Nielsen//NetRatings Gets Granular With Financial Behavior

Internet research firm Nielsen//NetRatings on Monday launched its MegaView Financial service, the first of several industry-specific consumer behavior-tracking services to be launched in the MegaPanel market research family.

MegaView Financial tracks consumer attitudes and behaviors in online banking, credit cards, trading/brokering, loan/mortgage and bill pay activities. The MegaPanel has been tracking nearly 400,000 panelists since May. By following the panelists’ behavior on financial sites, such as those of credit card issuers and banks, Nielsen will provide its MegaView Financial clients with an analysis of consumer behavior.

The panel, a cross-section of home and work users, attempts to be representative of the online population, according to Ken Cassar, director of strategic analysis at Nielsen//NetRatings. To accomplish this, the company has applied to the MegaPanel the weighting scheme from its traditional NetView panel, which is recruited solely by a random-digit dial, to ensure that the MegaPanel looks exactly like the overall online population.

The debate over the appropriate size and recruitment method for Internet audience measurement panels has been a longstanding one, with Nielsen//NetRatings often boasting of its recruitment methods and denigrating those of competitor comScore Media Metrix.

“We know that it’s a very balanced panel, with good representation of the online universe,” Cassar said. “In addition, we have the ability to survey the people on the MegaPanel, so we can really find out anything we want about them. With a traditional panel, the only data you have is the data you capture up front when they become panelists, and the data about what they do. With this, we can always augment what we know about people beyond their behavior.”

A mortgage broker client could commission a survey that would capture a group of people that are thinking about refinancing their mortgage. Then that group’s behavior could be tracked over time. Then Nielsen//NetRatings could look at what Web sites they visit, what parts of those Web sites they go to, and whether they actually fill out an application online.

“When you’re only able to look at the things they do, you don’t really understand what they meant to do. It’s an incomplete picture,” Cassar said. “When you have the data captured from a survey about intents and attitudes, and then the behavioral data we’re able to track, it gives us a really complete picture of what people are thinking and doing.”

The information service will be targeted to the financial institutions themselves as well as media publishers, who could use the information to attract advertisers, gain competitor insight and market intelligence. “Banks and credit card companies are the most actively engaged online, and they have the biggest audiences, and we expect they’ll be the most likely clients. Secondarily, it’s important for publishers that are trying to sell advertising to financial services firms to understand the kinds of activities that their own site users are engaged in,” Cassar said.

The first findings from the service show that financial institutions have not taken advantage of cross-selling opportunities online. While many site visitors engage in single online financial activities, such as online banking, few engage in multiple activities online, such as online trading or credit card and lending activities. These results reveal a large opportunity for financial institutions that are able to convince their current customers to sign up for additional services.

The MegaPanel family will provide Internet market research for key vertical industries including financial services, search, retail and local markets. MegaViews of three verticals should be available in the next three to six months.

Last week, Nielsen released its first Sector Spotlight Report, listing the top 1,000 financial services sites in the U.K. based on Nielsen’s U.K. MegaPanel. Besides site popularity, the report provides a detailed consumer profile of age, gender and income level. Key Performance Metrics include market share, time spent online, content viewed, and site rank. Other sectors to be covered in a series of online reports include automotive, retail and travel.

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