends when they tire of Candy Crush Saga.
Though Citi’s not releasing numbers as to how many users have been active on the app, Breithaupt says engagement is strong and feedback has been positive. "Although not part of our main goals, we’ve actually sold concert tickets via the app," she says. "Our partner LiveNation is able to tell us when we drive traffic to their ticket sales area."
[Image: Flickr user Rodrigo Della Fávera]