How often do you visit your bank branch? I'm going to guess it's a lot less frequently than you used to, say, five years ago. And you wouldn't be alone - figures show that daily visits to branches have fallen by 32% since 2011 and the number of times people visit a branch is set to almost halve by 2020 as more people favour their smartphones to manage their finances.
In fact, just this month, HSBC announced the closure of 62 branches across the country in response to rising popularity in online and mobile banking. The company revealed that 93% of their customers' contact with the bank is now conducted on the phone, via the internet or through the bank's smartphone app. There can be no denying that the way we interact with our banks has certainly changed for good.
Today, customers are demanding digital. On-the-go consumers want to check balances, make payments and even apply for a mortgage at the touch of their thumbs and the pressure for banks to deliver is high. With so much choice now on offer, customers will easily go elsewhere - to digital-first challenger banks or FinTech start-ups - if they do not get the level of service they expect. This is especially true of the younger generation as over half of millennials (57%) admit they would change their bank for a better technology platform solution that meets their needs.
But it's also important to realise that banks need more than an app to remain competitive in this changing banking landscape. Using technology to facilitate good communication and engagement with customers will be critical for the traditional banks to retain and attract customers, and ultimately stand up against the newer, more agile banks.
So how can this be put into practice?
Talking their language
Our relationship with banking isn't the only thing that has changed over the past few years; how we communicate with our friends and families has evolved too. Millions of us now opt to use private messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger every day to stay in touch and banks would be missing a trick to ignore these preferred methods of communication to reach their customers.
While many banks are making headway in embracing social media to talk to their customers, it can be argued that few have reached the point where their efforts are truly advantageous. However, for those that have collaborated their financial services with the likes of Facebook Messenger, they can now serve their customers wherever and whenever they choose. Take, for example, DenizBank in Turkey. Turkey ranks in the list of the top five highest social media users globally so clearly there is an appetite for social media banking services. As such, DenizBank reached out to its customers via Facebook banking, creating a new channel for its customers to transfer money, manage assets and talk to customer care representatives. As a communication channel, it's quick, it's convenient and it fits in with the 'on-the-go' consumer lifestyle. The result? Happy, engaged customers.
But as well as engaging with customers via the platform of their choice, banks are uniquely placed to leverage valuable data about their customers. Insights into what a customer spends, their income and their saving patterns enable banks to build up a detailed customer profile, and by analysing the data and behaviour of customers, banks can personalise their offerings and keep ahead of the curve by addressing the priorities of each individual customer.
This ability to deliver contextually relevant and convenient experiences for customers through cross-channel communications will set one bank apart from the other in this digital banking revolution.
Facing the competition
As the competition in the financial sector heats up, it's never been more important to realise that digital banking is more than just launching a new app or supporting a new device. It's about fundamentally changing the attitude of financial institutions to embrace technology that helps meet their customers' ever-evolving demands.
This consumer-led digital revolution is calling for banks to adopt a scalable, secure and seamless cross-channel experience to customer service. Those that do will find themselves in an advantageous position to become the bank of choice for the 44.2 million smartphone users in the UK. Those that fail to take the leap, however, will find themselves being left behind the competition.