podcast Commerce

Navigating changing cohort behavior - How MoneyLion is getting ahead in this economy

Jan 26, 2023


Apptopia Marketing

Jan 26, 2023

You can listen on Spotify, Apple, Anchor and more.

The following is a rough cut of our Q&A with Cynthia, edited for brevity. Jokes are often not included. There is more depth and discussion in the ear candy.

Intro & Icebreaker

Q: What is MoneyLion?

Cynthia: MoneyLion is a one stop destination for personalized financial content, product and advice. People can come to our app to learn how to manage their money and also to take action.

Q:  What do you do at MoneyLion and how did you get there? 

Cynthia: I'm the Chief Customer Officer at MoneyLion. I lead a team of product marketers, performance marketers, and lifecycle marketers that are good with acquiring and retaining our customers. I got to MoneyLion after about 20 years of marketing experience in consumer goods at Nestle, performance marketing at digital companies Gilt and Bonobos, and digital/app marketing in Online Grocery, Membership and Mobile Apps for Walmart

Q: How are the current economic conditions impacting MoneyLion’s business? 

Cynthia: We are seeing some shifts in consumer demand. More people are interested in our lending products and less people are interested in investing in crypto. On the supply side, lenders are becoming more strict when it comes to approving loans.
The good thing about MoneyLion is that we are built for an environment like this. We have a portfolio of products that can serve people when they are in times of need and when they are in times of excess. We feel good about our ability to continue being an indispensable resource for our customers, no matter their financial situation.

Q: How are you shifting your focus based on the current economic conditions?

Cynthia: From a marketing perspective, we're keeping an eye on the payback period of our customer acquisition investments. We used to be much more focused on customer acquisition costs (CACs), but CACs are currently getting lower because there's many people applying for our lending products. The lifetime value of those customers is different because cohorts are behaving differently. We have to keep an eye on the data so we can continue having a short payback period. Right now, people are behaving differently because the environment is changing so rapidly. This requires us to adjust how we spend our money and the KPIs that we look at. Other than that, we're just focused on what we can control. We feel like we have a solid strategy, and years from now, what will matter is how we manage to execute that plan.

Q: How does MoneyLion make money? What's the most valuable way to entice customers? 

Cynthia: MoneyLion offers loans, investments, and advice. We also have an enterprise business that connects customers with products that are personalized based on the context of their own financial life. Our infrastructure leverages machine learning and advanced data science that solve a significant pain point in financial services: customer acquisition. The API that we provide is the most efficient funding for our enterprise customers because it bridges financial institutions, product partners, new sites and content publishers. On the consumer side, we have a direct to consumer Fintech platform. We offer many products such as digital banking, investment portfolio management, and crypto trading. We also help our customers save for the future with our marketplace, credit building product, and Insta Cash, which is a 0% API cash advance that provides faster access to earned income. The way that we make money is both on the enterprise and the consumer side by offering all of this functionality. Every financial product that you could possibly need is available at MoneyLion. 

Q: Wow, there's a lot of different products and services there. How do you segment your customers? Are you using any tools? 

Cynthia: That's actually the “secret sauce” of MoneyLion because we have proprietary algorithms when it comes to personalization. We have elements of our experience that are segmented and that are completely personalized. The way we do this is via implicit and explicit data collection.

Q: Can you explain the difference between explicit and implicit data collection?

Cynthia: Through explicit data collection, we ask you something, you tell us the answer, and then we surface the content. For example, if you download our app, the first time that you engage with us, we'll ask you what your financial goals are. What you tell us may be very different from what you actually need. The implicit part of data collection is MoneyLion’s “secret sauce.” With MoneyLion, some of the actions that you take link your bank account or open a raw money account with us. This means we start getting insight into your earnings, savings, and spendings. All of this data gets incorporated in the algorithm that then surfaces not just the products that we will offer you, but the content and education that will help you ultimately reach financial freedom.

Q:  What do you think is MoneyLion’s “stickiest” feature, meaning when a user finds it, they are likely to be to be retained as a customer?

