IFISA searches dwarfed by all other ISA products

  • With ISA season closing last week, we thought it was the perfect time to start looking at how ISA search volumes have evolved over time. We were curious about search volumes against previous years and whether searchers are becoming more aware of individual ISA products, like the Help To Buy ISA and IFISA. Here’s what we found.

    We started by digging into Google Trends, which is a handy tool for comparing the relative volume of search phrases over time. Google Trends doesn’t tell us the traffic numbers for search terms, but it does show us how they are trending and how they compare with one another. This gives us an incredibly useful overview of search evolution in the ISA market.

    How have searches for ‘ISA’ compared this year to previous years?

    A graph showing searches for “ISA” in the UK from April to March in 2015/2016, 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 shows that the year-on-year search volume for this broad phrase has been declining for the last few years. In fact, searches in the last 12 months have been around 45% lower than 2 years previously.

    We will have to wait for the HMRC data later in the year to see whether this correlates with investment amounts, but our hunch is that it will.

    There’s an interesting spike around Q3 2015 in ISA traffic, which coincides with that year's summer Budget. The Budget gave a live date for the then upcoming legislation to increase the flexibility of withdrawing and replacing cash in an ISA and is likely to have renewed public curiosity.

    How do searches for ISA product specific terms compare to each other?

    The above graph shows relative search volumes in the UK in 2018 for five separate ISA product searches. The headline fact here is that IFISA searches have barely left zero on this scale – consumers just aren’t searching for these products. Is the industry simply not doing a good enough job of showing the benefits of the IFISA wrapper to consumers? IFISA products have been around since April 2016, and while it is always likely to be the most niche of the set, to see such a low relative search volume is surprising.

    Also of note in this graph are the very strong year-round search volumes for Help To Buy ISAs, with an overall volume across the year higher than that of Cash ISA searches. Predictably, though, when deadline-day approaches, we see a huge surge in the number of searches for the latter.

    Let’s give ourselves a little perspective to finish...

    How do the product specific search volumes compare to generic ISA searches?

    You’ll note the same two things as we did:

    1. Generic ISA searches still get a massive amount more volume than product specific searches. There’s no major surprise in this, but it illustrates how users educate themselves – “tell me about ISAs first and then explain the different types to me”. This should inform search and content strategies.
    2. IFISA searches were so low relative to a generic search that they didn’t even appear on the graph!

    Product specific searches actually peak at around 33% of generic searches when added together, which is not insignificant. To us this shows that there is a huge section of the population looking for education and guidance towards the best product, and a considerable opportunity for providers to position their products well to this audience.

    Early commentary from businesses like Assetz, RateSetter and Crowd2Fund all speak of take-up of their products exceeding expectations, so it’s not right to say the industry is flogging a dead horse with the IFISA. Far from it, ample liquidity is being generated on the back of the product from existing investors and amplified by word of mouth and referrals.

    What we’re still waiting for though is the often quoted “wall of money” from the general population of investors. Evidently, this isn’t going to arrive until awareness and education improves.

    For more insight on how this might be addressed, see our post 7 major marketing challenges for the IFISA

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