There’s been a lot of talk the past several years about declining ATM usage. In fact, the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently did a piece about how banks are considering not renewing their ATM contracts at MSP airport due to a lack of profitability. US Bank, for one, is poised to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on its 17 airport ATMs.
The main reason seems to be the increasing popularity of electronic-based payment methods: debit cards, credit cards, Pay Pal, Apple Pay, etc. In fact, only seven percent of all US financial transactions are cash-based. While there’s still a need for cash, physical currency is definitely losing momentum.
What does this have to do with your bank marketing?
Before ATMs, people frequented their local branches. They maintained regular human contact, helping to solidify relationships and build the loyalty that’s so essential to business success. ATMs drastically reduced the need for branch visits, but banks were still able to maintain an important touch point for regular customer contact. The fee structure, network, and location of ATMs gave customers a reason to choose one bank over another.
Now, as ATMs start to go away, banks have a bit more of a marketing challenge. Beyond having a logo on a plastic card, how can institutions create a brand experience that builds loyalty, relationship, and connection to their customers, when many of the ways they used to connect have become obsolete?
The New Rules of Relationship Building
These days, 90% of all media interactions occur via some sort of electronic screen. Which means banks need to embrace the online experience like never before. Consumers have already come to expect a seamless online/offline/mobile experience from the companies they interact with. Financial institutions are no different.
Sure, products and service still matter. But the days of sitting back and waiting for your customer to come to you are over. More and more, people want to engage with brands on their terms—wherever they are and whenever it’s convenient for them. For brands—including financial institutions—it’s all about finding ways to be part of their customers’ everyday lives and add meaningful value.
The Omni-channel Approach
To stay relevant in a growing digital world, banks need to expand their thinking in regard to customer interactions. Omni-channel banking is about creating a complete customer experience across all online and offline media, creating consistent interactions with the brand across all touch points.
Because banks retain vast amounts of data that allows them to measure and analyze these interactions, they can keep improving the customer experience based on user preferences and behaviors. This gives banks a significant opportunity to create a unique brand experience to help distinguish them from the competition.
An omni-channel approach includes:
- Branches and ATMs—Improving the physical banking experience to optimize every interaction
- Online—Offering convenient online features that allow customers to do access their account and do much of their banking from anywhere
- Mobile—Apps and SMS banking are growing like crazy. Offering these services is an essential part of delivering a complete customer experience.
- Social media—Used not only for conveying information and sharing feedback, but also for certain kinds of financial transactions. The full potential of this powerful medium is still evolving.
- Video—Some major banks have begun installing video conferencing facilities in their branches, creating a new way to offer high-level personal service, no matter where their customers are.
Providing a complete omni-channel experience remains a work in progress for most financial institutions. But those who have embraced it have already experienced excellent results.
When done well, omni-channel strengthens relationships, improves the customer experience, and increases company profitability. While physical branches and ATMs aren’t going away anytime soon, it’s clear that to satisfy customers’ needs and keep them loyal to your brand, an omni-channel approach needs to be an important part of every institution’s long-range plan.