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‘Tis the Season for Change

Posted by Courtnie Hallendy

Mon, Nov 16, 2020

Holiday Season Fin Serv Blog Opener

Impact of Shifting and Alternative Payment Options

The leaves are turning, the temps are cooling (I’ve already had the first snowfall of the year), and I’m about to replace the Halloween candy with Holiday cookies! While the shelves are filling with the familiar touchstones of the holidays, for most of us this will be a very different holiday season.

All year we have been watching and analyzing the impact of 2020 on consumer behavior trends. Some changes, born from the pandemic, seem to have some longevity to them – online grocery shopping and delivery, reduced travel, shifting spending habits among credit cards (especially those whose rewards focus on travel), and increased usage in alternative payment methods. With the possibility of another round of shutdowns, household budgets are tighter than ever. The question is, what do these shifts mean for the next few months of consumer behavior?

2020 Holiday Shopper Anxiety Micrographic

This holiday season I am most interested in two, closely linked, consumer habits: increased online shopping, and changing payment methods. Way back in April of 2020, CMB looked at consumer sentiment and behaviors related to COVID. Though we were just at the beginning of our new normal, 42% of consumers said they were doing more online shopping and 52% said that they plan to continue this after normal returns. Factoring in anxiety around in-store shopping as we enter prime retail sales time, we should look at how payment methods have changed in 2020.

Fin Serv Season for Change Blog Nov 2020 Activities

Like many Americans, since March, I am spending less overall, at different places, and with different payment decision criteria (debit vs. credit and which credit card). For example, in my house most non-household bills went on the one credit card that gave us airline miles. We love to travel, so this just made sense. Well, I don’t see that trip to Spain happening in the next 8 months, so I evaluated credit cards that provided rewards relevant to my current normal and ended up with a new card…Amazon! Now, this is my go-to card, that replaced my airline card and then some… I am putting everything on it – groceries, cell phone bills, vet bills, etc. I am in the group of consumers that are shifting their top of wallet decision criteria and expanding usage to take advantage of rewards that are relevant to me.

For others (especially Gen Z) who don’t have, use, or want a credit card, we are seeing a shift to alternative payment methods. Our own research from late 2019 showed that PayPal had an advantage over the other brands we tested, but this was before most large credit card issuers introduced their own versions of alternative financing.

Fin Serv Season for Change Blog Nov 2020

We have seen an increase in reported shifts away from credit cards and cash to debit or alternative financing options like Affirm or PayPal – especially among those in the lower household income ranges and younger consumers. The CMB Financial Services team is working with clients to understand what this means for their business, what products they should be marketing, and what, if any, partnerships they should be leveraging. The consumer data is supporting what we all know to be true in our own households – our decision criteria is different now than it was before. The decision of what and when to purchase, but also the decision on how to pay for it.

Now is the time when consumers are making their holiday shopping plans. Now is the time to get the voice of the customer to drive the late Q4 strategy. How are they going to make their gift purchases (or the materials they need for the next great Pinterest inspiration)? How are they going to pay for things? A deep understanding of consumer behavior and motivations will help guide us towards the right questions to ask and create meaningful, pandemic-resistant, consumer-centric business strategies.


Courtnie Hallendy

Courtnie Hallendy is an Account Director at CMB, with more than 15 years of experience in market research on both the client and vendor sides of the business.

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Topics: financial services research, consumer insights, Market research, BrandFx, COVID-19, Emotional Benefits, financial services

TMRE 2020 Takeaways

Posted by Kate Zilla-Ba

Wed, Oct 14, 2020

Post TMRE Oct 2020 Blog Opener

Planning a virtual conference is a job you couldn't pay me enough to do. From what I heard in chatting with this year’s TMRE attendees, sometimes the tech works and sometimes it doesn’t. However, those of us who attended witnessed a great willingness to get the most out of the event and a lot of positive energy. So for sanity’s sake, let’s keep the elephant in the room that is COVID-19 to the side, skip the things we have all heard already, and focus on the most interesting takeaways from this week’s event:

