CommBank's in-app personalised shopping launch heralds new age of super apps

We ask industry experts to share their views on the launch of Commonwealth Bank and Little Birdie's integration, which sees personalised retail shopping offers debut in its everybank banking app

The Commonwealth Bank’s decision to integrate retail offers into its mobile banking app signals the arrival of the ‘super app’ play to Australia’s financial services market and a new generation of integrated consumer experiences, industry experts agree.  

CommBank customers can now source personalised shopping offers alongside their mobile banking activities thanks to a new integration completed this week between the banking giant and Australian digital startup, Little Birdie.  

The Little Birdie retail discovery platform sources and compares offers, price drops, vouchers, products and sales with the aim of helping consumers make smarter shopping decisions. The company claims it’s ranking 67 million products and sales in real time already after launching in August.  

Through the new in-app shopping integration, CommBank’s 6.5 million mobile app users can now access exclusive and personalised shopping offers from Little Birdie from retailers such as Myer, Big W, Rebel Sport, Harvey Norman and The Iconic. Little Birdie secured a $30 million investment from the Commonwealth Bank earlier this year before it had even launched its first product. It was the largest pre-launch funding round for an Australian startup.  

CommBank executive general manager of Everyday Banking, Kate Crous, said customers are increasingly looking to banks for more than banking and money management needs. The integration is part of CommBank’s strategy to deliver a wider array of payment services and digital experiences through its banking and partner ecosystem.  

“We’re delighted CBA customers can now access many of Little Birdie’s offers through our market-leading CommBank app, helping them to save money and discover great promotions. Through this partnership, we are bringing connectivity, greater personalisation and exclusive offers to CBA customers,” she said.  

CommBank made plain its intentions to bring more non-banking products and services into the app mix for customers earlier this year. It’s also put $20m into electricity retailer, Amber, plus struck a strategic partnership and 25 per cent stake in NBN ISPs and telco services providers, More Telecom and Tangerine.   

A new banking approach  

The partnership with Little Birdie is significant for the fact it brings banking and shopping closer together, said Publicis Sapient head of financial services strategy and consulting, Adam Flesch.    

“This new offering in the CBA app signals the arrival of the so called ‘super app’ strategic play to the financial services market in Australia,” he told CMO.  

Flesch pointed out the first such super apps emerged in Asia with the likes of Grab, GoJek, WeChat, AliPay. These offer a single digital interface to a wide range of deals and convenient services important to the everyday user such as online shopping, hotel bookings, ordering taxis or food or payment solutions.  

“Big tech firms successfully applied this strategy to build and scale their own ecosystems in a cost-effective way and stealing the customer relationship from the traditional owners of various service industries, including financial services,” he continued.    

Flesch also noted Publicis Sapient’s recent Digital Life Index, found nine in 10 consumers globally prefer using digital experiences to manage their finances.   

“Offering personalised ecommerce deals on the CBA app is a conscious step toward elevating the banking app and, with it, CBA’s value proposition to its customers from a pure banking product provider to a more universal value and experience provider that will be able to build and scale a new ecosystem of financial and non-financial offerings for its customers,” he said.  

“We see established banks, like DBS in Singapore, Siam Commercial Bank in Thailand, as well as fintechs like Revolut purposefully stepping out from the traditional boundaries of financial services as a strategy to remain relevant for their customers.”  

PwC Australia Banking and Capital Markets leader, Sam Garland, agreed integrating a personalised retail offering into a banking app is part of a wider trend around embedded finance.  

“In its simplest level, the launch of apps like these is really about providing a much more complete experience for customers - no longer thinking of one place for buying things and another for managing the money or credit to buy it,” he said. “When you combine that simple idea with using data and tech smarts to personalise offers and make transactions much more intuitive, it can deliver great outcomes for customers, retailers and the banks.

"Buy now, pay later is certainly a really great example of how the blurring of the retail, payments and financial services ‘products’ is finding huge success with customers. Much is made of the payments side of this trend, but the exciting thing is how integrated the whole experience becomes.  

