Publishing is a radically different business to what it was five years ago. Adopting digital technology across multiple business disciplines has taught us plenty over the years. Some of you may remember MoneySaver, a coupon booklet that we distributed to over 5 million homes every eight weeks. The bittersweet story of MoneySaver’s demise provides three valuable lessons.
Back in the mid-2000s, before everyone was perpetually attached to their smartphones, MoneySaver was a clever, efficient and effective way for brands to connect with customers in their local areas. We produced about 12 different localised versions of MoneySaver so consumers simply had to flick through the book, discover an amazing deal, and visit a local business to redeem their coupon.
It was 2011 and MoneySaver had been thriving for about a decade. We were really proud of the strong and successful product we had built after having inherited it through a merger. But two threats had caught our attention. The first: a new competitor. The second: suddenly, everyone was going crazy for the daily deals websites that had started popping up.
All the talk about digital transformation was getting louder and louder. Smartphones were the next big thing, it was all about apps. We knew we had to make a change, and we wanted to be there at the digital forefront of it all. So we thought it was time to take MoneySaver mobile – an app.
The MoneySaver Vouchers app was a beautiful piece of technology – everything we hoped it would be. We spent many, many months perfecting it, not to mention the dollars. When we launched, it became a staff favourite and before we could blink it had over 100,000 downloads.
But within six months of achieving this goal, the business was dead.
MoneySaver disaster lesson #1 – You don’t have to rush into digital with everyone else
In hindsight, we moved too early. Our clients simply weren’t ready for MoneySaver to become an app, no matter how much potential we thought our new channel had (or how much they told us they wanted to go digital/mobile).
It didn’t help that we launched right in the middle of the daily deal craze. We knew those business models weren’t sustainable; we could already envision their demise (and those premonitions have since come true). Some of these companies were ripping retailers off and failing to attract the right customers, while complaints to the Ombudsman were escalating. They certainly weren’t doing it right, but we were crying out for attention in parallel.
MoneySaver disaster lesson #2 – Always remember the customer experience is core
We poured our resources into the app’s creation, but we underestimated the amount of work that would be required to ensure it actually provided a great user experience.
Don’t get us wrong, we did plenty of UX testing on the app – we just neglected the UX of its content.
In order for this app to appeal to our customers, we needed to fully utilise its geolocation capabilities with a full list of coupon options appearing practically every three kilometres. We needed to substantially boost the size of our business – so we really should have invested in a large-scale telemarketing partnership instead of obsessing over the tech.
MoneySaver disaster lesson #3 – Understand the core issue
We thought jumping ahead of our competitors with a brilliant piece of technology would revolutionise an industry that had not really changed in 30 years.
But our new direct competitor’s strategy of improving the perception around delivery gained a foothold with clients. While they did absolutely nothing new, their focus on a key area of customer concern proved that clients felt more comfortable with a slight improvement to an old product as opposed to a revolutionary new product.