Capital One Card Lab

Capital One launched Card Lab, which it claims is the first “do-it-yourself” credit card offer. It’s an interactive tool that lets prospective card applicants choose among a number of options to build their own card package. Not surprisingly, you can’t get a 25% annual bonus and 2 points per $1 charged and 1.25% back on purchases and….you get the picture (otherwise see below).

My take: Card Lab is a winner because it:

1) Builds up versus narrows down. To date, many financial services sites that have even bothered to try to help site users make a product choice have started from the premise of helping prospects choose from a list of product options. Tools like those from Experion Systems (which I really like) take an interview approach and make a product recommendation at the end of the process. This can leave prospects wondering what other options might have been available had they answered one or more questions differently.

Card Lab’s approach puts prospects in charge, and presents the options in such a way that they can easily see the tradeoffs they make when selecting certain options. With this approach, what might be perceived as a daunting range of product options is basically hidden from the prospect.

2) Engages with interactivity. Simply replicating a product options chart from offline collateral to online web page is a shameful misuse of the channel’s capabilities. Some firms have taken remedial steps like letting site users click on certain product feature descriptions to drill down to more information.

Card Lab, on the other hand, is a great demonstration of the interactivity the channel is capable of delivering. Serious prospects can play what-if to their hearts’ content in order to understand the product features and tradeoffs available to them. And, most importantly I think, they come away feeling like they’ve made the best decision for them.

3) Yields actionable data.
The web analytics folks at Cap One are going to have a field day with Card Lab. Analyzing the usage, trends, clickstream, etc. should help Cap One marketers get a really good understanding of who’s looking for cards online, what their preferences are, which features are most popular, and so on. And knowing Cap One, and what good marketers they are, they’ll use this data to develop and refine their offers and marketing programs.

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To date, many financial services sites have relied on the “here’s the product data — make a choice and come back and we’ll take your order” mentality. What makes Card Lab so important is that it fills a gap in the buying cycle that few sites have effectively dealt with — the part where someone weighs their options and makes an informed choice.

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