Do You Believe In Your Branches?

Re-envision branch strategy and rediscover your faith in brick-and-mortar.

We the jury find the branch guilty of the crime of being outdated and antiquated, of being inconvenient and unwelcoming, of hemorrhaging money, of being a liability rather than an asset, and finally, of being indispensible.

Sound familiar? If your current branch strategy is on trial with other executives, the board, or even your membership, don’t pass judgment just yet.  This issue of Technology@CU was designed just for you. 

Virtual competition and changing consumer behaviors have downsized the profitability of many industries’ retail footprint. But it wasn’t new technology, consumer preference, or even the bad economy that sunk big box giants like Virgin Megastore, Blockbuster, and Borders. It was the fact they refused to adapt to these changing tides until it was too late.

We all have our demons to conquer in the digital age. If video killed the radio star and MP3s killed the music store, then showrooming is a copycat lining up its first retail victims. This phenomenon - where customers try out products in a store while simultaneously comparing prices or buying the product online - has become the bane of big box retailers, who invest in extravagant locations only to have their business funneled elsewhere.

For many, showrooming presents a legitimate threat to their existence. But for the Indianapolis-based h.h.gregg, an underdog-turned-rising-star in the consumer electronics space,such behavior is an asset, not a curse.

“We definitely know [showrooming] occurs, so we try to embrace it,” says the company’s senior vice president of marketing in an interview with TIME Magazine. “If a customer is seen checking out prices on a smart phone, an employee will encourage the person to use one of the store’s computer terminals where they can easily check out competitors’ prices. Hhgregg will then match the lowest price.”

As a result, the company has opened 15 new stores within the past few months and plans to build around 20 more. This growth is occurring even as their biggest competitor, Best Buy, is busy shuttering many of its own locations.

We’ve actually dedicated an entire issue of Technology@CU to covering all of the different strategies - from location, to architecture and layout, to technology, to staffing and operations - credit unions can use to overcome branching challenges and make the channel profitable, sustainable, and meaningful once more.

Our aptly named “Battle Of The Branches” dissects four very different but equally successful approaches to construction and placement, operations, and staffing among some of the nation’s strongest cooperative financial institutions.

But even a perfectly executed branch network won’t function alone. That’s why we’ve also highlighted advanced ATM capabilities and evolving contact center strategies like outbound calling and live chat. These supporting networks are critical in reducing the transactional pressures branches face, helping staff focus on a better brand experience and managers focus on the sales that drive the bottom line.

And although many retailers don’t have the luxury of highlighting their personality through their locations, think of each credit union branch as your own blank canvas. Check out our Pixels section to survey some of your peers’ best work, then design some big ideas of your own.

It’s a big bad world out there, but the future belongs to the ones who build it