Cynthia: Our “stickiest” feature is our newest experience at MoneyLion, which is our “Discover” content feed, similar to what you see in social media apps. We are following the new trend of using influencers or content creators to teach financial advice because that is how millennials and Gen Z are best learning to manage their finances. 
With this, we are able to control how relevant our content is. We know what users actually need from a financial advisor so we put the right content in front of them. We are also shortening the distance between learning something and being able to take action. When users learn something using MoneyLion, they can click a button right away to take action. We are seeing positive signs of engagement and return rate among customers that consume this content. 

Q: How can businesses be successful using influencers in ad creatives?

Cynthia: The most important consideration is where you use influencers. I would never put an influencer in an ad outside of their native platform because the ad has to feel super organic. We try to create performance ads that are very contextual. It’s important to additionally consider what stage the audience is in the funnel.

Q: At what point in the customer journey do you ask users if they will enable push notifications?

Cynthia: We ask them in the very beginning when they download the app. We ask again when we see them engaging with the app. It’s a lot of back and forth because it’s a big loss when people opt out of push notifications. 

Q: You mentioned earlier that in different market situations you're focused more on CAC, but it’s lower for you right now. I was wondering, especially with iOS Apple’s new tracking transparency, if you've been trying any different strategies to acquire users and how those have been working out?

Cynthia: There’s two strategies that we're really leaning into. One of them is using influencers higher up in the funnel, like I said before. The other one is using embedded finance. Embedded finance is putting a financial product in a non-financial experience. For example, let's say you’re in a non-financial publication reading an article about how to make the most out of your budget for the holiday season. Embedded finance allows you to apply for a loan, for example, right there, rather than only consuming or interacting with a financial product when you are prepared to.

Q: How do you keep an eye on your competition? How do your competitors' moves, good or bad, impact your decision making?

Cynthia: We track our competitors on creative and competitive analysis such as how they speak and where they invest. One of the things that we really have to look at with a magnifying glass, is competitors' App Store Optimization (ASO) strategies. We are always looking at which of our competitors are improving in ranking and what keywords are driving that ranking improvement. This allows us to consider which keywords we think we should also own or improve. On the other hand, our platform is something that nobody else has done. We don't have a direct competitor. You could argue that financial institutions and financial advisors are our competitors because we are providing that content layer of finance. We keep an eye on these but we try to focus more attention to the future for customers and less so to the competitors. We don't want to just follow what they do since we're already ahead of them.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you've been in marketing with mobile before MoneyLion. Over the past few years, what's changed about how companies are approaching marketing their mobile apps?

Cynthia: I'm seeing CMOs having installs and app ranking as one of the main KPIs. Another change is optimizing for post-install events. In the beginning when app marketing started, it was all about CPI, or getting installs as cheaply as possible. Hacking your way to having a lot of installs for ranking purposes is one of the things you may want to do, but the post-install event is the most important action because it's the one that drives actual value to the company. It’s cheaper to retain a user than to acquire them in almost all cases.
Right now, social media takes a big chunk of our budget from a creative perspective. The name of the game is personalization. We have dynamic content optimizations and other techniques that didn't exist five years ago. If there's anyone now starting their career in marketing, I would tell them to get into ASO because they will always have a job.It's very hard to hire talent on ASO. It's a new function that has a lot of value. 

Q:  Can you give us any insight into either what you think is coming next for your personal FinTech industry or even just MoneyLion itself? 

Cynthia: For MoneyLion and for the industry in general, I expect to see real momentum in addressing the financial literacy crisis that we have in the country. A lot of efforts, including MoneyLion University and our content feed, are meant to engage this new generation to actively manage their financial lives. I am very optimistic that millennials and especially Gen Z are going to be the generation that really takes ownership of their financial freedom. We’re doing our part and Gen Z and millennials are doing their part by consuming the content and acting on it. So I'm optimistic about the future.

Game Time: Two Apps And A Lie

You can listen on Spotify, Apple, Anchor and more.