  • What’s Next for Preparedness? Some speakers said you should’ve been prepared for the chaos that is the current  business environment. But most said, “…umm who could have REALLY been prepared for this insanity?!?” For me, the key is how to be prepared for next month and next year. Thankfully, there were lots of tips on what alternative research tools (aka virtual) have been applied successfully and behavioral data was front and center.
  • A Warning for “Agile” Researchers. Talk about being "agile" was everywhere, but in many cases the word was used as a synonym for "fast". While fast can be great, it's not always best. Iterative agility in the traditional sense of the term for research can be amazingly impactful. An iterative approach– develop, measure, change, retest, rinse, repeat– clearly has a role to play in improving the research of tomorrow. But being quick is only as good as being smart. On this note, Abby Finnis, Sr. Director of Portfolio Insights & Analytics at PepsiCo Beverages, made the point of needing to embrace hybrid solutions that bring a variety of sources to bear during her panel session, “How Dunkin’, PepsiCo, and Unilever are Shaping the Future of Research.” To me, that feels more like the best type of agile.
  • How to have a seat at the table. This classic question was reframed a bit for 2020 as how to bring together disparate business users and uses of research to maximize the utility of insights and ensure successful socialization and implementation. Sure, some of this was looking for ways to ensure insights can be efficiently developed once, and be used in a variety of settings and applications. But more importantly, TMRE addressed how we can be more consultative. For some, being more consultative meant forgoing a degree of certainty, which is not necessarily a comfortable space for a researcher, but in the end we must “elevate” the most relevant themes to each stakeholder in order to make an impact, and to have a seat at the table.

These themes were particularly relevant in my colleague Lori Vellucci’s presentation “Wealth of a Generation | Get Inside the Minds of Young Investors,” which explored investors under 40. Her research on young investors, which leveraged our BrandFxSM approach, is a strong example of how brands can understand a diverse and important demographic, based on four pillars of human motivation: functional, emotional, social, and identity. Research like this can help people across disparate organizational silos create roadmaps for change – there’s a way to get your seat at the table; measuring in a focused ongoing way allows brands to keep insights relevant and quick-turn – that’s a way to be responsive to the oft-sought agility; and in a rapidly changing environment where being prepared means predicting right, understanding human motivation sets brands up for future success by, to quote one presenter at TMRE “building resiliency into business strategy.”


Kate Zilla-BaKate Zilla-Ba, Account Director

Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest financial services research: Get Inside the Mind of the Young Investor. And stayed tuned for more of our findings—experiential and beyond.
Immerse Yourself
Follow CMB on 
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Topics: strategy consulting, financial services research, conference recap, Market research, agile research, COVID-19, financial services

COVID-Induced FOMO in Young Investors

Posted by Lori Vellucci

Wed, Oct 07, 2020

COVID FOMO Blog Opener

By most measures 2020 has been a sharp stick in the eye. But Millennials and Gen Zers have had it especially rough– in fact, they’ve experienced economic, environmental, and political upheaval for most of their lives. Many have never known a time when the United States was not at war with someone. They arrived to the party with a certain baseline of anxiety and fear shaped by the world and personal events throughout their formative years. As they say, “change happens in a crucible” (thanks, Mack Turner), and with the added stress of the pandemic, many young investors took their anxiety and fear and boldly channeled it into a new proactive approach to investing. They were determined not to miss the market sale, as many of them did for one reason or another back in ‘08/’09. New account openings were at an all-time high this past spring for traditional financial services brands and the plethora of born-online digital platforms.

Who Will Young Investors Turn To?

With this new focus and new money floating around, coupled with the stark realization that the markets go in both directions, these new investors need knowledge and guidance. Many firms have stepped up and made significant efforts to provide both to these less affluent newbies. But the final answer to an important question remains, who will they trust most with their future? There are two knee-jerk responses to this question: (1) the storied and well-established institutions which have reached a hand to these new potential customers OR (2) the born-online, new, fresh tech platforms targeted to these digital natives.

Are YOU Missing Out on the Young Investor?

There’s good reason to choose either of these options as the answer. However, investment firms must consider the four psychological benefits that drive brand engagement: emotional, identity, social, and functional. For brands across industries, leading prospects to expect these benefits drives consideration, and delivering these benefits to customers drives loyalty. And, for investment firms—disruptors and established alike—these psychological benefits are the key to winning the hearts and wallets of young investors.

