by Victoria Hoshal
We’ve seen significant changes in how consumers view and use banks and their products over the last year. These changes will no doubt continue to evolve in a dramatic fashion for 2012. They will drive how banks define their brand and market themselves. d.trio suggests the following four trends as important to track in the year ahead:
Shifting Payment Dynamics
Increasing federal regulations have permanently dented debit cards and paved the way for new forms of payment tools and systems. Debit cards and their reward programs are declining. Credit cards are coming back, albeit with new restrictions and more wary consumers. Demographic groups such as the Millennials and Generation X contribute to the demand for non-traditional payment methods. Pre-paid cards and their usage will continue to grow in 2012. New cards and payment products will be offered by non-bank entities (i.e., Suze Orman and her Suze card), which will alter the competitive landscape of banks and Financial Services. P2P (person-to-person) payment products such as Zash Pay offer a way for young consumers to facilitate direct payments and avoid using cash .
What is the net result for 2012? Traditional payment dynamics will be changed forever and banks’ hold on the payment system will loosen.
Mobile Banking Advances
Mobile banking will ramp up in 2012, driven by the increased saturation of smart phones and tablets. Less than two years ago, smart phones represented approximately 17% of the U.S. market. This increased to 44% by October, 2011, with 64% of cell phone owners ages 25 – 34 using smart phones.* Banks have not kept pace: A recent mobile banking study revealed that 75% of consumers who use mobile banking did not hear about it from their banks but rather sought it out and tried it on their own! Clearly, many banks that have been slow to market their mobile programs will look to catch up quickly in order to save face and business.
*Smartphone penetration skyrockets in 2011, Dec. 15, 2011, www.bgr.com
New Branch Paradigm?
Bricks and mortar provide a community face to bank brands, they offer credibility, geographic convenience and a human connection. Today’s consumer still wants a branch bank – but how they use it is changing. The increase in online banking, mobile and other interactive services means that consumers may not require a teller as often but will more likely want to engage with a banker. Consumer demand for consultative, individualized services and financial education will require changes in the physical interior design of a branch (the teller line may no longer be front and center). These changes in service will have important implications for staff hiring and training.
Banks must also continue to rethink best branch locations: Where does it make sense to have a branch? Is it best within a grocery store or other high-traffic retail environments?
It’s not hard to see that product innovation is being forced by the above shifts in the banking industry. With the effect of daunting new regulations and non-bank payment system vendors coming into the market, banks must become product innovators in order to stay competitive.
From pre-paid card alternatives to P2P payment solutions, the consumer is demanding new products, and is willing to buy them from a credible, non-bank entity if necessary. Banks must confirm a commitment to developing or purchasing new products that work for their customer or desired customer.
The pace of change in banking for the coming year will continue to be driven by all of these substantial market forces. Although this may seem radical for the average bank and financial institution, the opportunity for growth may be greater than ever before. Stay tuned.