Banks and credit unions tend to put a great deal of emphasis on the brick-and-mortar aspect of the retail experience. And that makes sense, as financial institutions are every bit as much of a retailer as the traditional big-box stores and malls are. However, the rapid rise of e-commerce means that an ever-increasing number of consumers will prefer to do business with you digitally or, at the very least, will check out your website presence before setting foot in a physical location.
Understanding that, there are a number of litmus tests which you can apply to your bank or credit union website. Following are just a few of those.
Give consumers a reason to visit your website. It may sound arbitrary, but it’s anything but. Simply slapping a digitized version of your brochure line on the website and expecting consumers to click happily to you isn’t going to happen. Your digital retail experience must offer a compelling reason for consumers to drop by. Are you offering high-value consumer information? Online-only specials? Regardless of the reason why, the very fact that your website offers a reason to check it out as opposed to a physical location is important.
Don’t just push information. Ensure your bank or credit union website also elicits feedback from consumers. You can accomplish this with online surveys, easy access to email feedback and prominent links to your social media platforms. Consumers will quickly tire of a massive “data dump.” By asking for their feedback and participation, you deepen the consumer relationship and heighten their exposure to your brand.
Keep text and navigation as simple as possible. Your bank or credit union website is not the place to impress people with vocabulary (or certainly financial institution jargon). Keep your text short and sweet. Similarly, nobody wants to hunt for information several pages (or clicks) deep. In fact, for every click someone must execute in order to find information, they are increasingly less likely to pursue that information. Keep your navigation simple and shallow.
If the porch of a home is its street-facing showpiece, your bank or credit union digital retail experience (most prominently expressed by the website) serves the same purpose. Ensure that your website puts the best possible foot forward for your financial institution.
A recent article in Adweek magazine helped accentuate the importance of video in this age of new media. Referring to video, and particularly social/mobile video as the “scrolling economy,” the article referenced several important factors that apply directly to banks and credit unions as they use video to reach consumers.
- Video today is consumed highly on mobile. This should come as no great surprise, especially if you notice that the majority of people in airports, shopping malls and just walking around in general typically have their necks bent, looking at some kind of device. More than 82% of online video views now happen on a mobile device. Therefore, banks and credit unions must ensure their video content is optimized to fit small screens.
- Audio agnostic. Banks and credit unions must also produce video content that works with or without device sound. Ensure your video content has on-screen text and captions for dialogue, when appropriate. You also want to allow images and graphics to do just as much of the talking as voice talent.
- Always actionable. Just like a call to action with the traditional marketing campaigns, video shared online must have some type of sharing end-game. Banks and credit unions should optimize video content for easy sharing across social media platforms and between peers. Your viewers must be easily able to click and share with their family and friends and to post it on their personal social media platforms.
The age of new media will no doubt continue to evolve and change. The rise of mobile video and peer-to-peer sharing via social media platforms have converged in such a way as to offer a powerful source of brand influence and advertising for banks and credit unions. The question becomes, is your bank or credit union video content optimized for this scrolling economy?
Remember the super-cool self-lacing shoes from Back to the Future Part II? For almost thirty years, a generation of kids has longed for shoes that tie themselves.
Fast forward to 2016. Nike, apparently, has found a way to make that happen. Meet the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0.
Done drooling yet?
Aside from just how cool self-lacing shoes (or, as Nike refers to them, “adaptive lacing”) are, there is a greater and deeper message for your bank or credit union.
That message is – you’d better stay on the cutting edge of things and reflect the dreams of your consumers or you risk going extinct.
This type of product exhibits the kind of forward-thinking critical for the long-term success of any retail outlet (and make no mistake about it, your bank or credit union is in the retail business).
Does your strategic plan include a focus on cutting-edge products and services for consumers in the next five to ten years? If not, why? If you aren’t thinking about the latest and greatest ways to serve your consumers now, your competition is happy to do so. According to CUNA’s 2016 E-Scan, more than 1,200 new start-ups entered the payments arena in the past two years alone. Are you ready to compete?
Think about it in context. Even as short as five years ago, no one really saw a world in which most consumers preferred to interact with their financial institution using a smart phone or tablet device. Wise credit unions and banks, however, those with the Nike mentality, thought ahead and began rolling out just such platforms for their consumers in advance of peak desire. I wince every time I see a bank or credit union talking about their great new app coming out like it’s really a big deal. Folks, if you are just now rolling out your first app, you are seriously behind the curve
I challenge you to, in turn, challenge your bank or credit union executive team and board to revisit their focus on the future. If they don’t believe in it, just drop in an eight-track player or VCR on the table and asked them how relevant it is to their lives today.
