Tuesday, 8 January 2013



Branch of the future 

So what is the "Branch of the future" and what will it look like? FNB launched their dot FNB concept branch this week, is this a glimse into the future of what branches will look like? I am not sure. 

My personal opinion is that the "Branch of the future" is ultimately the mobile device (Smartphone or Tablet). Speak to anyone and ask them whether they enjoy visiting a bank branch? I have a feeling that their answer is going to be NO. Consumers normally go to a branch when there is absolutely no other alternative. The other reason as to why people visit a branch is because they are too scared to try "digital banking solutions" like online banking or cellphone banking. These consumers are not comfortable with technology, so is the "Branch of future" with all these fancy devices like touch screens, iPads and Augmented Reality really the future? I am not quite sure it is considering the target audience that actually visits the branch in the first place. 

I believe if there has to be a physical "Branch of the future" then it should be a branch that improves the consumers experience at the branch, so that means no more waiting in long queues, dealing with incompetent staff, not knowing where to stand or who to speak to, bad service and inconvenient operating hours? Capitec has taken this approach, they understand what the consumer's needs are that are visiting the branch and they have focused on improving their experience. 

Here are some local "concept branches" or "Branches of the future":

If the criteria for the "Branch of the future" was technology and gadgets then I would have to say that the best example that I have found to date would have to be Citi Bank. It is a comletely new age of banking and a new branch experience. In saying this though, the next time you visit any PnP take a look at how many people use the Smart Shopper touch screens, if you can't get consumers to feel comfortable enough to use those devices how are you going to get consumers to feel comfortable banking in the "Branch of the future"? South Africans are very self concious, shy and often scared to use new technologies out of fear of looking stupid or silly. 

So in summary, I think it's critical to always keep the target audience in mind, if the "Branch of the future" is purely designed for Tech Savvy consumers or Digital Natives then surely they ultimately would prefer to bank via an App on their Smartphone or Tablet and not have to visit a branch in the first place? The "average joe" is definitely not going to feel comfortable in these concept branches, they aren't even comfortable using online banking and now banks want them to visit a branch with no tellers or staff? It's going to be interesting to see what consumers say about these branches and whether they ultimately improve customer service and the actual branch experience? 

I believe that this is mainly a positioning strategy, "look at us, we are innovative, first to market and leaders". 

My thoughts on FNB's next steps will be integrating the Augmented Reality technology into their existing FNB App (hence why they are trying to get as many customers and non-customers to download the App with their new Geo Payment Service) because the biggest barrier to consumers when it comes to AR and QR codes alike is the fact that you first have to educate them how it works and then get them to download an application (major barriers). 

However, if you suddenly have a large base who have already downloaded the App, it's then easy to overcome both barriers mentioned above. So in the very near future they will start integrating AR into their print ads, flyers etc. with a call to action to experience AR – this will then allow them to unpack the offering in a unique and dynamic way, highlight the product USP's and have a digital conversion point. This also then opens the door to traditional media having new measurement metrics and insights (which print mediums are most effective with AR, conversion rates etc.).

Exciting times ahead... 

ON MY MIND:  Mark Schefermann 

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