ALEXANDRIA, Va. — After switching to a new analytics vendor, $16.8 billion Pentagon Federal Credit Union reports that it has improved the application process for its branded credit card, increasing the conversion rate on applications.

Jenni Kirkruff, online experience manager for Pentagon FCU, said the credit union formerly used a "clunky" analytics provider that was unable to adapt to PenFed's changing needs.

The CU then started to work with Webtrends, a digital measurement and optimization vendor based in Portland, Ore., and now enjoys increased granularity, according to Kirkruff.

"We first integrated Webtrends into our online banking area, and most recently did so in our mobile apps," she said. "We track pretty granularly with the way we set up Webtrends. We have tracking codes on all campaigns to see how they perform, all the way down to by application, how many memberships we gain, and more. We can see where fallout is, which allows us to make changes. It really helps us with user behavior trends and spotting problems."

Recently, PenFed and Webtrends put together a case study on how the company helped the CU improve response to marketing pieces. Kirkruff said a branded credit card was not getting the rate of return that had been expected.

After looking at analytics provided by Webtrends, the credit union revamped the landing page and shortened the application process — resulting in an immediate improvement in conversion rates.

"We had too many people falling off, not completing applications," Kirkruff said. "We optimized based on user behavior, made changes on the site, and once we did, clearly saw improvement."

PenFed declined to share the numbers on credit card applications, she added.

Steve Earl, director of product strategy for Webtrends, said the company was one of the pioneers in Web analytics when it was founded 20 years ago. "We help companies on the web, as well as all digital channels, both social and mobile. We help marketers market across all channels.

Webtrends works with a large number of financial institutions worldwide, including a number of credit unions, according to Earl. He said the challenges PenFed was facing are part of a trend. "Companies come to us to help them understand their customer journey across multiple channels, how they get to their digital properties, and how to improve that journey," he said.

Constant Watch
Kirkruff said PenFed, the third-largest credit union in the U.S., continues to use analytics to improve all of its applications on an ongoing basis. She said the key is to keep a "constant watch" on the website and keep improving the user experience.

"It is the same with mobile applications," Kirkruff said. "You have to know what the users need, or they will not come back, so you have to keep improving. And it will only become something that is more and more required because our world is moving more to digital."

Earl said what PenFed is facing applies to many other financial institutions. "Optimizing the experience is so importance on these websites. Some people like to transact on a desktop, others on a mobile device, so we have to have a really good understanding of where people are moving."

Some consumers will start an application on a mobile device, or at least do research, but then go to a desktop to finish it, Earl noted, so, "You have to have a holistic view."

Kirkruff said most members do not feel comfortable filling out a mortgage application on a mobile device, a phone or even an iPad — they want to be on a desktop or laptop with a large enough screen so they can see everything.

"But we see people start the process on a mobile device," she said. "We are trying to understand how the process works. We have to make sure the overall experience is adjusted to the platform. There also are age group differences that we have to take in to consideration."

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