12 Economical Ways to Increase Foot Traffic for Brick and Mortar Branches
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Simple, quick, and cost-effective options.
I get it. Branch foot traffic has declined for years. All investment is trending digital. Banks can’t find enough available labor to staff branches. Branches are expensive cost-centers that drag on efficiency ratios.
Yet, I think we can all agree that branches do serve an important function for banks; they are a key delivery channel for consultation when banking becomes more complex than checking your balance or transferring funds. Research shows that customers simply having the option to consult in-person with a relationship manager can ease anxiety in a transaction thereby making it more appealing than alternatives where there is no such option. This is true from Gen Z to Baby Boomers.
Branches still act as a means of differentiation as compared to digital banks who, by very definition, cannot physically engage directly with a consumer in authentic human capacity. Additionally, there are Community Reinvestment Act implications surrounding branch closures, and often regulatory approval processes associated with closing a branch in low-to-moderate income areas. Not to mention, you likely have long term leases associated with the commercial properties or perhaps you own them outright. So, shrinking your branch network is not a problem which is easily solved and they do still serve an important function in the customer experience.
Some mega-banks like Bank of America, Chase and most recently US Bank, are continuing multi-year expansions of their branch footprint. And, I suspect you’ll see the most successful online banks eventually open at least one brick and mortar flagship or streamlined model, like Amazon has done in retail. Point is, branches will never completely die and you’re not ridding yourself of all branches in your current footprint. So here’s twelve easy ideas to get your community interested in your brick and mortar branch locations with minimal investment.
· Host Local Speaker Series, Panels or Town Halls with Your Executives, Town Officials, or Small Business Customers, on Evenings and Weekends
Understandably, your c-suite is likely unavailable to the public for speaking engagements. And though they serve a public good, speaker series on financial literacy, first time home buyer workshops, or estate planning don’t exactly draw a crowd. However, there may be an audience for some of your junior executives with an interest in speaking to a local community about: (1) opportunities from your charitable foundation; (2) mentoring or counseling on hiring, interviewing, resume review or career-pathing; (3) trends in marketing or social media reviews for small business; (4) emerging affordable tools and technologies for personal data security; (5) building wealth through real estate investment, and more.
Providing your emerging managers and junior executives opportunities to speak in front of a crowd on issues about which they’re knowledgeable provides a platform for personal career growth and skill building. Comfort before a crowd is a key executive skill they can build through this approach.
· Create After School Skills Programs for Teens
See my post here. You have ample talent and equipment in your organization, and what’s better than just handing out money through your foundation? Giving people your time and sharing your talents. Your teams in Finance, Accounting, Information Technology, Compliance, and Legal deserve to see the outside of your office space on occasion. Let them build curriculums to share in educating youth in your community on important skills which may help them define their own career paths.
· Post Framed Artwork in your Branch from Local Artists
Your branch décor is likely stale. Your artwork is probably non-existent, generic or meaningless. Yet, your community is full of aspiring and established artists who would love some visibility. Feature them in your waiting area in a tasteful display. Share their work on your social media feeds and tag them. Their followers will notice, which can be an indirect avenue to exposure amongst influencer networks.
· Give Out Free Greeting Cards
Bulk greeting cards are not expensive, but individual greeting cards in a store certainly can be. They’re also something people frequently purchase last-minute, or bypass altogether. Meanwhile, two things are commonly given as gifts which can be obtained within your branches: (1) cash, and (2) prepaid cards. People may be coming to you for purposes of gift giving, so provide them with free greeting card choices in the lobby and make it all the more worthwhile for them to visit in-branch instead of using an ATM.
· Use Existing Televisions to Display Ads for Small Business Customers, Non-profits or other Businesses in the Community on a Closed-Circuit Loop.
No one is staying in your branch to watch a streaming market ticker on a muted CNBC all day, and really … why are you advertising to your existing customers in a branch environment? Anyone in your branch is likely already engaged in a deep relationship with your institution. So, use that time and attention to give visibility to important partners and relationships for your organization. Whether it’s the charitable partners to your foundation, or five randomly selected small business customers of your bank, that medium for content could be better utilized for engagement purposes.
· Reallocate your Lollipop and Pen Budget to Fresh Baked Cookies
People make decisions centered around food choice. Millions of people every day choose hotels based upon complimentary food offerings. Speaking personally, I consciously decide where to service my car based upon what free food and other amenities are available while I wait. I guarantee no one is coming to your branch for lollipops or pens, but fresh baked cookies will be a factor in deciding whether you take five minutes to deposit grandma’s check in branch as opposed to drive-up-atm.
· Create a Revolving Used Book Exchange In Your Waiting Area
Used book exchanges … they’re eco-friendly, cost-conscious, community-building and people like free things. It’s simple, easy, and will even engage your employees in the activity. It can be a separate basis for discussion for a greeter in a branch.
· Replace Sterile Branch Furniture With Rocking Chairs
When banks do introduce furniture for customers, it never seems to be done with customer comfort in mind. And no, I’m not talking about traditional front porch rocking chairs like you see in the movies. There are sleak, modern office furniture rocking chairs at reasonable prices. Rocking chairs offer some health benefits, and will likely entertain any children in tow. It’s a small gesture your customers will notice once they’ve left, and will likely increase their propensity to return.
· Commence an Outbound Calling Campaign From a Local Branch to Thank Your Customers for Being Your Customers; Not for Selling
Robocalls. We hate them. They’re endless. Strange numbers, we avoid them. Voicemails, we don’t listen to them. In this case, who cares? For the 10% of customers you’ll reach, you’ll get a positive response. Personally, I’ve used the same mega-bank as primary financial institution since I was 14 years old. Not once in my life have I ever received an unsolicited thank you from them for that loyalty. You could be amazed at the positive impact of a simple outbound gesture saying “thank you” from the nearest branch manager. With some relatively straightforward advanced analytics surrounding some further strategy, this could be a successful campaign without any effort to cross-sell.
· Issue a Simple Guarantee or a Customer Branch Bill of Rights
Try this … We guarantee you will be greeted immediately, refund any fee which is unfairly assessed, always have a portion of your funds available for immediate use, and will approve any loan you’re qualified for under our policies. You know why this is an effective guarantee? Because they’re things you’re basically already required to do under UDAAP, Reg CC, ECOA. The details are just a function of policy interpretation and actual process.
· Make your Branch Bathrooms Accessible to the Public
I know; Corporate Security and Facilities won’t allow it. Though, if you have a branch where a restroom can be made available, imagine the impact you can have in someone’s opinion of you by letting them know they’re welcome in your space if the need strikes.
· Create a Designated Breast-Feeding Area Within Your Branch
Similar to the above, will mothers come flocking to your branch to breast-feed? No. But will they appreciate knowing that they’re welcome to do so if they please? Likely, yes.
· Invite Pets Into Your Branch
68% of all US households have a pet and pet-friendly retail is huge business. Conspicuous pet-friendly signage inviting four-legged friends into a branch will remove a hurdle for those passers-by with an interest in learning more about a new promotion, viewing some art, grabbing a cookie, using your bathroom, exchanging a book …
Though these ideas in totality may seem a bit silly, they’re not nearly as silly as continuing to carry the cost of branches which sit vacant for hours on end with no sign of life beyond those persons compensated to remain physically present. I can promise you this ... it will further distinguish you from digital competitors who have no branch to leverage in community engagement.