Evolve to satisfy changing consumer tastes

Even as people strive to make decisions objectively, they operate emotionally. That’s a reality we in financial services must recognize as we engage with consumers. 

As we commemorate Life Insurance Awareness Month at CUNA Mutual Group, we recognize that we’re doing something more meaningful than simply selling people TruStage insurance and AD&D policies. We’re helping them attain peace of mind that they will weather life’s unexpected storms.

Likewise, as credit unions, you’re not just a transactional hub for your members; you’re their trusted financial partner. To deepen that relationship, you need to evolve with ever-changing behaviors and tastes.

Having marketed everything from hiking boots to polo shirts to lingerie in my career, keeping my finger on the pulse of these trends is in my blood. Four themes have emerged.

Theme #1: Have it my way

Think how far consumers have pushed the envelope since the days when Burger King promoted the ability to “hold the pickles” as something revolutionary.

Now, we build our meal item by item at a Subway or Chipotle assembly line. Starbucks relegates the menu to an afterthought: You design the type of liquid, the taste, the temperature. 

Design your products and services so consumers feel they’re part of the creation experience.

Theme #2: Do it my way

Best Buy has battled back from the brink by adopting a consultative approach and operationalizing an array of purchase and delivery options that accommodate every consumer preference.

How can your branches go the route of Best Buy, rather than Sears? In an era when the biggest auto lender is Ally Bank – which has no physical locations – you must focus personal interactions around high-level functions while steering transactional activity to intuitive digital platforms.

Theme #3: Don’t take me for granted

Often, it’s not that companies forget to deliver on their model. Instead, they need to deliver a model consumers crave.

Despite its incredible hotels and high customer satisfaction, Hilton fell to No. 3 this year in consumer travel industry spending behind Airbnb, which owns exactly zero properties and inherently delivers inconsistent experiences.

What’s happening is, consumers want a different level of flexibility. 

This dynamic is playing out in payments, with PayPal and Venmo increasingly taking market share from checks, cash and cards. Meanwhile, Starbucks carries more than $1 billion in customer gift card balances. We’re loaning our money to them for free. 

Give members good reasons to use your debit and credit cards, as well as other payment methods you offer.

Theme #4: Protect me

Today, we proactively share a tremendous amount of data about ourselves.

When you buy a car, you agree to send vehicle reports to the manufacturer that include the driver’s weight. When you go to Disney World, you offer up your fingerprint. 

Generally, consumers accept that companies capture this information to enable more vivid, personalized experiences. But more than ever, people want to know what you know, understand how you’re using it, and decide which information you control. 

Transparency is key. Develop clear policies that include filters on what information you gather, when and why – and broadcast this loudly and proudly.