Using Survey Research to Add Value and Build Growth: A Visa Case Study

survey research

Visa recently released a report aimed at helping small and medium business (SMB) owners understand how digital commerce can benefit their business. The report is survey-driven and provides an excellent illustration of how research can not just illuminate, but also build growth. Entitled the Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce, it is a textbook example of survey powered content marketing.

There are four lessons to be learned from how Visa coupled survey findings with contextual information to make a compelling case for their offer:

  1. Including multiple points of view significantly increases the power of the research to reveal opportunities and threats;
  2. Extrapolating findings to real dollars and cents amplifies the power of the survey data—by making it clear how big the opportunity is;
  3. Case studies make the research findings tangible and relatable;
  4. Practical how-to tips can help readers move seamlessly from understanding to action.

Payments giant Visa has been at the center of the cashless revolution for more than 55 years. In 2017, payments made using cards overtook cash globally: $23.3 trillion versus $20.4 trillion. Visa operates in more than 200 countries and territories with products and services available on any device – debit/credit cards, laptops, tablets and mobile devices. Their aim is “to be the best way to pay and be paid, for everyone, everywhere.” Their big opportunity is to increase the utilization of digital payments, thus growing their market.

Visa sees an opportunity to increase the use of digital payments among small and medium-size businesses—which employ 48% of all American workers and account for 98% of all U.S. exports. To help SMBs understand how digital payments can help them, Visa decided to shine a light on the benefits of going digital.

Including multiple points of view increases the power of the research

Visa partnered with Maru/Matchbox on a survey of both consumers and SMB decision-makers across four industries: food and dining; retail; grocery; and services. The survey focused on asking consumers and SMBs about their experience and expectations with digital channels and payments. From the report:

“What we found was a gap between what consumers want and what some SMBs are doing. The gap suggests that there are opportunities for SMBs to utilize consumer-sought, digital ways to capture revenue, stay in front of customers, and save time and expenses on the daily tasks necessary to run businesses.”

It is only by interviewing both consumers and SMBs that Visa was able to demonstrate the opportunity for SMBs. If they had interviewed just SMBs, or only consumers, they would not have been able to identify the gap—which is what makes the argument so compelling. This report is a great example of the power of including multiple perspectives.

Making the size of the opportunity real

For this report Visa also partnered with ESI ThoughtLab, a leading economics consultancy firm. Modeling the survey data, they calculated that the “average cost of processing digital payments, inclusive of direct expenses and labor costs, is 57% less than that of non-digital payments.” And also, that “on average, SMBs reported an 8% increase in revenue after accepting digital payments.”

This extrapolation of the survey results to real-world dollars is compelling for SMBs, who are locked in an everyday struggle to turn their revenue into profit.

Case studies make the research findings tangible and relatable

The report is peppered with excellent case studies that illustrate the survey findings. They tell the tales of SMBs that “embraced the power of going digital,” illustrating them with key quotes like “Within the first two years of launching the website, Amy’s company sales increased 43%!” By making the statistics relatable, they amplify their power.

Often it is a little telling example that really drives a point home. I recently interviewed Visa’s Kristopher Sauriol for a book I am just wrapping up, tentatively entitled The Insights Revolution: Questioning Everything. It is a penetrating look at an industry at the tipping point of dramatic change, digs into things we need to stop doing, and explores practices we need to start doing more of. It is powered by interviews with insights professionals, marketers and strategists. One of the chapters is on the necessity of contextual information.

Sauriol gave me a great example of how making data relatable can make all the difference in how it is received. He told me about a study he conducted which looked at why some credit card owners were not using their cards. For some people, it turned out to be about gaining control over their spending. The study had an array of impressive data. But it was a simple video clip of one woman that drove home how important, and challenging, controlling spending was for some consumers.

Sauriol described an in-home interview with a woman who had a credit card but was using debit exclusively. She was going through a challenging period in her life and needed to regain control of her finances. He asked about her credit card, and she said ‘yes,’ she had one. But to avoid the temptation to use it, she kept it in the freezer, in a block of ice. He asked to see it and “she pulled it out. It was literally a block of ice with a card in the middle of it. The two-minute video hammered home every single data point in the presentation about the need for more control. Everyone walked away from that presentation picturing her and her situation. That, to me, is the power of including additional sources of information and context with the data points.”

Practical how-to tips can help readers move from understanding to action

How-to guides are also paired with the survey findings throughout Visa’s Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce. For example, when they report “based on the surveyed SMB’s estimates, digital payments are cheaper to process and more preferred by consumers,” they couple it with “How to: Set Up Digital Payment Acceptance.” Each of these how-to sections demystify the process of moving to greater use of digital payments. So that when people are intrigued by a finding like cost savings, they are empowered to take action on it.

The research results tee up the ball, and the how-to tips drive it home.

Four tips for powerful survey-based content marketing

This report by Visa is a great illustration of these four tips for powerful survey-based marketing:

  1. Include multiple points of view in your research—doing so allows you to quantify gaps and opportunities convincingly;
  2. Don’t be afraid to project research results to real-world dollars and cents—but get the help of experts;
  3. Case studies or other illustrative examples can drive the point home in a memorable and relatable way;
  4. Focus on the “so what” and “what’s next” of the findings and equip readers with the information they need to take action.

To learn more about how Maru/Matchbox can help you use survey research to build your business, contact us.