Leveling The Playing Field And Facebook’s All-In-One Commerce Dream

Soon, Facebook Messenger may become the hub for everything.

 
 

In 1889 a skeleton was discovered in Sweden. It was buried in a grave filled with military paraphernalia, and dated more than one thousand years old. Scientists assumed they had stumbled on the grave of a male Viking warrior.

In the 1970s, researchers scanned the skeleton’s bones, which they concluded were female. This was dismissed. In 2016, DNA testing provided conclusive proof that the skeleton was female — that this was indeed the grave of a female Viking warrior, a shield-maiden. The public, says Julie Sweet, the CEO of Accenture’s North America operations, still could not believe this. Maybe this woman inherited the weapons she was buried with? Maybe there was a male skeleton here at some point? Maybe this was only how she lived in death, not life?

 

 

“People ignored the data and let assumptions and bias cloud their judgment,” Sweet said in a keynote on the third day of Money 20/20 in Las Vegas. “Today, as a financial service industry, we must beware of Shield-Maiden Syndrome.”

As financial institutions seek growth and to grow relevancy, Sweet says that the market for women is still untapped. However, the opportunity is great: Women today control more than half of all personal wealth in the U.S., valued at more than $14 trillion dollars, Sweet says. By 2020, its estimated this figure will hit $22 trillion. In addition, 80% of women say they play a lead role in their family’s finances, the executive says, while only 10% of women believe the financial services industry pays equal attention to them.

For financial service providers, leveling the playing field includes three factors, says Sweet: products, presentation, and people.

Product: Attempts to tap into the women’s market have historically focused on marketing. But that’s not enough. Sweet asks, “Are there meaningful differences between men and women that should be implemented into the design of products?” Consider the data. Women carry less credit card debt, buy more insurance, care more about financial security, live longer, and have salaries that peak earlier, says Sweet. “Understanding the differences for female customers when we design products is often ignored.”

Presentation: Financial service providers need to move away from a marketing-first strategy, Sweet says, but even if the product is right, the marketing can be wrong. The question becomes, how to speak to the differences between men and women in a way that’s authentic, not patronizing, and hits at real concerns. For example, by asking customers clothing store American Eagle found their consumers wanted to see products modeled on women who looked like them. “We have the tools to get this right,” Sweet says.

People: It’s not enough to design and market women-specific products, Sweet says, it’s important to become gender diverse in the workplace as well. For Accenture, the company made the decision that this diversity mattered — it has set targets for itself and is holding itself accountable. By 2025, Accenture plans to hit gender parody in the workplace. It will do so by being more transparent. “How do you ask people to change their behavior if you don’t trust them enough to give them a case for change,” Sweet says. Accenture publicly released its employment data as it related to gender, persons of disability, race, and military service, emphasizing its need to improve. In addition, the company changed its referral fee program. For example, a managing director who refers someone for the same position is typically paid $6,000. Now, if that person is diverse, Accenture will pay $50,000, doubling down on diversity to create the teams it needs to serve women better.

“Embrace the women warrior,” she says.

Facebook’s All-In-One Digital Commerce Dream

Services move where consumers hang out.

Apply that to the digital world, and it makes sense that Facebook, through its Messenger app, has entered the payments world. Facebook Messenger has allowed users to send money for years now, on debit cards rails through partnerships with Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. Recently, however, Facebook partnered with PayPal to act as a funding source for those transactions as well.

The obvious question: What’s Facebook’s game? Are they looking to make money on these transactions? Are they looking to become a payments provider?

“We are not looking to make money on transactions,” says Stan Chudnovsky, the head of product for Facebook Messenger. “We are in the ad business and we want to help others be successful doing what they are doing.”

The closest point of comparison is from the West, where WeChat, a Chinese social media mobile app has become a behemoth — China’s app for everything, including messaging, commerce, and payments. WeChat’s monthly active users total close to one billion, while Facebook Messenger counts 1.3 billion.

While the circumstances for WeChat’s rise are different — “In the west the world is just different,” Chudnovsky says — in the U.S., mobile phone users may have reached a behavioral plateau. The number of mobile applications per device is trending down.

“Consumers don’t want to try new apps,” Chudnovsky says.

That means legacy apps, like Facebook Messenger, are choosing to deepen service with the goal to create a true all-in-one experience. Facebook Messenger wants users to talk to their friends, to the companies with which they transact, and enable both commerce and payments between everyone.

Ads play a large role, of course. The more time a user spends in-app, the more impressions an ad receives. And Facebook is starting to play with automated conversational ads. The platform already collects so much user data that the buying experience can run more smoothly with better completion rates, plus a user’s card or PayPal account is already linked. For the entire buying process, the user does not need to leave the Messenger app. That’s the goal. That’s the future. It’s already happening in Australia, Chudnovsky says.

“I just met someone who bought a solar panel through Facebook Messenger,” he says.

 

Nov. 2, 2017


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