PURLs for Profit: How Zions Bank Harnessed Personalized URLs for Onboarding

”We were surprised by how many customers used their personalized landing page even after signing up for a new product.”
— Matthew Wilcox,
eBusiness Director/Zions

Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Zions Bank ($52 billion in assets) had a healthy list of new customers to which it wanted to upgrade. In particular, after a customer would sign up for an account, she would go through an onboarding program in where the bank analyzed all the metrics around the customer to determine what her next product would most likely be.

How did personalized URLs (PURLs) fit into the project? Zions Bank sent new customers a special, customized personal URL on an initial mailing that kicked off the upsell process. Zions created a relevant and updated personalized landing page for each customer who recently opened an account.

The primary goal, of course, was to expand the number of products per household.

“With existing clients, that [sales] ‘funnel’ can run dry unless you have some acquisition program and involve them in a multi-touch program,” explained Matthew Wilcox, eBusiness Director for Zions Bancorporation.

Part of Wilcox’s challenge was finding a way to make several channels — direct mail, email, paid search and phone — all work together within the context of the PURL project.

How It Works

The audience consisted of Zions Bank customers who recently signed up for an account. Overall, there were nine core products included in the cross-selling effort. All new customers were broken up into product groups based on their propensity for one of these nine products.

If the customer supplied an email address, the bank first sent an email. If there was no email on file, then a direct mail piece was sent. Based on the response to the piece, customers either received a follow-up email or direct mail piece. Overall, the list was split roughly 50/50 between direct mail and email.

A standard, white #10 envelope was used, without any teasers. Inside, a relatively tame letter greeted the customer, with engagement services listed on the side. What stood out, however, was the personalized URL, as well as “variable images” customized to match the offer and recipient.

Each personalized landing page bore a strong resemblance to the direct mail letter and email message. The email mirrored the letter creative, but subject lines varied. Often, they would include the first name of the prospect in the subject line — something like “Joe, special offer on VOLP checking.”

“It featured one new product for the customer alongside a host of engagement services that metrics revealed would be beneficial to the relationship,” Wilcox said.

Roughly half the people in the data file were sent an email first, then a follow-up postcard. For those customers who hadn’t provided an email address, they were sent a direct mail piece. If neither of those steps worked, then Zions Bank used sales staff at branches for some outbound calling.





Surprise: People Keep Looking at PURLs

“We were surprised by how many customers used their personalized landing page even after signing up for a new product,” Wilcox stated. “We didn’t envision that, so we will be doing that differently going forward.”

Now the PURL changes on a monthly basis.

“We’ve seen an increase in traffic to those URLs,” Wilcox testified. “We knew we’d get people to go to them, but we didn’t envision that people would revisit them after they purchased the product. So people were bookmarking the page rather than the static website URL and engaging with us that way.”

“We had some skeptical executives who are now singing the praises of this PURL strategy.”
— Matthew Wilcox,
eBusiness Director/Zions

Overall the campaign achieved an account response rate of 5%, with about 75% of additional accounts encompassing deposit products. Statistically, the initial emails had an average open rate of almost 18%, with a slight dip in follow-up emails down to 14%. Clickthrough rates for the first email averaged around 1.8%, dropping to 1% for the second emailing.

“While the response rate wasn’t as high as we had hoped for the first round, in the second round the response went up when we went with similar products,” noted Wilcox.

“Because the campaign was an integrated multi-touch (meaning that everyone received multiple touch points), there is no precise way to provide a break-out that attributes a conversion to any one particular communication,” Wilcox added.

The email followups definitely helped increase the campaign’s results, and the traditional direct mail pieces captured more email addresses. “So it was true multichannel success,” Wilcox said.

Zions initially piloted PURLs in late 2009 before getting the full roll out in March 2010. Not knowing how popular these personalized landing pages would become, it was the first comprehensive personalized product that Zions had done.

Will this kind of PURL mailing be used again?

Yes. The multi-touch campaign now runs on a quarterly basis, and Wilcox says Zions is planning to roll out a similar program for the bank’s business clients soon.

More Information

This article is an edited excerpt from the DirectMarketingIQ report “PURLs for Profit: Your Everything-You-Need-to-Know Guide to Personalized URLs,” including why they work, campaign strategy, multichannel creative, analytics, best practices and ten case studies. The report includes the Zions Bank case study as well as one about a credit union.

Ethan Boldt is the Chief Content Officer of DirectMarketingIQ, the research division of the Target Marketing Group and publisher of special reports, how-to guides and books for the direct marketing industry.

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