What was the evolution of the customer sign ups?

When I joined, we had a few thousand – I think it was about 2,000 customers, at the beginning of 2017. It was six months after the Series B of N26, but then they had six months of, basically, creating the bank. At the beginning, it was just a fintech, with the bank as a partner and then it became a bank. We had to really stop the operations, to move to a new system and then issue cards that are your own and a bank account that is your own. The cost was also a bit higher. Especially in the new markets because at the beginning of 2017, we started marketing in the rest of Europe. In the beginning, it was just Germany and Austria, for the first two years, from 2015 to 2016. From 2017, we opened to another 15 countries, including France, Italy and Spain.

We really saw that it took, on average, almost a year to really have a comprehensive increase in customer acquisition. We reached about 7,000 to 8,000, a year later. We got one million customers, mid-2018 and we had 300,000 at the beginning of 2017. So we more than tripled. How did we achieve that, because it’s not just increasing the sign ups. It’s increasing the sign ups, at a great price, so we don’t have to spend a lot of money. Otherwise, it becomes unsustainable. So we had our own calculations on how much it works out, per customer, so you could not go too much above the cost that makes it sustainable.

What we did was, really working, both on marketing different channels, different type of investments and doing all those tests that I mentioned before. And on the other side, looking at our product, in terms of onboarding. Really finding out, in our file, where we had the most drops in conversion. It could be conversion from social media channels, such as Facebook, to the website. Then once those people come to the website, what do they do on the website? Do they leave after 10 seconds? If so, maybe it’s not such a good campaign. In the marketing, I can really nail it down to three.

The first one was, we really focused on PR. Myself and the other general managers, and Valentin the CEO, we were really going out to many places and talking about N26 to universities, to co-working spaces, incubators, where there is the innovation. Those are the early adopters, by definition. That helps you increase the organic side of your channel mix.

The second was business intelligent reporting about how we spend money and really every step of the way, conversion rate, for all the different channels. That’s actually something that I really worked on, at the beginning, so we could optimize all our campaigns – the Google search campaign, Facebook, publishers, which are, basically, the comparator websites, etc.

Then the third one was really also using something new. I’m proud to say, because I actually worked on that, with the Italian team and it worked really well and we also rolled it out to the rest of Europe, which was using influencers in social media in finance, for the first time. I took the idea from the fashion world – all the e-commerces have been using this for quite some time, even in 2017 and 2018. But there were no banks working on that. We rolled it out to different influencer companies, using 20 different influencers, tiny ones, larger ones, everyone speaking to their own type of community. The one that worked the best was the gamers. Gamers spend money on video games and they need a card. As blunt as that. But nobody did it before, because if a gamer recommended a bank account or a card, people would not believe them.

All these different things balanced the efforts and spending, in order to create something that is sustainable. What is sustainable? Don’t spend too much and, in order to not spend too much, you need to work an organic site, so that people look at you, because they’ve heard it from a friend, or they’ve looked you up online and then so they join without a marketing company, like Google AdWords, who ask you to pay a lot of money. That helped us, slowly, grow up in terms of traffic, organic searches. Even on Google, you need to look at how many people are googling you? At the beginning, in Italy, nobody was googling N26 bank account. After a year, that volume of searches was, of course, much higher. You need to grab all those searches. That’s the marketing side, in a nutshell.

But the other one was really, we have revamped the entire onboarding. We had a video conference, of eight minutes, on average, to open the bank account. On the other side, there was an operator, that was asking to see the passport or ID. They needed to see all the different holograms, etc. Then they were asked different questions. But this eight-minute call, of course, there were a lot of drops, as people didn’t always have a good internet connection or camera, etc. What we did was, we really worked with the regulators, to really change it from video to photo. For a photo, you can take a picture and, if you don’t have a good connection, it just takes two minutes to send it, but it’s in good quality. That was the major difference that we had with that. It took us a year but after changing the onboarding, through the app – within the mobile app, you were going through that, first name, last name, etc. – we switched from a video in the app, to just taking a picture of yourself, a selfie, and then a picture of your ID. That’s it. We increased conversion twofold.

So from one day to another, we decreased our customer acquisition cost. You can imagine that, basically, this arc, a lot of new campaigns that, before, they were too expensive but then, from one day to another, they become sustainable. In ones that were performing well, we were just rolling out of millions, every month. This is how we increased, threefold, the customer base, by working both on marketing but also on the product.

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