As consumers migrate to digital platforms to process their basic transactions, the purpose of the branch is fundamentally shifting towards supporting deeper conversations and relationships with members. As a result, consumer expectations are diverging from the experiences provided by many branches. This creates friction, both for consumers and staff members. And, as the country settles into the COVID-19 pandemic, these shifts are only accelerating.
Consider the Apple Store experience. Customers visit traditional stores to buy products, and sometimes to check them out before purchasing. But online retail has taken away most of the value of this experience, as customers are able to shop from the comfort of their own homes while having reviews and information about the products they are considering at their fingertips. There are staff at traditional stores, but they tend not to be experts with products and customers visiting the store in hopes of learning more about the products are not likely to have a great experience.
Apple recognized that there was a valuable part of the shopping experience that wasn’t supported by retail stores, and they responded to this shift by radically reimagining the retail experience. They eliminated products from shelves and instead built stores around conversations and experiences. Customers who could easily shop online instead come to an Apple store to speak with expert staff and get hands-on experience, developing a deeper relationship with the brand and the products.
The basic transactions that your members come into the branch for are like the products on the store shelves. They are going digital rapidly, though you still need some support for them just like Apple stores still have small retail areas with accessories and phone cases. But the real value that you bring to your customers, what really differentiates your financial institution, is how the experts in your branches are able to answer questions and support more complex products such as mortgages and small business loans with as little friction as possible.
Achieving this level of service means redesigning the branch around conversations and building relationships. And in the branches that still need to support a high volume of transactions, this means building flexibility into the branch environment to allow staff to adapt to shifting trends. Digital banking is making in-person transactions obsolete, but rather than spelling the death of the branch it’s creating a powerful opportunity for credit unions to build stronger relationships with their members.
To learn more about how the branch experience is shifting, as well as dive into four other major trends in retail banking in the COVID-19 era and beyond, download our 2020 Branch Ideabook today!