The most recent Mapa Credit Card Dashboard update recorded a number of changes this update, but one of the most interesting was First Direct's removal of the Little Black Book in late February of this year. Five years ago the bank was the first in the UK to launch a community site that was exclusively for customers to share reviews of non-banking experiences.
With the closure of the Little Black Book, it got us thinking – are any online communities run by banks successful?
The answer is yes.
Communities are highly successful and widely utilised in the SME segment. These communities range in whom it targets and what services are provided. One of the most innovative is Commonwealth Bank’s “Women in Focus”, a forum dedicated to connecting business women in Australia through the provision of events, workshops and partnerships. The community even has an area where business owners can promote their products and services, an invaluable non-core banking service.
Leading the way in the US is American Express with its OPEN Forum, which provides video, articles, blogs, podcasts and expert advice for business owners. The Community has a “Highlights” section which features blogs and articles on topics such as branding and employee morale. In its second year, OPEN increased unique visitors by 525% from 160,000 in December 2008 to 1 million in December 2008. The forum is part of the wider OPEN proposition, which has a dedicated suite of credit card products for SMEs.
SME communities are both relevant and useful for SMEs as business owners are limited in their choices for online communities outside of the banking space. This is in contract to the Little Black Book, which essentially was competing with the likes of Trip Advisor, TripSay and Travel and Leisure. The aforementioned provider’s core product is a peer to peer travel review forum and maintains a significant higher number of reviews and recommendations than the Little Black Book.
A final point to note is that SME communities provided by banks integrate its core banking products and features, essentially serving as a means for cross-sales and the provision of value added service. The Little Black Book did not promote cross sales and First Direct made minimal effort and explaining how the feature was relevant to the bank.
So in conclusion, for a bank to maintain a successful community or forum it must integrate products and services. The Little Black Book may have had more success had it integrated information and services surrounding loyalty and other schemes usually associated with credit cards such as frequent flyer programmes. For what its worth, the run of the Little Black Book was good, and fair play to First Direct in recognising the need to retire the community.