Banking on the Retail Experience
Fintech technologies are disrupting the way customers interact with brands and traditional retail banks are taking note of the opportunities in building a digital ecosystem of services.
Airbnb, Betfair and Amazon have already taken this approach to redefine the accessibility of beds, betting and books. As fintech is racing to capture the traditional retail bank category, with Bitcoin pushing the conversation, a new order in financial services is closer than ever.
Will the financial platform look to the ways of Amazon or Grab?
Under these dynamic and fast changing conditions, traditional retail banks need to leverage their natural advantages of visibility and heritage. While spending time in banks is not the most enjoyable experience, their sheer physical presence and time in-market presents a sense of reassurance. Even as most financial transactions become electronic, there is still a need to be serviced by a human being who does not exist in the Cloud. Money just feels safer this way.
‘Pure-play’ online brands like Amazon (the everything store), Warby Parker (glasses) and Glossier (beauty) have made recent moves to combine physical retail space with human interaction and digital know-how. This combination offers an integrated experience that transcends traditional customer service. While the final purchase may still take place online, the offline experience contains critical components in the customer’s experience.
In comparison, the human and digital touchpoints of a traditional retail banking experience remain disjointed. At the branch, customers typically have the mindset to enter, queue, transact and depart. A similar experience happens when using smart phones and computers with little integration between offline and online experiences. Customers need integrated services similar to their experiences in other categories.
More can be done to unify the Physical (space/real estate), Human (front-line staff/customer service) and Digital (website/apps) elements of retail banking. We like to call this the PHD of better brand experiences. For example, the physical branches, offices and buildings can reinforce the perception of strength and security that is typically lead by heritage banks while still shifting towards the future. Human experts who are approachable and knowledgeable staff members can help bridge the gap between offline and online service. Digital touchpoints such as websites and mobile applications can deliver value to customers as efficiently as possible.
As customers, we are very demanding of our brands. When we are not happy with the service, we are quick to share negative feedback on social media platforms and abandon such brands for other options. The definition of service has long moved away from the standard smile and greet. Today, service requires the whole gamut of Physical, Human and Digital elements that deliver ‘time well spent’ (enjoyment) coupled with ‘time well saved’ (achievement). When done right, the experience is anchored with strong service and overshadows all of the typical marketing and communication messages customers receive every day.
For traditional retail banks, it’s time to climb the ladder of old trust and integrate PHD into their brand offering. Instead of waiting for fintech to show how to be disrupt with technology, brands can already start looking into how they can create a better and holistic customer experience.
By Simon Bell, Managing Director at FITCH Singapore