In 1946, Richard and Henry Bloch secured a $5,000 loan from a bank in Kansas City. They had corresponded about starting a family business while Henry was overseas navigating B-17 bombers for the Allies, and with that loan, their vision became a reality. Starting out with just twelve employees, the brothers grew H&R Block into America’s largest preparer of tax returns.
Filing Independently is Impossible
The process is opaque, frustrating, and complicated. So much so that many expats find it too much of a hassle to file. But by ignoring their taxes, they put their citizenship in jeopardy.
Beyond the understandable lack of education on expat tax law, those living abroad, like many Americans, perceive H&R Block as a strip-mall brand.
This perception tied H&R Block’s hands in acquiring clients abroad, many of whom required more complex financial and tax assistance than the services associated with H&R Block’s stateside branches.
How can H&R Block help me when I’m 10,000 miles away?
It Starts With the First Step
We embedded with H&R Block’s team of tax attorneys and CPAs to become experts in their business. Researching a year’s worth of user feedback (site feedback, user interviews, spreadsheets of customer responses,) we recognized that expats are a more nuanced, financially-sophisticated segment than the typical domestic H&R Block clientele. They range from a beach-bar barista in Thailand to a management consultant temporarily stationed in Buenos Aires. Further skewing the segment toward a higher income bracket was the fact that expat taxation filing is a more costly service than the average H&R Block product. To evolve these perceptions, we needed to convince expats of the company’s expertise in this sector.
And finally, we found that once expats took the first step, they were statistically more likely to file. The greatest barrier to filing expat taxes was getting started. So we had to make that first step effortless—and find the proper balance of comfort and urgency to keep them moving along.
Clarify the Complex
For users who knew exactly what they wanted, we mapped a quick path to conversion, and for those needing more information, we teased “Expat Essentials” just above the fold, a section that demystifies the complexities of expat taxation in a tone resonant with Americans abroad.
Expat taxes cannot be easily filed online. To familiarize expats with the experts at H&R Block, and drive them to in-person and over-the-phone service, the “Essentials” page offers personalized introductions to the specific regional manager that would handle their account. Our goal was to make it clear that taxes couldn’t be filed online easily—and that H&R Block was the source for a painless, dependable process.
Content that Comforts
Primed to function quickly and flawlessly anywhere from Paris to Singapore, the site is responsive to user location, tailoring the experience and content to their exact coordinates—from geographic-specific greeting imagery to testimonials from expats living in the same region. The principle was simplicity as we guided users from an initial site visit to hiring H&R Block to file their taxes.
Don't Show Your Hand
Through content like articles and infographics, we conveyed that H&R Block had the chops to handle even the most complex, backed-up tax challenge. Taking inspiration from our work with publishers like The Huffington Post and Bloomberg, we crafted original articles and content for SEO, designing them as entry-points to the conversion funnel. However, we strategically stymied the user’s urge to click through this content (thereby risking distraction) by offering a means to enter the conversion funnel at every touch-point. Once in the funnel, a countdown feature appearing throughout creates a sense of urgency.
With a 45% increase in conversions YoY and a 24% reduction in bounce rates, key performance metrics indicated that our original assumption was correct: comfort yields conversion.
In the process, we corrected misperceptions, empowered users with meaningful resources, and proved H&R Block’s expertise. Notably, we didn’t over-educate on the taxation process, thereby tacitly encouraging independent filing.
We helped H&R Block walk that fine line, guiding their expat taxation offering from onerous to effortless.