Retail Banking: 6 Reasons Opening a New Branch Ain’t What it Used to Be
There was once a time when planning a new branch was a very simple affair; you bought a big stone building on Main Street, built a fortified teller line inside with steel barriers or bulletproof glass, and opened your doors to the public. There were no pressures to come up with “innovations”, very few expanded services or products, and really the only thing to worry about was bad guys with guns. This situation prevailed until quite recently, and banks fulfilled their role as impenetrable fortresses with nary a glitch.
Until it was all disrupted by modern retail banking. Nowadays, uniqueness and differentiation are all-important and an enhanced value proposition means far more than an updated logo.
Suddenly, financial services were subjected to “retailization” (if you’ll permit me to use that expression), a phenomenon whereby the branch became more like a store. Financial institutions now had to develop strategies whose scope went way beyond that of simply locking away peoples’ valuables and cash in a vault. They now had to think about the efficiency aspects of their business, and how best to educate and entice consumers as to the full range of available financial services. Brand merchandising for banks and credit unions became a thing. Basic cash transactions were still important, but retail now meant so much more than this. Retail banking offers consumers and small businesses financial products and services, such as:
- Auto loans
- Certificate of Deposits (CDs)
- Credit cards
- Small business loans
- Travelers checks
- Personal loans
- Home equity loans
- Wealth Management
- Stocks, shares and securities
Retail Strategy for Banks and Credit Unions
The expanded services offered to retail consumers can influence every aspect of an organization’s strategy. Optimized retail zones in branches, and conversion points on financial organizations’ apps and websites, are key to increased wallet share and customer data capture. Financial institutions have to apply sales terms and strategies when training staff and creating their brand voice. They develop customer profiles to determine the various buyer and behavior types when building customer experience maps. Companies now offer courses in retail sales skills for branch staff. Education and support material for retail banking staff is almost a sector in itself.
Retailing equipment such as kiosks, displays, digital communications and dispensers have grown in use over the past decade, as merchandising’s role in branch banking has become more important. The expanding array of financial products and services have to be made distinct from each other as value propositions in themselves, to avoid them being lost in the noise. In the same way that financial distribution channels require compelling staging wherever they’re sited, financial products don’t just sell themselves and require commercial and public advertisements that call attention to their existence. Here are 6 of the latest branch equipment and technology innovations to support a financial institution’s retail efforts.
1. Digital Media. Digital media covers both the on and offline aspects of retail banking. On the one hand, “digital retail” can mean apps and websites with conversion points or checkouts on them. On the other, it refers to in-branch electronic equipment that broadcasts specific types of messaging to branch visitors. Flat-screen TVs and other digital signage technology can deliver highly relevant content and information to viewers in retail zones specific to certain merchandising and other promotional material. When combined with touch screen interactivity there’s an opportunity for exposing customers to a wide range of products and services all in one place. Incorporating QR codes, social media connections, or uploadable features into digital media broadens the reach for the institution with regard to the different customer segments that may visit the branch.
An advanced digital retail strategy may even include through-glass or on-glass projection. This technique, also called ‘projection glass advertising’, intentionally illuminates elements within the branch in such a way that they’re visible from the street. This effect is particularly striking during the evening, when the light is more distinct. Pedestrians outside the branch can interact with the display on the interior screen via gesture-aware technology, or a long window display may change as someone walks beside it.
2. Printed Graphics. Graphical designs can be printed in numerous formats to create static informational walls, or create a greater sense of community. Emphasis on a community bank’s history i.e., a historical maritime connection to the institution’s financing of ships, or a bank’s role in developing the community as a destination for learning, or sporting events. Graphic walls can also feature the pictures, names and titles of bank employees to increase familiarity with the people customers are doing business with.
3. Custom Architecture. When retail and marketing features are incorporated into the structure of the building itself it tells customers they should listen to what is being said. A ‘suspended cloud’ (circular soffit that hangs from the ceiling) containing a promotional message for loan rates or CDs is an eye-catching feature that commands attention, as do curved walls, multilevel spaces, and large window displays.
4. Surrounds and Kiosks. These are destination points inside the branch that naturally attract people. Kiosks and surrounds represent resources for information, interaction and privacy. They provide highly relevant messaging and a place to sit and engage in specific activities. Kiosks provide the opportunity to advertise closely related services side-by-side which can lead to cross-selling.
5. Silhouettes or Venues. Silhouettes and venues, like surrounds and kiosks, invite the customer towards branch staff, or into architectural spaces that are somewhat compartmentalized for specific uses. A silhouette takes the form of a distinctive profile or outline, cut from material such as plastic, cardboard, sheet metal or wood. It may be a finish element that slots into place, modular style, to devise an attractive space in which to advertise financial products. It may also be a surround for a piece of marketing communications, advertising for a new audio-visual interactive terminal, or a place where you can literally have a product on display.
6. Text Promoting Your Bank’s “DNA”. Your financial institution’s mission statement, other slogans, and its logo, can be subtly repeated on various media to instill brand awareness and capture the spirit of what your organization is all about. If done correctly, this company voice boosts employee feelgood factor and makes them more confident in educating customers on the full scope of your services and distribution channels. Customers will be more inclined to trust an upbeat, positive institution with their finances, rather than one with no appetite for exploring the latest retail financial options.
Our CEO, Mark Charette, said to me, when he saw I was writing this blog post, “All of these elements are woven together like a symphony, where everything dances to the marvelous tune of success.” He was referring to a recently completed Solidus project (several of which are featured here), but it should apply to any modern retail-oriented branch. Today’s branches are open, transparent places, that invite visitors in off the street, a far cry from the forbidding fortresses of old. Making the leap into the world of branch transformation requires expert guidance. If you’ve decided to invest in a retail branch transformation you have to do it right—because doing it wrong can be financially disastrous. Contact Solidus today for a consultation and learn exactly what your branches need to make the great “retailization” leap!