Remarkable things always come in threes
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Remarkable things always come in threes

Zerlina Jackson, Director of Web Experience, H&R Block
Zerlina Jackson, Director of Web Experience, H&R Block

Zerlina Jackson, Director of Web Experience, H&R Block

Bacon, lettuce, tomato. Rock, paper, scissors. Beyoncé, Michelle, Kelly. These are all amazing trios.

But, if you’re into digital marketing, the new trifecta is data, technology, and experience. And just like any good trio, it is truly a game changer. The introduction of big data, marketing technology advancements, coupled with evolving client expectations, has completely shifted the way that organizations engage with prospects and clients.

At the start of my digital career in 2006, things were much different. There wasn’t a selection of amazing apps to download on your Blackberry or Palm Treo to engage with brands. Only 42 percent of homes had high-speed internet connections and everyone had the same digital experience (gasp). Online clients didn’t expect seamless digital journeys and were much more forgiving of friction. Don’t have an awesome user experience? No problem. You don’t know who I am and what I like when I sign in? No worries. You need me to re-enter information? Irritating, but I’ll do it.

Fast forward 12 years. Now 90 percent of people have high-speed internet connections at home and most of us have unlimited data in our pocket and on our wrist. Sophisticated devices understand who we are, our daily routines, and our habits, making our lives much easier. The Nest system can detect if we’re driving home and ask if we want to adjust our temperature. Google Home and Alexa can assist with checking the weather, calling friends, or ordering goods to our doorstep—all without picking up the phone or getting into a car. And random activities like waiting on car service, a pizza, a package, or a tax refund, can be improved with technology and provide an overall better experience with a brand. Clients now expect and demand seamless digital interactions.

  Our digital media team spearheads the charge of identifying clients and prospects across the web and implementing 1:1 targeted campaigns 

At H&R Block, our clients are not only comparing their tax experience with other tax preparers such as TurboTax, TaxAct, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty; they are comparing it with their other daily digital interactions. They ask, “If Apple can make it easy, Amazon can deliver it fast,

Facebook can help me stay connected, Google can find it for me, Uber can get me there, then why can’t H&R Block work the same?” Therefore, if our website takes too long to load - they’ll leave and try a different site. If they can’t find what they are looking for from us – they’ll leave and go find an answer elsewhere. If the site isn’t optimized to help them accomplish their goals easily – they’ll just leave.

So how does the nation’s largest and oldest tax preparation company leverage data and technology to improve client experience and do it all within 89 days (the length of a tax season)? By going back to our roots.

When Henry & Richard Bloch started H&R Block in 1955, they did so to help people who didn’t have tax expertise navigate the tax filing process. Our goal was a simple one, look at a client’s life through the tax and find ways to help. The process was also simple. An anxious client would come into an office to meet with a tax professional; we worked to get them the best outcome, and the client wouldn’t think about their taxes again until the following year (repeat).

Fast forward 63 years and now clients don’t rely on their tax preparer as their single resource for tax prep.

Today’s taxpayers:

• Work across multiple devices to find tax answers from message boards, blogs, competitors, tax content websites, and the government.

• Can decide how they want to prepare their taxes (in an office, at home with a remote tax pro, on their own, have a pro review it, etc.)

• Shop around for the best value and experience through a series of calculators, tools, and recommendations from others online.

In the face of continuous change, the one thing that will always remain consistent is H&R Block’s commitment to help people through their tax process. We continue to look at our client’s lives through tax; but we’re just leveraging technology to do it better. Our goal is to create online experiences that are aligned to client expectations and simplify their engagement with our brand. We do this by working with a smart team of data scientists, analytic experts, techies, UX/UI pros, content strategists, and others to develop, test, and make optimizations based on current user behaviors and prior purchase history. Our digital media team spearheads the charge of identifying clients and prospects across the web and implementing 1:1 targeted campaigns. Next, the baton is passed to the web team to develop audience based onsite experiences. Amy Hu, VP of Interactive & Media at H&R Block coins this as a “Tip-to-Tail Strategy.”

Hu states, “Our goal is to provide an optimized experience from the very first client interaction. But if we don’t quite hit the mark, we want to fail quickly. Learn what’s working, what’s not, and optimize so that we continue to improve the experience for future clients.”

Simply, our goal is to make it simple. When a targeted audience member lands on our website, we leverage all the data and technology available to provide the most optimized and personalized web experience. Instead of showing all available products and promotions, we target them with a specific offer, product, and content based upon what we know. Clients that receive these more personalized experiences convert at a much higher rate than those who do not. And if they choose to venture down a path other than the one we’ve targeted, we analyze their behavior to provide other options in the future that may better meet their needs. Again, we want to make it simple for our clients.

But creating this simplicity is a complex collaboration between internal and external teams ranging from marketing, IT, analytics, agencies, and executive leadership. Our Tip-to-Tail strategy is not one that can be developed within 89 days. Rather, it’s honed over time. We continue to optimize this program with each tax season that we help our clients, each technology advancement that enables us to more effectively serve our clients, and each experience where our clients walk away satisfied. That, of course, is our ultimate trifecta.

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