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True Omnichannel banking: Much more than skin deep

Today’s consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to being targeted with special offers and deals by retailers such as Amazon, Google, and airline websites who regularly send them relevant and timely purchasing suggestions while they browse for products, as well as straight to their inbox. As it becomes more and more routine for customers to be approached in this way, the concept of these personalised recommendations coming from a bank does not come as a surprise. In order for this kind of approach to work for a bank, they need to take their cues from these successful retailers and give their customers flexibility and responsiveness, including the ability to switch devices conveniently while maintaining service consistency. Right now, Google estimates that over 46% of consumers switch device before they complete an activity, with this being an especially important factor during significant purchasing decisions. In plain terms, that is nearly ½ of consumers who actively engage with more than one face of an organisation before they confirm a purchase.

While banking is anything but simple, customers usually have uncomplicated expectations from their bank. They want their money to be safe, they want to bank at the best possible price, they want rewards, and they want to bank anytime, anywhere, using any device. This means that they want to be able to not only perform transactions, but expect their bank to offer them appropriate products and services when and where they need them. A recent Forrester report stated that 50% of banks total customers regularly use more than one channel, showing that the “where” in this instance can be on any, or multiple banking channels. Today however, very few banks have taken this on board and are offering their customers this personalised and consistent service. To achieve this goal and to better serve customers, banks are increasingly seen to work on integrating their delivery channels, first from siloed, then to Multichannel, and finally to Omnichannel. These terms which the banking industry has developed can sometimes be interpreted differently and cause confusion in their true meaning. Let’s look at the definition of these terms and break down exactly what they mean for banks and their customers:

Multichannel or cross channel?

The traditional Multichannel approach, which was a popular buzzword when first introduced several years ago, is essentially concerned with helping to deliver a consistent look and feel across all of a banks various channels through tools such as branding. The important thing to note here is look and feel, and with Multichannel, although each channel may operate independently of others offering different functionality, they will maintain a specific design and finish which will be seen universally. Another important factor in multichannel is that the bank’s delivery channels will be linked together and interoperate with a point to point integration between each channel. With Multichannel, data is sent from one channel to the other and is then consolidated.

What does Multichannel mean for the customer?

To the customer, Multichannel banking makes it appear as though they have a consistent and consolidated relationship with their bank. In reality the customer can sometimes experience issues such as a particular product not displaying on a particular channel.

What does Multichannel mean for the bank?

For banks, Multichannel means that a third layered system enables the delivery of this consistent look and feel. All of the banks channels are integrated through a separate system which can sometimes prove complex and risky.

Omnichannel: The real thing.

Omnichannel banking is universally recognised as the ability to deliver a seamless, real-time experience across any or multiple channels. Numbers from Gallup show that 79% of mobile banking users have also visited a physical branch in the past 6 months, and 84% have used an ATM. With Omnichannel, all of these channels from ATM to mobile, are harmoniously working in unison with the entire banking infrastructure and are tightly integrated between channels as well as with single or multiple core banking systems, CRM and product management. At the very heart of Omnichannel, lies its ability to facilitate a bank in providing ‘everything at any time’, allowing customers to enjoy the exact same experience on each channel while sharing a simple common operational platform.

What does Omnichannel mean for the customer?

With Omnichannel banking, the customer has access to the exact same offering, products and adverts as well as look and feel, regardless of the device they are using. The data is consistent, the customer has a single relationship with their bank and can send a request while receiving an instant response. With Omnichannel, banking becomes instant, interactive and tailored to the individual customer.

What does Omnichannel mean for the bank?

For banks, Omnichannel primarily means better customer intelligence and visibility. As the bank gets a 360 view of the entire customer relationship including preferences, lifestyle and past purchases, this data can prove to be a goldmine for banks. Using this information, the bank can efficiently and effectively target individual customers with products and offers which suit them depending on their lifestyle, life stage, and any number of other contributing factors. By having a bigger picture view of the full customer relationship including accounts, saving, cards held, income and purchase history, banks can unlock a host of business opportunities and can offer the the best customer experience in the market.

With many players across the financial services landscape including analysts, vendors and banks alike now endorsing a shift to Omnichannel banking, many parties are wrongly using the term Omnichannel to describe a seamless banking experience at the fascia level. It is important for banks moving forward to understand that appearance is only one facet of a true Omnichannel approach. While yes, effective and consistent branding is essential and affects customer’s sympathy towards your brand, in reality it only answers half of a banks challenge. It is not enough merely to have a consistent brand presence while continuing to serve each channel in a complex way, in that sense Omnichannel could be interpreted as simply responsive design across all devices. However, it is as important, if not more important to delve deeper and have the right offering and content that will meet your customers’ needs. A simplified Omnichannel architecture will help banks to improve ROI while also giving them the flexibility to better serve customers. Additionally, it is also just as important for a bank to be able to expand and improve their offering easily, adding further channels without having to integrate them with a host of existing systems.

With a true Omnichannel approach, banks need to carefully execute their strategy to ensure the entire process and essence of banking is consistent. This includes:

  • A tight integration between all channels and core banking system to link together the business functionalities, business intelligence and branding
  • The capability to get a 360 view of the entire customer relationship with your bank
  • The power to provide a consistent offering across all channels with all products and services ready to be deployed across all channels when needed
  • The capability to deliver a relevant and tailored offering with products and services that meet the clients expectation
  • The power to bring interactivity between your bank and your customers, letting customers initiate or respond to a request or accept an offer from any channel
  • The capacity to display a consistent look and  feel across all channels which can be customised and displayed intelligently to different segments of customers

With many banks today still maintaining legacy systems, there is constant struggle to meet the omnichannel requirements of emerging technological trends such as the smartphone and tablet boom, and the advanced add ons and additional associated channels which need to be catered for. For example, The Economist has recently reported that 4/5 of smartphone owners check their devices within 15 minutes of waking up and the average user does so 150 times a day. Within an Omnichannel architecture, banks can quickly avail of the opportunities presented by new channels and incorporate them into their channel structure with ease. These modern revolutions are something which banks need to be able to capitalise on and an Omnichannel structure gives them the opportunity to do just that. Granted, achieving an Omnichannel strategy is not an easy task. To do this we must deal with every single system the bank is using, however, the effective personalisation and targeting of customers with relevant offers can really only be achieved with a true Omnichannel environment. Banks that do not adequately weight the need for an Omnichannel approach face the potential risk of losing market share and being left behind by their peers and new players entering the market. To stay ahead of the curve, banks need to step up and accelerate the true Omnichannel change. 



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