Technology is Not Enough: Why we use Behavioral Science and Nudge at BNP Paribas


Interview of Anne Ledouble, BNP Paribas

Anne Ledouble, a nudge and Behavioral Sciences enthusiast, is a Marketing Manager in the Strategic Initiatives team of BNP Paribas’ International Financial Services (IFS) division. 

This small team is working for the 6 IFS business units (80,000 people in more than 60 countries). Its mission is to support the units in defining their strategy, to help them in their business development and to promote innovation, acting as a real “catalyst” for initiatives. 

Marketing professions are evolving, driven by the influence of new technologies, but more importantly by new client usages and major societal trends. Based on this observation, Anne Ledouble’s mission is to adopt a “human centric” approach and to identify the major issues that will help the Marketing Champions of the BNPP entities to progress in their function and to create ever more added value for individuals, customers, partners and employees. 

You’ve been interested in Nudge for several years now. How did it start? 

In 2015, I was in charge of a Customer and Market Research team at BNPP Cardif France. At the time, a Customer Marketing Department and a Chief Customer Officer position had just been created. The objective was clear: to put people back at the heart of our preoccupations, whereas until then we had been focusing on technology mainly. 

All the conditions were therefore favorable to allow us to test new approaches to focus on prospects, customers and employees. 

I began working with BVA Nudge Unit for a project that required an ethno-exploratory phase. Strengthened by our new positioning, we naturally pursued this project with nudge. 

This shift in focus toward the human factor, which began in 2015, has now accelerated. From now on, our entire product and digital marketing approach is based on knowing and understanding our customers. So, our interest in nudge has been growing.  

BNPP has therefore changed its priorities!  

Changed, no, but improved, yes!  

For years, we have been working a lot on technology and data to better meet our customers’ needs. This was the number one priority, and it was only logical: the banking industry was lagging behind as customers were demanding more and more digitization. 

We were focused on technology, yet we were still experiencing barriers and obstacles preventing people from adopting new digital tools. This allowed marketers to speak up and make it clear that we needed to go further in our “holistic” understanding of our customers. Of course, they needed things to be simple, and of course they needed things to be customized, but much more than that. Human beings are complex! 

So we needed input from other sciences, such as Behavioral Science, to better understand the individual and better combine digitization and customer experience. To start again with ethnography, exploration, and to cover the last mile thanks to techniques such as nudge. 

A human being walks on his two feet. The customer experience requires technology, of course, but it is not enough. 

Indeed, the Nudge Marketing projects conducted at BNPP always have strong links with digital. 

Yes, and we started with that. BNPP’s business sectors were launching more and more apps and websites, we had plenty of opportunities to apply nudge to them. 

I often spoke to Customer Experience Managers, who were very receptive to our approach and spoke very enthusiastically about it: We create the basis and we can use our tools to track the customer’s journey through our website. We look at the issues and react by changing a button, for instance. But that’s not always enough to change customers’ behavior 

This meant that we could effectively use nudges to supplement their approach. 

“To supplement“, that’s exactly right! 

Yes, it is. On nudge marketing, we have focused so far on three priority topics: “nudging” apps and websites, improving our emailing campaigns, and finally improving the quality of our call centers. 

In each case, nudge acts as a complementary tool.  

For instance, one-to-one marketing, where the main form of contact with the customer is e-mail. This team relied a lot on Data Scientists to make a better use of our databases, to better target and personalize their messages. This worked very well: our response ratios went from 3% to 10%. Again, with nudge supporting our algorithms, we found that there were opportunities to do even better.  

Given your experience of running nudge projects with BVA Nudge Consulting at BNPP, what does it bring to your teams?  

Without a doubt, a new dynamism. For us, working on nudge means upskilling, ongoing learning. It is an important contribution, in addition to the more technology-oriented training courses. 

Also, because of the growing awareness of the new generation, it is not only digital technology that our teams are becoming more and more interested in. Major social issues such as diversity and sustainable development are getting on our agendas. In this area too, nudge is a precious advantage.  

The BNPP group has in fact used it several times for purposes other than marketing, to improve parity in the teams for instance.  

These objectives, more corporate and significant for the coming decade, require radical changes for the company’s culture. Nudge management helps us facilitating them.  

As a pioneer and ambassador of nudge and Behavioral Science at BNPP, what advice would you give to those who also wish to develop these activities in their companies? 

To find the right ambassadors, one needs perseverance,  pedagogy  and  enthusiasm. Then, you have to deliver and spread the word around your experiences with conclusive feedback. 

The first step of it all is to identify and convince the right person who will be able to give the impulse and bring multidisciplinary teams together within a single unit. 

Then, you need to carefully choose your first project to match your company’s strategy and quickly get the first results. This is a crucial point to be able to capitalize on the emulation generated by the project. 

Finally, the teams should be informed of the project’s outcome. For business, but also and especially for employees. For instance, the main contribution of Behavioral Science is that it helps us to understand that we live in a world of emotions, and how we can better live in it. Making our teams understand this means convincing them of the value of this new area of expertise for our company.  

So far, we have many ambassadors internally who have read many books on nudge because they are convinced of its effectiveness. And because they also apply it on a personal level! That’s the great thing about Behavioral Science: you can experience it yourself.  

It’s an excellent argument for involving more and more people in this adventure!  

For more on how to apply behavioral science in your company, check out our webinar, Infuse Behavioral Science and Nudge into your Organization.

You can also listen to the webinar in French, Infuser les sciences comportementales et le nudge dans une organisation.