While branch transformation strategies strive to reinvigorate the performance of brick-and-mortar operations, the strongest approaches concentrate on adaptations designed to best serve customers across all channels. Consumer studies are increasingly making the case for digital-first banking by highlighting the current demand for banking activities to be online and mobile friendly. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the need for flexible and remote options. In order to provide a seamless customer experience, banks can explore transformation solutions that enable consistency between in-person and online interactions.
One report from research and analyst firm Aite, The Rise of Digital-First Banking, identifies some of the most popular banking activities completed during an in-person visit to a branch: making a deposit, learning about bank services, disputing a fraudulent charge, and finding ways to reduce debt.
A few additional findings:
- 46% of baby boomers and 39% of seniors surveyed visit a branch for deposits. The seniors are more evenly split between digital channels (36%) and in-person visits (39%) for deposits, while younger generations skew toward digital.
- Seniors do use digital channels, but prefer desktop to mobile. 72% of seniors log into their financial accounts using a desktop at least once a week, compared to 17% on mobile.
- Tracking finances and sending money to friends and family are the two most popular banking activities on mobile devices. 53% of millennials prefer to track their finances on mobile, while gen Xers and baby boomers prefer to use online banking (47% and 65%, respectively).
As branch strategists look for a path forward, the research points to two primary buckets. First, what considerations feed into a digital-first strategy? Second, how does digital transformation play a role in bringing this strategy to life?
Considerations for creating a digital-first strategy
Banking executives are facing rising pressures to reduce their reliance on their organization’s retail branch network and increase their investment in digital capabilities. As consumer expectations continue to be elevated by other industries, financial institutions have a slim window of time to be proactive before they’re left behind. While evaluating and driving a digital-first strategy, banking leadership might consider:
- Before COVID-19, digital banking traffic was outperforming branch and call center traffic. Restrictions from the pandemic will only accelerate the inevitable growth of digital channel usage. It’s not the time for financial institutions to shift focus away from their digital investments.
- A substantial number of borrowers aren’t yet aware of their bank’s digital capabilities. In Aite’s survey, between 9% and 20% of respondents said that they hadn’t known they could complete certain banking activities online or on mobile. These same people indicated that if they had known about the digital option, they would have done it there, depending on the activity asked about. Financial institutions should keep this awareness gap in mind to continue showing consumers their flexible, digital opportunities.
- Since baby boomers and seniors depend more on physical channels than younger generations, they are the ones most impacted by a crisis like COVID-19. Any digital-first strategies need to be built for all generations to access and use easily.
- In addition to sharing necessary information, conversational touchpoints can be used to easily educate consumers on their bank’s growing digital self-service capabilities.
Leading branch transformation with digital transformation
Digital transformation doesn’t need to feel overwhelming or unattainable. With the right partner, the transition to a digital-first strategy is a gradual process — not a “rip and replace” overhaul. Blend is redefining digital transformation for banks. We approach it in a collaborative way, by seamlessly integrating new technology into an organization’s existing systems. The new technology works to complement and improve working systems. Our definition of digital transformation means:
- Unlocking increased agility for your organization
- Partnering up versus disrupting current processes
- Introducing change thoughtfully and inclusively
- Transforming in innovative, seamless, and unifying ways
- Empowering teams with technology and tools that deliver the best consumer experience
The end result is a better banking experience for both customers and employees. Blend empowers a digital-first approach by giving consumers the ability to seamlessly start an application in one channel and finish it in another. Our lending technology supports both in-person branch activities and a broad suite of digital touchpoints with one unified platform.