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The Battle for Relevancy

Social media is changing everything, especially in the retail business. Over the past twelve months, we have seen banks enabling features that help customers send money to others using these and other channels, new financial services companies are using social media data to help them understand customer profiles better and as a result, customers are able to access credit or open a bank account without having the hassles traditionally associated with doing so. This trend is developing fast, so fast in fact that some believe social media platforms may be the banks of the future.

This new approach to banking where data powers decision making and empowers banks to play their role in creating prosperity in the communities they serve is the future. A future that is now, and leading the pack is a small bank in the USA called Avida Bank.

Avidia has carried out an integrated digital transformation and community engagement program at its flagship 17 Pope Street financial center in Hudson, Massachusetts, which opened in February 2017.

At the Pope Street branch, Avidia’s social media feeds are displayed on digital screens - one of these is a touchscreen so customers can navigate the display, and engage with the bank both physically and digitally on community projects. Many of you know that I am not a big believer in touch screens in stores. In a world where content is king, banks often ignore this and load their screens with insipid content, product information and generic information like the weather.

I emphasize, Content is King. In a world where we all have devices and are able to surf whatever, whenever we like, just providing a copy paste of the bank’s web site, or a boring digital product leaflet is never going to work.

I often hear banks telling me that they invest in expensive touch screens only for them to never be touched by customers. What banks are failing to understand is that customers do not want to use touch screens in stores to browse the bank’s products and services - they can do this from the comfort of their own home on their devices. They want the bank to give them something more than a ‘time killer’ whilst waiting in store for service… a relevant reason to engage.

Avida is creating content that is engaging and different in their stores. Their touchscreen shows what is happening at Avidia behind the scenes. People can see new initiatives and projects that are coming up and community volunteer events that the bank is doing and most importantly, they can engage with them. The bank is reinventing their spaces to be a blend of physical and digital, where social media is integrated into everything they do. The bank is bringing campaigns like to their touchscreen at the Pope Street branch, where anytime someone uses the #17PopeSt hashtag, the content is pulled into a feed which is displayed in their store.

When I see this I am again reminded of the power of data in driving decision making. This is a trade. The bank has realized that by providing engaging content, that customers and members of the public want to use, they are in a position to harvest crucial data, trends, and information about customer behavior that helps them to run their business better and make better-informed decisions.

I was at a bank recently whilst on my travels around the globe and the CEO told me proudly how he had analytics on everything and was extremely proud of it - rightly. However, winning in the data game is not about understanding what is happening in your business, it is about understanding what is happening outside of your business as well - getting to the bottom of what makes customers tick and then evolving your business model to serve them better and get more from your customers. What banks do with the information they gather and how they harvest it will make the difference between success and failure. By engaging with customers and members of the public in a way where you ‘go beyond the operational data’ is the future and Social Media provides an excellent opportunity to do this.

Countless community banks and credit unions complain about the relatively high average age of their customers or members. They say they want to attract younger customers, but are doing nothing about addressing this challenge. By committing to a strategy that uses social media to create a brand image, a proposition that appeals to younger consumers and by showing a commitment to this (beyond a simple campaign), Avida Bank is recognizing that customer experience is more than just a pretty logo, some nice interior design, and an app. They have introduced innovative ways that customers and staff can work together in the communities they serve and in doing so, they have been successful in extending the tentacles of the bank beyond the physical and digital environments they have created so well.

Interestingly too, one of the key findings of a recent retail banking survey (JD Power’s US 2017 Retail Banking Customer Satisfaction Survey), is the rise of the omnichannel banking consumer, and the fact that overall satisfaction rates among US customers visiting branches in the last twelve months were higher than those who only used digital channels.

Community banks will win as they build their brand quality every time they run something in the branch relating to the community. By demonstrating they are a community bank, they are building appeal and relevancy - all of which, in the mind younger customers is important as they rile against globalization and the one size fits all approach of larger banks.

Watch this space, my bet is that we will see the larger banks battling to catch up and become more relevant to the local communities they serve.

#uae #retailbanking #design #alleninternational #retaildesign