Turning to digital and social insights to grow market share 

Editor’s note: Jeremy Hollow is founder and MD at Listen+Learn Research, London. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared under the title, “Winning a place in the suitcase: how AXA used digital and social insight to build relevance and engagement.” 

Imagine for a moment:

The e-mail you’ve been waiting for pings into your inbox. You smile and find yourself humming, “I’m leaving, on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.” It’s been your dream to work in Hong Kong for years and now it’s happening. New year, new life.

“OK, Google. What do I need to know about moving abroad?”

In another part of town, another e-mail arrives. Subject line: International growth strategy – planning meeting. Another big challenge – a different side of the same coin.

AXA Global Healthcare turned to research and insights to grow market share 

AXA Global Healthcare knows better than most how important it is to have the right medical cover when moving abroad, but it’s audience often does not – especially those used to the NHS. So, if it was going to grow its market share (without a crazy advertising budget) it would need to be smart about building awareness.

However, it faced a big challenge: this is a hard to reach, transient audience … one that’s not engaged with AXA or its products. So, how do you find and interest them during this busy and exciting moment of their life? AXA knew it had to go on its own journey and expand its own horizons. And the company chose social insight as its travel companion.

Optimizing marketing spend: Taking a person-centered approach to insights

AXA desired to step into the shoes of its audience – people about to move abroad. It was looking to find them, get close to them and understand what really matters to them.

The company had the usual expat information, but the same old dry facts weren’t going to cut it.

AXA needed a more person-centered view, one that understood the digital journeys people go on when looking to move abroad. Insights that told them: What do people ask for? What do they find? Where do they go? What does this tell us about their needs, thoughts, feelings and how to engage with them?

The answers would help optimize their channel strategy and marketing spend to reach the right people, at the right time, in the right way.

Combining search and social data

It’s been a dream of researchers for years, to be able to observe, without interfering. To watch and learn without biasing.

Today, researchers can combine search and social data to give an observed view of the digital journey.

First stop, Google.

Google search data lets us see what people actually look for, and the links they’re most likely to click on. This helps us map out the most common digital journeys people go on when they want advice about moving abroad.

Search links to information (think Home Office travel advice or Visa application websites), and it’ll also take you to dedicated forums. People start reading the information that’s out there, then turn to forums to see what it all means, how it applies to them, get answers to specific questions and work out what to do next.

Next stop, social.

Using search data and social listening tools we mapped out the social space dedicated to helping people move countries (i.e., the aptly named Expatforum.com, Britishexpats.com or Expatwoman.com). We found a lively and vibrant discussion, full of rich detail about the experience of moving.

Combining the results of this digital journey mapping showed us what people look for, where they end up and what the needs and motivations are behind their journey. It also lets us see where the commonalities were across each market and what was unique.

Social media fills in information gaps.

Having mapped out these digital journeys, now it was time to see how social media helped people fill in the gaps.

We listened to thousands of conversations, across five markets and unpicked what was important to people before they moved. Their needs, worries, motivations and frustrations.

This is one of the most powerful applications of social insight – how it teaches us about the hearts and minds of an audience. It lets you discover the meaning in the data, making sense of the social conversation.

We read each comment to understand the full range of human experiences. The feelings, the things that keep people awake at night … what matters most to them when taking this leap in the unknown.

We then created a detailed comparison this across the different markets to enable decision-making.

This was presented to AXA, and showed the opportunities and how to realize them – from the channels to choose, the products to offer and the words to use. 

From insight to strategy, attention to conversion

Social media connects you with your warmer prospects; groups of people who are active and interested in your category.

Using social insights helped AXA think differently about how it talks to people moving abroad (Notice how we’re not banging on about expats anymore?).

Using social insights to improve ROI. 

This research led to big improvements in the ROI AXA gets from digital advertising. Targeting people earlier in their decision-making process and with messaging more aligned with their needs has created:

– A 12.5% increase year-over-year in quotes from display since launching the campaign.
– A 16% reduction in the cost per lead (compared with before the campaign).

It’s changed the way AXA thinks about and talks to its prospects: giving them a new language and conversation. 

– AXA changed its call scripts (not something done lightly) so its agents can be more empathetic and personalized. To know how to ask the right, open, questions; what to say or not say; to build a relationship with the caller.
– They changed the structure of the conversation, e.g., they now lead by sharing tips “people like you find this useful.” Although people see their situation as unique, they also want to feel like they’re not alone and to use the decisions of the herd to reassure of their choices.
– AXA has also changed its sales brochures to show more stories of people’s experiences – because people want to hear from people in similar situations, like them.

AXA also changed its website, paid search and content. 

For example, they learned that people moving abroad don’t always identify as an expat. So they’ve shifted its product language from “expat health insurance” to “international health insurance.”

This work continues to support a number of different work streams, from refreshing the sales inquiry process, through to PR and communications in each market and continues to provide the insight backbone to their marketing strategy.