Director, Mobile, Social and Emerging Media
JANUARY 21, 2011 – At Nationwide, Shawn Morton is focused on bringing emerging areas such as social media, mobile marketing and gaming to the forefront. Morton spoke to eMarketer’s Lauren McKay about the significance of online channels to Nationwide’s growth and customer relationships.
eMarketer: How has the web become an important marketing tool at Nationwide?
“We’re looking at various digital channels to drive the business forward.”
Shawn Morton: Digital has been growing in importance for a while at Nationwide. Like most companies in the industry, we weren’t early in digital, but we’ve made some strides, especially in social and mobile. We really wanted to try to be first in search, as well. We’re looking at various digital channels to drive the business forward.
eMarketer: Can you tell us more about your current online marketing initiatives?
Morton: We’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how people shop for insurance. Search-we’ve been there for several years- continues to be a big area. And we’ve done more with our Nationwide.com website over the past couple of years, as well.
We know the voice of the customer is a trusted source of information. So we work with Bazaarvoice to encourage customer reviews on our auto insurance product. This allows us to get the voice of the customer where people are shopping and researching our products. We’ve started to see some success with this and now we’re looking to figure how we can integrate that beyond just Nationwide.com and onto some of our social outposts, like Facebook.
“It sounds like a strange way of looking at it, but there is value in a negative review here and there.”
Customer reviews are something that people really look to as they’re shopping. We have a system in place to respond to reviews if, for example, negative ones come up. It sounds like a strange way of looking at it, but there is value in a negative review here and there. If all you see is five stars and everything is perfect, it feels more like a testimonial or like we may have stacked the deck in our favor.
We’re continuing to develop mobile capabilities. We were the first insurance company with a mobile claims app and recently we launched the first phase of a mobile website focused on customer acquisition that we’re going to build out this year. With the site you will be able to look at customer reviews and to get a quote. We’re trying to put those tools in the hands of a customer in the context of where they may be or how far along in the decision process they are.
eMarketer: In addition to the Nationwide mobile website, what else are you doing in mobile?
“You can whip out your iPhone and take pictures of the accident scene. You can mark your location with GPS, collect all the driver information and then start your claim right from your phone.”
Morton: We have Nationwide Mobile, which is our standalone app that currently exists on iPhone, and we will have an Android version out in January 2011. It is really more of a customer-facing app. It allows you to do mobile claims. If you happen to be in an accident, you can whip out your iPhone and take pictures of the accident scene. You can mark your location with GPS, collect all the driver information and then start your claim right from your phone. As for car-shopping tools, those things may end up in Nationwide Mobile, which is our customer app, or they may resurface in some variation on our mobile website as well.
eMarketer: What has Nationwide learned from experimenting with social media?
Morton: Early on we were making some educated guesses. We tried some things with NASCAR. We wanted to go behind the scenes at the races and show people things that they couldn’t see on ESPN. We saw some good success because-much to our surprise-there was a large NASCAR community on Twitter at the time. There were already existing hashtags, so we were able to add value to an existing community. It was a nice, easy win and something that we could build on.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series Facebook presence has grown organically from nothing at the beginning of the season to close to 35,000 fans. The growth has allowed us to test an engagement model. What will people respond to? What do they comment on? What do they click on? What kind of content do they talk about?
This year we’re hoping to do some more paid media to try to build the audience. We feel like we’ve figured out what engages them. Now we can build on that and hopefully take that to a much larger audience for next season.
“The really meaningful interactions take place at that local agent level where there are more personal relationships.”
In terms of what’s next, we’re trying to figure out how to help Nationwide’s agent force use social media well. That will be a big focus for us this year-making sure that our agents have the tools and the curriculum and training to know how to do it well. We really believe social media is about connecting on a personal level. While it’s great to have fans of a brand page, and it’s great to have people comment and share there, the really meaningful interactions take place at that local agent level where there are more personal relationships.
eMarketer: What new metrics have you established for your social media efforts?
“Social media and digital are really easy to measure, but we don’t always know what the values are.”
Morton: We often look at brand awareness as well as how many people start a quote and how many people buy policies online. Social media and digital are really easy to measure, but we don’t always know what the values are. You can easily count clickthroughs. You can easily count Facebook fans. You can easily count Twitter followers and Facebook fans. You can easily count Twitter followers. But until you put a value on those, as a company, or sometimes for a specific campaign, they can be difficult to evaluate. We’re really trying to look at, in a specific case, and for a specific campaign, what are the things we want to achieve? Then, what are the things within digital we’re going to measure?
eMarketer: How has Nationwide used the web to scale “The World’s Greatest Spokesperson in the World” campaign?
Morton: It was our first large campaign that had digital tactics built in on the front end. In addition to our TV spends and other traditional media spends, we did a lot online. We set up microsites. We set up Facebook and Twitter and YouTube channels for the World’s Greatest Spokesperson. We also made an effort to reference them as much as possible and to drive people to those channels, where in the past we may have not opted to do the digital piece. We created digital-only content that you could only get on our YouTube channel, or Facebook, for example.
“The big takeaway for us was that [the World’s Greatest Spokesperson] got people talking.”
Since it wasn’t a national campaign at first, the digital piece helped us reach people beyond the initial 14 markets where we launched. The big takeaway for us was that he got people talking.
We saw early that, with any character, you’re going to have people that love him and those that don’t. That was interesting to see, because in the insurance category, there isn’t a lot of affinity. People don’t log onto Facebook to go talk about insurance. So having a character or a campaign gave people a reason to comment. It was a positive step for us in being able to start having conversations with consumers.
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