We were engaged by a credit union to develop a new branch format that would target younger audiences. The organization was responding to high-growth areas in their region that consisted of residents that were younger (under 35), whose lifestyles were more urban than were common in the region—vertical living, no car ownership, fitness and healthy living, and digital-focused. The new format did not have to align with the existing branch portfolio, and the branch sizes were significantly smaller—ranging from 1000 to 2000 square feet. This flexibility and scale allowed us to focus on the customer and develop a store experience that would appeal to people who may not value (or understand) the need to go to a bank except to get cash.
Our solution was to develop a more retail-like setting to attract attention, pique curiosity, and encourage visits to the store. The space features a conversation bar in place of a teller counter, and leverages NCR’s Interactive Banker™ solution with ATMs for handling transactions. The key challenge was how to encourage people to walk in, so we developed a sub-brand called “The Money Store” with the tagline “learn, socialize, and bank.” We based the design of the interior on boutique lifestyle stores, with a niche shelving area for product displays. The intent was to create a retail type of setting to change perceptions about the bank, and to inspire different, more casual conversations to develop around the things people want to achieve in their lives. A key dimension of the design was about activating the space through content—and staff—which includes a unique product development and coordinated digital content, along with printed materials. The launch program consisted of custom-packaged chocolate bars with names and flavors tied to common money matter themes. The intent was to use something tangible and delightful—chocolate—to connect guests with various ways a financial institution can bring value to their lives.
The physical store becomes a lead driver, creating awareness for the brand, enticing people to walk in, and acting as a physical node in a larger digital ecosystem. It is nimble and flexible, but is ultimately focused on delivering high-touch engagements to an audience with high demands on their time and attention. The staff are positioned as financial experts, the kind of knowledgeable, approachable people you would want to talk to about money issues.
At approximately 1000 square feet, a small space means investment is relatively low and the staff is visible; they are not tucked away in offices, but are front and center, ready to help. Putting technology in the hands of the staff gives them the freedom to move throughout the space, not tethered to a desk, while also empowering them with CRM data and lead information.
The new store is a platform for conversations and creates a new type of experience that leads with relatable content. It connects the value of the institution and the products it offers to people’s everyday needs and aspirations. The success of the store is dependent on the appeal of the content, its ability to attract traffic into the store, and the ability of the staff to act on these opportunities and engage guests authentically about the things that matter to them. It is an experiment and an example of a form that the branch of the future may take. As with any main street boutique store, not every guest who walks through the door will be converted into a customer, but the branch will continue to drive awareness and engage people who, eventually needing financial services, will recall their great experience at The