Before You Close Your Branch, Use Technology to Engage Customers

With the rise of several branchless banks, including Capital One 360, formerly ING Direct, and Ally, many community banks are wondering if they should follow suit with a similar branchless model. It’s no secret that branch traffic has been on the decline over the past few years. With the introduction of technology such as remote deposit capture and widespread ATM networks, bank customers have the convenience of doing business almost anywhere, at anytime. There is seemingly no need to ever set foot in a physical bank office at this point. 

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On the other end of the spectrum there are megabanks like Bank of America and TD Bank, “America’s Most Convenient Bank”, that have invested huge amounts in both technology and brick-and-mortar locations. It’s important to note that banks taking this route see the necessity of implementing various technologies within the branches as a means to attract tech savvy customers, who would not normally visit a traditional office.

So, what is a community bank to do? Either close your physical doors like the online banks or invest in technology to attract people to your existing branches like the megabanks. Zero-In finds that many banks are choosing the later option, rather than going completely virtual, which gives customers more banking options while also increasing foot traffic in branches.  

While branch traffic may be down compared to five or ten years ago, customers still appreciate face-to-face interaction when they have a problem that they need help solving. Even if they visit a branch just a few times each year, there is a feeling of trust and security in knowing that you’re there when they need you. Rather than using technology as a means to drive your customers online and away from your branches, we recommend that banks invest in technology as a means to both support their customers’ banking needs and strengthen personal banking relationships. 

The key is to engage your customers when they do visit your branches. You want to grab their attention and provide a seamless experience. For example, digital signage displays can be used to create relevant and visually stimulating communications that connect with consumers and foster long-term relationships. Digital signage also provides a channel for banks to communicate information about financial products and services in a way that is viewed as being educational rather than pushy. 

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One way to engage your audience when they visit the branch is with syndicated digital content. Zero-In licensed content from top reputable providers such as Bloomberg, NBCUniversal, AccuWeather and CelebTV is available for major categories including U.S. & world news, financial & business news, local & national weather and entertainment highlights like movie trailers and music videos. These segments are ideal for any bank branch looking to replace regular TV content with content that is educational and free of third-party competitor advertisements. Ad-Free TV, offered exclusively by Zero-In, allows you to create your own private TV network that incorporates your custom marketing content, for about the same cost as a monthly cable subscription. 

Daily feeds and updates also engage customers with the day’s top headlines, either with or without images. These feeds help to make your content network fun and entertaining with lighter content such as daily horoscopes, “This Day in History” or “Born on This Day” trivia and lottery numbers. Daily updates provide fresh, relevant programming that keeps viewers watching and wanting more. 

Does your bank have an Instagram account? You can get even more exposure by adding your Instagram photos to your digital content. Instagram integration lets your branch visitors know that you’re on Instagram and gives them a sneak peak of all the great imagery on your corporate page, while ensuring your content is being regularly updated. Engage your audience with your top images, while inviting them to interact with you on this popular social media platform with user generated content. 

Many banks are also digitizing rate boards to further captivate customers. Digital signage virtually eliminates the need for printed advertisements, announcements and notices in your branches. Also, by going digital, you can automate your rate boards. Your content management system can pull rate data from your website. So once rates are approved and posted on your website, they will automatically display on your in-branch rate boards as well. This leaves your front-line staff with more time to do what they do best: serve your customers.

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Another way to engage customers is through the use of interactive displays, which are wall mounted, free standing, or counter-top touch screen monitors or tablets that offer people a truly unique, user-friendly experience. From the privacy of their own personal space, consumers can navigate a video screen to access information or use it to make a transaction. Whatever the reason, the experience can be a fun and engaging way to interact with your brand while fulfilling your customers’ needs.

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Mobile marketing has amassed an unprecedented six billion-plus subscribers. It has indubitably become the fastest-growing medium for people to communicate and interact. In today’s technologically advanced environment, consumers have never been more willing or better prepared to engage via mobile marketing. By simply providing an opt-in for them to subscribe to specific information, relevant and timely messages can easily be sent. Information about upcoming events, new products or services, loan promotions or important reminders can seamlessly become a part of their day. Games, trivia challenges and customer satisfaction polls offer unique ways to drive participation. And with an easy-to-use content management system, new campaigns can quickly and easily be created, produced and implemented. While email blasts can be seen as intrusive and irritating, mobile is a way to target messaging to people who requested information from you, ensuring each communication is relevant and welcome. That sets the stage for a strong foundation of trust between you and your audience, leading to a long and profitable relationship.

The use of audio can also be a powerful part of your retail marketing strategy. Whether it’s a piece of music or a finely crafted announcement, each has the potential to move people like never before. With audio messaging and music, banks can create a private radio network for waiting areas and elevators. Unlike traditional radio that has third-party advertising or satellite/internet radio that isn’t flexible to fit your needs, custom audio messages can be scheduled to play between songs. Furthermore, audio messaging and overhead music enhances the image of your bank. A friendly voice implies great customer service, and carefully selected music creates a mood around your products and enhances the brand. 

Before you start closing your branches, consider the various ways you can utilize technology to your- and to your customers’- benefit. There are many advantages to having a branch network, including the convenience and sense of security it provides to consumers, while offering another channel for relationship building with your staff and your brand. Implementing several forms of technology in branches allows banks to connect and interact with consumers in a way that is both fun and engaging. This ultimately provides the opportunity to build and grow long-lasting relationships that you would not be able to foster completely online.

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