BrandFx Four Benefits Pillars

We know that financial services brands (traditional or digital) deliver against these four pillars with varying degrees of success. However, there are other players outside of financial services and fintech that bear consideration and a watchful eye (and which already deliver important drivers of engagement in spades). Tech Brands like Apple, Google, and Amazon already have the attention of young investors in other aspects of their lives. Further, some have begun to make forays into financial services through offering of credit cards and mobile payments. It may be a short reach for them to move their customers into high yield savings and investing through partnerships, purchases, or built-from-scratch offerings. While there are certainly barriers in place to jumping in with both feet, the strength of these brands warrant a watchful eye.

So where do financial services firms start? Functional benefits are table stakes, so delivering those benefits alone aren’t enough to attract new investors. It’s therefore crucial for brands to deliver the identity, social, and emotional benefits to drive engagement. Make young investors feel safe and secure (emotional benefits) through every touchpoint. Find a way to help them to express themselves (identity benefits) by ensuring that their financial brand aligns with their values and help them to connect with others as they embark on their investing journey (social benefits).

YI Experience Micrographic Sep20 (2)

Three Takeaways for Investment Firms

As detailed in our latest report: Get Inside the Mind of the Young Investor, here’s what you can do so that you don’t miss out on the young investor:

  1. Ensure representatives are focused on helping young investors leave each touchpoint feeling positive, low activation emotions like peace, calm, and security
  2. Understand your customer identity and ensure campaigns and marketing assets present a compelling image of the typical customer for young investors
  3. Deliver Social Benefits that resonate through ESG and socially responsible investing and building communities of like-minded investors

Lori VellucciLori Vellucci, VP Financial Services Practice Leader
Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest financial services research: Get Inside the Mind of the Young Investor. And stayed tuned for more of our findings—experiential and beyond.
Immerse Yourself
Follow CMB on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Topics: financial services research, brand health and positioning, Market research, BrandFx, COVID-19, financial services, young investors

CMB Spotlight: Courtnie Hallendy

Posted by Chadwick Martin Bailey

Tue, Sep 22, 2020

Spotlight Series Opener Courtnie

For over 15 years, Courtnie has been a strategic consultant for some of the world’s leading brands. She brings a deep research expertise and a truly collaborative approach to her work with clients including Chase and Fidelity. She earned her undergraduate degree from Michigan State and an MBA from Oakland University.

1. What brought you to work at/in Market Research?

I always knew I needed to do something with math, but I also wanted something creative, which is exactly what this career allows me to do. As I’ve grown, I’ve realized just how much I enjoy the strategic side of the business: pushing myself to think five steps ahead, anticipate challenges, and help clients creatively and proactively problem solve.

2. What’s the secret to developing not just good but great client relationships?

To drive client relationships forward, you need honesty, integrity, and mutual respect. Developing a deep level of trust takes time, and effort. Sometimes it’s not easy, but it’s so worth it. Don’t give up. If it doesn’t work at first, I will try new communication styles and approaches to create that relationship. It’s that tenacity and commitment that speaks volumes to even the toughest critics.

3. Who has been a major influence in your career?

The strongest mentors (I believe you should always have more than one!) in my life are outside of the industry, which I think is important so that you can have a neutral person to confide in, give advice, and act as a source of inspiration of what you can bring to your own industry. It can be harder to find the right one and to start those relationships, but you’ll be surprised at how willing others are to help and invest in your personal and professional development if you just ask.

4. We talk about “The CMB Difference” a lot to clients. What does it mean to you?

When you’re in a professional services industry, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself, but it’s really important. CMB is as committed to its employees as we are to our clients. Our culture is supportive, transparent, and engaging, which shows in our relationships with one other, our clients, and our work. I feel like I’ve always been here.

5. Tell us about a project/initiative you’re particularly proud of. What about that experience helped you to adapt, innovate, and/or grow?

One project that stands out was when I was working at Toyota Financial Services. I was developing its online community, with the goal of engaging with our tough-to-reach demographic. In launching this relatively new format, I was faced with an increasingly restrictive budget (remember the financial crisis of 2008/2009?!), and securing executive buy-in all while trying to think innovatively and creatively, as well as challenge myself to structure research in a sustainable way. This experience affirmed my ability to push myself outside the norm, tackle large initiatives, and be ok with uncertainty, which is critical to growth and innovation.

