Targeted Messaging by 401(k) Recordkeepers

The Challenge

401kA leading defined contribution recordkeeper wanted to overhaul its participant messaging to encourage better saving and investing habits among its customers. Before starting the overhaul process, the firm needed to understand how—and how much—competitors used targeted messages to influence participant behavior.

The Solution

Corporate Insight recruited dozens of defined contribution plan participants using eight competing recordkeepers. Each participant fell into one of several categories (e.g., recently enrolled in the plan, approaching retirement, in retirement, etc.).

We then interviewed all participants individually regarding the messages they had received from their recordkeepers. As part of these interviews, we filmed each participant’s plan Website and examined his/her account statements to identify messaging related to his/her current contribution rate, asset allocation, retirement objectives and other factors. We shared the films and redacted statement copies with our client via a project-specific Website designed to facilitate knowledge-sharing among client personnel.

Using our diverse pool of investors, we determined the extent to which different recordkeepers used targeted messaging based on life stage and plan participation status.

Our in-depth summary report identified the factors that appeared to drive messaging (e.g., a low contribution rate) and the degree to which messages varied based on demographics and other factors. The report also highlighted examples of effective and ineffective targeted messaging.

The Impact

Our research enabled the client both to identify weaknesses in its own planned messaging strategy and better understand the strengths and weaknesses of competitors’ participant Websites.

The work was so well received that the client commissioned a follow-up study 18 months later to assess how participant Websites had subsequently evolved.