By Richard Slawsky
Contributing Editor, DigitalSignageToday.com
Banks and financial institutions helped give birth to the digital signage industry, and now the technology could be returning to its roots to return the favor by helping FIs navigate the rough waters of a changing marketplace.
Digital signage, in just a few short years, has proven to be a major boon for many industries, connecting businesses with consumers like never before. And FIs are banking on dynamic signage having a similar positive impact for them.
Banks and FIs actually were among the first businesses to deploy digital signage years ago, before the approach and the screens were actually called digital signage. Their closed-circuit TVs in lobbies disseminated information and programming targeted at promoting services.
But now, perhaps more so than at any other time, financial institutions find themselves under increasing pressure to connect with customers quickly and effectively. The immediacy stems from changing personal financial habits that have resulted in customers having fewer and fewer reasons to visit a branch. Paychecks are now handled via direct deposit, ATMs take care of most cash withdrawal functions, and loan applications can be submitted through an online banking portal.
These days a bank may have only a few moments to capture a customer's attention and convey its message, making it more important than ever to provide the best customer experience possible. In an ever-increasing number of instances, that customer experience is being provided with the help of digital signage.
Instead of a cardboard counter sign touting the bank's Christmas Club account, a digital display shows a video of smiling children opening presents on Christmas morning. Instead of a brochure touting the bank's credit card, a digital sign shows a family traveling around the country. And instead of a banner advertising low mortgage rates, a digital sign shows a young couple moving into their first home.
As it has done with retail, digital signage is allowing FIs to hone the in-store experience with a level of precision and visual appeal that has never before been possible. It is an evolution that is in process and one that could result in the total reinvention of the bank branch.
Every business searches for a competitive advantage. As the financial environment changes and evolves, institutions have diversified their offerings to continue to entice longtime customers and to attract new ones. In addition, they have modified their physical locations, clearing out static displays and anchoring display screens throughout the facilities — in full view of those who go inside.
But deployers aren't simply staging displays and piping in visuals. Any graphics displayed must have purpose.
In today's world of speed of light banking, print marketing is becoming less and less relevant. Information such as interest rates can change on a daily, if not hourly, basis, meaning that print marketing materials can be obsolete before they are shipped to the branch.
And print marketing simply doesn't do an effective job of conveying the value proposition of many of the products offered by financial institutions today.
"The financial products provided by banks offer intangible benefits that many times are better illustrated with dynamic pictures and images rather than static numbers," said David Little, director of marketing for Keywest Technology, a Lenexa, Kan.-based digital signage provider.
"Digital signage can provide meaningful illustrations showing the results of intangible benefits, like the CD that was cashed in paying off a daughter's wedding, or the second mortgage that just put the children through college," Little said. "Digital signage can target rich media at the point patrons are thinking about financial decisions, and that may be just the ticket to arouse need recognition."
And those messages can be deployed virtually anywhere a financial decision might be made. Places where a customer travels when in the bank, such as the ATM, the forms counter, the foyer and the teller line all are candidates for digital signage placement. Each is an area where additional financial information that is potentially useful to the customer could be imparted.
"Effective placement at a financial institution can vary, but the drive-thru, entry, foyer and teller areas are the potential key places where timely, automatically-updated information can have the biggest impact," said Daniel Leunig, senior sales manager with Lincolnshire, Ill.-based LG Electronics USA Inc. "Within the banking environment, these are the areas where a customer and the bank can benefit by providing information that enables the customer to have specific need taken care of."
Digital signage also can serve functions beyond the obvious display of ads touting a bank's products and services. Interactive touchscreen displays can handle some of the functions previously accomplished by a teller, allowing that person to accomplish other, more profitable tasks. A display outfitted for teleconferencing can serve to connect customers with an off-site expert. When the branch is closed, digital signage can be used to train bank employees on new procedures, eliminating the need to send trainers to individual branches.
Brian Nutt, president of Louisville, Ky.-based Codigo, a provider of Internet-based digital signage systems, points to four specific reasons why FIs should consider using digital signage to communicate with both customers and employees.
1. Training: This is a critical component for banks and credit unions. Most have several branches and many have dozens or even hundreds spread across large geographic areas. Banking also is one of the most heavily regulated industries, and many of these complex regulations flow down to the teller level, where turnover can be as high as 50 percent per year.
2. Cross-selling: The cross-sell is at the core of a financial institution's success story. There is substantial research that shows the more products a person purchases from a financial institution, the less likely it is that person will leave for another bank. This is a critical issue, because the ability for a bank or credit union to effectively execute the cross-sell often falls on the tellers. Yet the tellers are usually underpaid, understaffed and have not received an adequate amount of training.
3. Experience: Banking is a commoditized industry which has very few differentiators outside of the brand experience. That experience starts when the customer walks through the door and hopefully carries forward with that person even after they leave the branch. It involves interaction with the employees of the bank, traditional advertising outlets, the Internet and the interior and exterior of the branch. Digital signage offers the opportunity to enhance the brand experience that customers receive each time they enter the branch.
4. Drive-thru: The drive-thru often is the most overlooked part of the digital signage equation in a branch. Yet the statistics prove that it should be one of the most carefully planned and executed. Between 40 and 60 percent of customers use the drive-thru on a regular basis. That's a staggering number, when the importance of the cross-sell is considered.
(This article is excerpted and adapted from the recently-updated guide, "Digital Signage for Financial Institutions." Download the free guide here.)
Read more about digital signage in banks and financial institutions.