To Branch or Not to Branch?

With the rise of several branchless banks, including Virtual Bank, Bank of Internet, First Internet Bank and Ally, many community banks and credit unions are wondering if they should reduce overhead expenses by following a similar model. Increasingly more consumers are becoming comfortable with online banking. And with the introduction of technology such as remote deposit capture and widespread ATM networks, your customers and members have the convenience of doing business almost anywhere, at anytime. There is seemingly no need to ever set foot in a physical office at this point.

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. This type of technology can also be quite costly, which may not be feasible for smaller financial institutions.

So, what to do? Either cut expenses- and personal relationships with customers/members- by closing your physical doors, or invest in technology to attract people to your existing branches. Zero-In finds that many financial institutions are choosing the later option, rather than going completely virtual. 

Although an increasing number of consumers conduct their financial transactions primarily online, people still appreciate face-to-face interaction when they have a problem that they need help solving. Even online banking consumers find value and security in knowing that they have someone to talk to in-person when there is a real problem. Rather than using technology as a means to drive people online and away from your branches, we recommend that banks and credit unions invest in technology as a means to both support consumers’ banking needs and strengthen relationships. 

The key is to engage your audience 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 financial institutions to communicate information about their products and services in a way that is viewed as being educational rather than pushy. 

Another way to engage your audience is through the use of interactive displays, which are wall mounted, free standing, or counter-top touch screen monitors or tablets to 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 a need.

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, financial institutions 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 enhances the image of your organization. A friendly voice implies great service, and carefully selected music creates a mood around your products and enhances the brand. 

Before you start closing your branches, consider the ways you can utilize technology to your- and your customers’ or members’- benefit. There are many advantages to having a branch network, including the convenience and sense of security it provides to consumers. Implementing various forms of technology in branches allows financial institutions to connect and interact with people 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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