Financial products from banks and credit unions may never be as uber-cool as self-lacing shoes, but we definitely have our equivalents in financial access products and services. The task at hand is proving just how important it is to think ahead and be ready with those products and services by the time consumers reach peak demand.
One of the biggest threats to credit unions and banks when it comes to gaining more direct auto loan business is auto dealers. After all, dealers have a captive audience and use various sales techniques and tactics. You know you are losing loan volume to auto dealers.
So what can you do to counter that threat? A recent study from Crowdtap suggests the importance of social media. Insights from the Crowdtap study reveal the following:
- 68% of those who purchased a car found the vehicle on social media
- 87% say they research cars via social media
- 80% say they’re ‘more likely to turn’ to social networks than sales people
- 95% say they ‘would talk about’ car models they like on social media
In other words, social media is now trumping car dealers when it comes to the car buying process.
Matthew Scott, SVP of Strategy & Business Development for Crowdtap said in a recent Bizreport article, “Media-empowered consumers—who increasingly rely on the opinions of their peers to inform buying decisions—are flipping the automotive advertising model on its head. Auto brands that are able to steer the power of peer endorsements and social sharing will find success in marketing’s people-powered future.”
So if social media is changing the car buying process for consumers, what can your credit union or bank do to leverage social media when it comes to auto loans? Here are a few ideas:
- Use social media channels to educate consumers about buying a car—People are obviously turning to social media when it’s time to buy a car. Rather than put all your car buying information on your website, weave content onto your Facebook page, your Twitter feed and your YouTube channel. Consumers crave information about buying cars. So provide that information where they are: on social media.
- Engage members/customers about their new cars on social media—Web 2.0 is all about engagement. People don’t just want you to blast them with marketing messages. They want to engage with you. So conduct a social media campaign where you encourage your target audiences to post pictures of their new car on Twitter or tell a story about their new car on Facebook. For an example of a financial institution using social media as an engagement tool to drive loans, check out this article from The Financial Brand.
- List your repos on your social media sites—As the study noted above, 87% of consumers say the research cars via social media. So don’t just list your repos on your website. You might miss some potential buyers. Put that information on all the channels you are using.
- Provide auto-buying tools on social media—One of the plusses that comes with social media is giving consumers tools and information (not just a sales pitch). One great tool to use is Calcubot. It is an application that takes consumers through an interactive buying process and one you can use on your Facebook page. One plus: you can customize Calcubot to your credit union or bank.
Both social media and banking are about trust. Establish that trust by using your own social media channels to drive information (and subsequently loans) to your financial institution
In a lot of ways, the headlong rush into new and innovative technologies is great. People are able to learn, communicate and share ideas at a pace impossible just a few years ago. Consumers are also able to interact with their finances digitally in ways that would’ve surprised forecasters even a decade ago.
Banks and credit unions now offer the majority of their products and services that were once branch-bound are now in vibrant digital mediums. Consumers can visit with their financial institution, open and close accounts, take out loans, make payments and a host of other options – all from the comfort of their smart phone or tablet. Fewer people actually visit physical branches now than ever before.
Yes, technology is great. But it’s not everything. And if your bank or credit union hangs its entire hat on technology – you are setting yourself up to fail.
Because technology does not necessarily mean culture. Technology can exist as a part of your culture, but it is not the entirety of your culture.
For example, having all the greatest and latest digital technology for your consumers is terrific. But, much like a robot, it doesn’t have much of a soul. People will still look to the heart of your bank or credit union to check out its culture. And it is culture that drives brand. And it is brand, in turn, that drives loyalty, market and wallet share.
This speaks volumes towards the importance of educating your staff on the brand. Certainly, they have to know the ins and outs of how your digital products work. But if they don’t have a grasp of the overall bank or credit union brand — the DNA of who you are, you serve and what you want to be — you are setting yourself up as a soulless entity, one with which consumers will have a hard time relating. Ensure that your staff fully understands and lives the brand on a daily basis. This approach encourages both brand compliance and consumer loyalty through enhanced engagement.
Like a lot of things, technology makes a terrific servant but a terrible master. Ensure that your bank or credit union uses technology as a tool and does not rely on it as a false culture.