We’ve recently been talking about the future of the bank branch, discussing why it depends on banks’ success re-imagining in-branch customer experiences. Branches cannot simply be convenient locations where customers connect with tellers to conduct financial transactions. Instead, branches must evolve into unique destinations that serve—and delight—customers in new ways, across both their financial and non-financial lives.

Industry observers know that this evolution has already begun. It’s important to track what first movers are doing in this area. What can we learn from them? And which of these fledgling ideas will become industry standard in the next five years?

A recent New York Times article explores some interesting innovations. These include digital technology makeovers using biometrics, experiences inspired by successful retailers, and redesign of traditional teller-customer engagement and process flows. Clearly, digital is everywhere, gadgets are good and customers are in the middle of it all.

While I’m intrigued by changes like these individually, they point to several larger trends shaping the way banks will reinvent the branch experience:

  1. Branches will be technology-rich, “test and learn” environments.

New branch experiences will never be set in stone as they were in the past. Technology evolves too quickly, ideas become stale too fast, and customers are continually hungry to experience “the next big thing.” As such, we’ll see branches become living laboratories for banks to incubate ideas in a test-and-learn environment in which customer feedback continually influences and perfects the next innovation.

  1. Customer insight will drive the reinvention of the branch.

In-branch experiences that are not deeply informed by customers are unlikely to succeed. Not only will banks need to segment customers to understand who they are and what they want, they will need to understand customers beyond their financial lives. Only then can branches become Everyday Banks, convening an ecosystem focused on meeting customers’ day-to-day needs.

  1. Retail innovation will be tailored to branch environments.

Retailers lead in creating relevant, digital in-store and cross-channel customer experiences. There is opportunity for banks to mine these successes and tailor them to the branch environment. This means finessing traditional bank functions to add services that enhance and extend the experience—whether free Wi-Fi and a good cup of coffee or a “genius bar” of experts providing financial advice and armed with smartphones.

I am eager to see how the branch experience will evolve in the coming years. For more insight into the kinds of experiences and services that are truly differentiating, please explore our Everyday Bank vision.

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