ING DIRECT Canada shares lessons on crowdsourcing innovation

by Andrea Wahbe | Culture

ING THRiVE campaignCrowdsourcing has become a popular way to gather feedback about a product before an official launch. In March 2011, ING DIRECT Canada launched the first crowdsourced financial services product in North America. 

Mark Nicholson, Head of Digital and Interactive at ING DIRECT Canada shared some of the secrets to the success of THRiVE, the company’s first crowdsourced product, with Techvibes. Earlier this year, THRiVE won a consumers choice award as Product of the Year in the Financial Services category based on innovation.

How was the crowdsourcing test announced?

In August 2010, ING DIRECT invited 10,000 Canadians to be part of a group to try out the new ING THRiVE chequing account. In return, customers were asked to provide feedback to help improve the product before it was made available to all Canadians.

The day of the test launch announcement began with a registration portal going live on the secure ING DIRECT Canada banking website. Peter Aceto, CEO at ING DIRECT then sent an announcement through video to existing ING DIRECT Clients, to ensure they were the first to know. 

The first public launch announcement was held in a busy shopping mall, where Aceto announced the product and its significance for the company and for Canadians. He invited Canadians to begin signing-up for a chance to preview the product via a press conference.

The theme of the test promotion was $185 – the average amount Canadians pay in fees for their chequing accounts each year. A microsite, was launched, where people could sign-up up to be part of the preview. 

ING also set-up “coin” walls in two cities, in busy traffic locations (i.e. malls / underground subway paths). These walls were magnetic and about 8 feet wide by 6 feet high and contained the message: Hate being nickled and dimed? The advertising message was covered by thousands of coins. People were encouraged to take some coins as they walked by – to reveal the ING DIRECT message. The company filmed the event and streamed it on

Events  were held at ING DIRECT cafes in each of the target markets. The company paid for an onsite radio broadcast and host to talk about the product. People were invited to play a game called Win Big on the Spot. There were six spots and they could win $1.85, $10.85, or $185. The first 10,000 Clients were invited into the Client Preview on September 14th, 2010.  Over 30,000 people registered to test the product.

Learning from the product feedback

From September 2010 to March 2011 (the date of the final product launch), ING DIRECT used social networks and their website to garner feedback from customers on how to improve product features. The input from customers helped the company to adapt items like their hold policy, cheque booklet size, bill payees and more. 

According to Nicholson, ING DIRECT’s major discoveries from crowdsourcing included:

  • Take all feedback to heart and act upon it (it’s not a suggestion box).
  • Take the time to acknowledge feedback (all of it – big or small, customers took the time to provide it and you should take the time to acknowledge it).
  • Don’t’ get defensive or take it personally (they aren’t being malicious and you’re too close to it).
  • Be transparent when you’ve got issues (both the good and the bad).
  • Be proactive when you’ve got a problem (not just reactive – tell them before they tell you).
  • Have the infrastructure to support it (if you’re opening yourself up to real-time feedback, you need the plumbing to be able to respond quickly).

How was final product launched?

To show off the features of THRiVE Chequing, ING DIRECT hired celebrities (i.e. a football player, former NHL hockey player, actress, social media guru and television personality) for a program called THRiVETASTIC. The celebrities each competed in a race in a separate city. They were given $7,000 to spend on good deeds in the community using their THRiVE debit cards – paying for people’s bills, paying for lunch for everyone in a restaurant, admission to an attraction for everyone in line, etc. The celebrities competed for $15,000 for a charity of their choice.

The celebrities tweeted throughout the day, becoming the number one trending topic in Canada. They encouraged people to suggest how they should give away the money. The contest was filmed and then made into a video shared online.

ING DIRECT also launched online advertising and communications to the Client base when the product went live. THRiVE Clients that switched their payroll were entered for a chance to win $25,000. This contest was followed in July with a $100 payroll switch offer. Both campaigns were successful and drove account volumes in excess of 65,000. 

“We are still listening to Client feedback and learning about the product. We are launching more features this month, such as Interac Email Money Transfers, and in the months to come to better the product and to better meet Client needs,” says Nicholson.

While startups don’t necessarily have the budgets to promote their crowdsourced products on as big of a scale, a lot can be learned from ING DIRECT’s marketing strategy. The ING THRiVE crowdsourcing model can be used by any company, large or small, to connect with your customers and gather continuous feedback.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

ING DIRECT is not like any other bank. In fact, as you've probably noticed we don't even use the word bank in our name. That's because from day one, we knew we could be something different — something better. ING DIRECT is a safe, simple way to save and borrow that gives you real choice. We have no branches. Instead, we take the money we save and use it to pay you higher interest on your... more

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Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who has contributed to the growth of online media businesses in Canada, such as AOL and Google. By day, Andrea writes about digital media and marketing trends and tips for Canadian startups and SMEs. By night, she’s an analog book reader, master swimmer and experimental chef.  more

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