“It’s about being much more than a bank or finance provider. It’s about being closer and closer to customers’ lives and making those moments. And that’s something banks or ‘new’ entrants can play a part in.”  

Australian Retailers Association CEO, Paul Zahra, noted the Covid-19 global pandemic has accelerated a number of digital trends in the retail industry.  

“We’re seeing new innovations emerge offering consumers more choice in how they browse and purchase the things they need,” he commented. “These types of initiatives reflect how consumer behaviours have changed over the past couple of years and how businesses and banks are adapting. More and more Australians are purchasing the things they need with a few taps of their fingers and people now expect the best of in-store experiences to be delivered online through personalised shopping experiences.”   

It's for all these reasons industry thought leaders saw more banks and payment providers lining up to deliver similar retail and customer experience-oriented partnerships in the future.  

“I expect it to be centred in areas where the win/win really exists,” Garland said. “Banks have been simplifying and transforming themselves so they are able to find new ways to bring value to their customers. Much of that will come from investments they are making directly in their own businesses. But there's also a big role for partnerships and investments to move at speed and bring deep specialisms together.  

“Many startup offerings are uniquely focused on specific and compelling customer propositions from retail to health, even some elements of financial services. Working together can help the incumbents move faster and new entrants to broaden their proposition, whether through access to an established and loyal customer set, a richer data set or the expertise in banking services.”  

With immense commoditisation of financial products and everyday banking services gradually being inserted in non-banking brands’ customer journeys, incumbent banks need to find new ways to stay relevant and hold on to customer relationships, agreed Flesch.  

“It’s especially so when it comes to attracting generation Y and Z customers, who represent more than 50 per cent of the target market in 10 years from now and are the most digitally-savvy and least excited about traditional bank offerings,” he said. “Banks have no other choice than to actively participate in newly emerging ecosystems that appeal to their target customer segments, be it the strategically important youth segment or the small and medium business segment which is the hot spot for portfolio growth in financial services these days.  

“Banks can choose if they insert themselves into ecosystems as background financial solution providers or they lead the shaping of scalable ecosystems around them. Either way, forming winning partnerships with players outside of the banking boundaries is inevitable.”  

But what about the other side of the equation? Are partnerships between banks and next-generation retailers a good or bad thing for the broader retail sector and traditional players?  

“Retail brands can replicate the CBA strategy in the reverse direction,” Flesch said in response. “They can start to create their own embedded financial solutions within the shopping experiences they curate. It will provide a new layer of differentiation. It will help to provide a new value proposition to acquire new and retain existing customers.  

“These front-mover retail brands can monetize expanding data assets and insights on their customers by enabling financial transactions, as well as tap into new revenue streams.”  

Measuring retail success  

As to the business model of Little Birdie itself, founder and CEO, Jon Beros, told CMO the startup is measuring success via referral numbers. This is when users discover a product or item on sale outside their awareness previously and click through from the Little Birdie site to the Web page of the relevant retailer.   

Since launch in August, referral rates have been hovering around 50 per cent, meaning every person who landed on Little Birdie clicked through to an offer.  

“Into November, the rating has now gone up as high as 65 per cent, giving a clear signal that our value proposition is working,” Beros said.  

Another key milestone reached is having close to half a million customers referred from Little Birdie through to retailers.  

“Short-term, the focus is the integration with CBA and building out the Little Birdie brand for our customers to enjoy. However, we’ve had a lot of inquiries and there is a lot of demand in this space as retailers understand the value of shopping tools, such as Little Birdie, for their customers,” Beros said.  

According to Flesch, aggregators and platform providers like Little Birdie have a huge opportunity to reshape the traditional relationship retailers have with their customers today.  

“Customers expect services, including financial services, to be directly integrated at the point of requirement, and to be relevant, contextualised, convenient, digital, and immediately accessible,” he added.    

As part of growth plans, Little Birdie recently appointed its first CMO, David Jennings, and CFO, Joanne Smith.    

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