Evolve or perish: What banks need to learn from the ‘death’ of retail store fronts

Dearly beloved, friends, family, bored strangers reading this blog at work:

We gather here today to mourn the passing of the retail store front. Physical retail locations had a long run (roughly 11,000 years by some accounts), but not even one of the oldest outlets of interaction in human history can survive the juggernaut of the Internet.

Disruptors like Amazon siphoned customers, who could forego physical locations to shop in their own homes. Interacting with associates in person became obsolete, leaving the golden days of personal engagement in the distant past.

Retail stores died a hard death as transaction volume in brick-and-mortar stores declined to pitiful rates.

Or did it?

If you’re in banking, this eulogy probably sounds familiar. Physical interaction declining, online-only competitors gaining more and more traction, yadda yadda yadda.

Well, the death of the brick-and-mortar retail storefront, like that of the physical bank branch, has been much exaggerated.

True innovators in retail understood, as banks must, that this is not simply a case of online killing in-person. The Internet presents an opportunity to evolve physical locations, making the unique experience of an in-person interaction even more crucial to a customer’s relationship with the business.

Erin Hill, JPMorgan’s head of consumer branch banking and wealth management, said it best in AmericanBanker: “The lessening of foot traffic does not at all affect their ability to deepen relationships with customers.”

The in-store interaction and the online transaction are not antithetical–they’re two facets of the same experience.

In the bold new world of experiences spanning the digital and physical world, customers can research and put products in their cart online, walk into the store to talk to an associate about those same products, look at complementary products and, finally, pay for their purchases.

Apple is one of the best examples of bringing physical and digital storefronts together. The tech giant ensures customers are both engaged and able to transact efficiently by creating a seamless experience from in-store to online.

Apple understands, as banks must learn, that customers want to engage when and where they want as conveniently as possible. It invests in a technical architecture that allows for a common platform across these channels — so all customer and purchase information is available in real-time.

Even Amazon, once an online-only, storefront-killing boogeyman, recently announced their own investment in a hybrid in-person, online approach.

Online is only the death of in-branch if banks refuse to evolve.

Embrace the strengths of both and reap the benefits of a holistic banking relationship by adopting a platform that can handle digital, physical, and everything inbetween.

channelUNITED’s name says it all–take every channel, every interaction and every customer and bring them together to present the right experiences at just the right time.

Click here for more information on channelUNITED.