When conducting your strategic planning session, you spend time examining trends. What are big picture issues that are going to affect financial institutions in the coming years? What new patterns are emerging with consumers? Tools used for understanding these trends include CUNA’s Environmental Scan, Forrester Research reports, and reams of articles from The Financial Brand. We even provide our planning clients with an “M-Scan” report that provides details about what growing credit unions and banks are doing to succeed.

But rather than just the studying the obvious movements in our industry (mobile banking, the digital revolution, etc.) what if you looked for non-obvious trends?

That is exactly what Rohit Bhargava does with his latest book, Non-Obvious. The subtitle—How To Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future—summarizes what he tries to accomplish in a thought provoking read. The book is divided into three parts: how to curate trends, 15 non-obvious trends he currently analyzes, and how to turn trends into actions. He defines a non-obvious trend as “an idea that describes the accelerating present in a new, unique way.”

Below are a few on the non-obvious trends Bhargava identified and how banks and credit unions can apply them.

(1) Glanceable Content

“Our shrinking attention spans and the explosion of all forms of content online lead curators to optimize content for rapid consumption,” is how Bhargava describes this trend. He notes that our attention spans are down to 8 seconds, which is less than a goldfish. You have to capture consumers’ attention in a fleeting moment.

  • Application: Cut the copy. It’s that simple. Stop trying to over communicate multiple messages in a single piece. You must make your newsletter articles, e-mail messages, billboards, websites, etc. brief. Many successful financial institutions are conducting marketing audits to get an outside opinion on how they can improve their marketing with shorter pieces.

(2) Reverse Retail

Bhargava says reverse retail is “brands increasingly invest in high-touch in-store experiences as a way to build brand affinity and educate customers, while seamlessly integrating with online channels to complete actual purchases and fulfill orders.” He noted how consumers are now “showrooming,” where they will visit a physical location to check out a product and then actually purchase that product online.

  • Application: Branches are not dead. They are changing. Multiple surveys from various sources indicate that between 60-80% of new banking relationships are established through the branch network. Of course, once those relationships are made, then consumers are migrating to a variety of banking delivery channels. You must consider not your branching strategy, but rather your omni-channel network: combining the physical, automated and virtual channels into one experience.

(3) Small Data

Bhargava challenges the concept of “big data” by saying “as consumers increasingly collect their own data from online activities and the Internet of Things, brand-owned big data becomes less valuable than immediately actionable small data collected and owned by consumers themselves.” He notes that brands must create value and link big data with small data.

  • Application: Use the data you have to personalize messages and offerings. Stop sending mass communication in the form of “e-mail” and send what Seth Godin calls “me-mail.” You know tons about your customers/members: their credit score, how much money they make, where they shop, etc. That’s valuable data retailers would kill to have. But it’s useless data if you don’t mine it to help consumers make their financial lives better.

Those are a few of the trends from the book. To learn the rest of Bhargava’s 15 non-obvious trends you’ll want to read Non-Obvious, which I highly encourage you to do. I found the non-obvious trends section most helpful. His insights were spot-on and will certainly help you think more strategically.

If you want to improve your insight for your next strategic planning session, then read Non-Obvious.

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