I’ve applied the lessons I learned at Toyota since. Currently, I am leading a team at CMB to support a major financial services brand developing a system and process for getting research insights on a quick and consistent schedule. We have had to innovate and grow as individuals and as a company to ensure that we are able to execute this important initiative with the high-value and quality research that CMB is known for. It’s exciting to be a part of.

6. If you could have any superpower what would it be/What’s your superpower?

Fly. My husband and I love to travel (in fact, his first Christmas present to me was getting his first passport so we could travel together). It would be great to save that time and money on transportation and get to explore my destination more.

And in the time of COVID-19, I think everyone’s superpower is the ability to just hold it all together (whatever that means for you and your family). Taking that a step further, being the guide and the calm for my teammates and clients is something I really try to strive for every day and would like to say is a superpower. I always try to be a duck: calm above the water, no matter how quickly my feet are peddling below. Maintaining that balance is that’s what having great mentors and managers are for.

7. Show us what a typical day in the life of Courtnie looks like.

Spotlight Day in the Life_Courtnie 2020-1


Courtnie HallendyTo learn more, reach out to Courtnie here.

CMB's Spotlight Series brings to life the CMB Difference through our people and clients. Read all of our spotlights here.

Follow CMB on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Topics: our people, financial services research, CMB Spotlight Series, financial services

Social Detox, Financial Retox

Posted by Lori Vellucci

Wed, Feb 12, 2020

Sure, we all love the feels we get staying connected to family and friends, but if you want to feel really good in 2020, log off social media and invest with a financial services firm!

Hold the skepticism and allow me to give a little background. As part of our self-funded Consumer Pulse program, we asked over 20,000 people to evaluate 80 financial services, tech, and media brands on the four key psychological benefits that help people fulfill core motivations: Emotional, Identity, Social, and Functional. Each benefit plays an important role in driving brand consideration, trial, loyalty, and advocacy. Using our proprietary BrandFxSM solution, we can give our clients a complete picture of their brand’s performance versus competitors, the interrelationships between the benefits, and the best path to capturing their target audiences. 

So back to those financial services brands. Of course, we expected to see differences between brands within each industry. I was intrigued by an insight that emerged when comparing across industries. Many social media platforms performed far worse on maximizing positive and minimizing negative emotional benefits than financial services brands who, let’s face it, have traditionally been content to focus on functional benefits (e.g. low fees). But investors, competition, and the market are changing, and more, financial service brands are realizing the complex consumer psychology behind brand engagement. Take a look at the powerful consumer-centric messaging from Prudential. It’s important to note that benefits have varying levels of relative importance within different industries, but emotions indeed matter to financial brand customers. They matter a lot!

Importance of Emotional Benefits Financial Services Blog Feb 2020

The truth is, the financial services industry, and investment firms in particular, have done quite a bit in recent years to personalize offerings and humanize their brands through advertising and target-specific messaging, whether they are primarily DIY focused or advisor reliant.  At the same time, social media has been plagued by bad PR and concerns over the negative impact on users.

Blog Feb 2020 Emotional Benefits Financial Services Industry Comparison

In addition to feeling good, consumers want to enhance their self-image, pride, and self-esteem through the brands they choose. Financial services firms perform better in delivering benefits related to overall identity - personal identity, tribal appeal, relatability--where social media brands perform relatively poorly. Lastly, financial services brands significantly outperform social media on delivering important functional benefits: goals, expectations, time, and money.    

If you want to build your brand, keep your customers loyal, and achieve greatness within your industry, you can’t rely on potentially outdated measures like NPS (what is that score really telling you anyway?). Instead, measure the elements that truly drive the behaviors that matter.  And in 2020, stop watching cat videos and log onto your investment firm’s website.  Check your investments, try some tools, make a few trades and then bask in those positive emotions, feelings of belonging, and sense of accomplishment. It’s going to be a good year.


Lori VellucciLori Vellucci, VP, Financial Services Practice Leader.

Follow CMB on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Topics: financial services research, emotional measurement, BrandFx