There's a reason you've started hearing the term "retail banking" more and more synonymous with your in-branch experience. As a bank or credit union, thinking of yourself as a traditional retailer opens up doors for you that were previously blocked by a potential "stuffy" reputation.
Consider these reasons why "going retail" is a great option for any financial institution.
Traditional retailers live and die by relevancy. With a constant feedback loop letting them know when their target customers are growing weary of their marketing and offerings, they have to constantly change and innovate to stay on top. This is a mentality that would be well-served in a financial institution. It can be easy to rest on the laurels of "it's what we've always done," as opposed to growing and changing with your customer base.
Putting it into practice: Consider forming an official committee that combines both marketing- and product-focused team members who can identify key innovation opportunities on a quarterly basis and see them through to fruition.
Make messaging relatable
Not to over-generalize, as many banks and credit unions have this nailed down, but a common conception held by consumers is that banks are stiff and dry. However, when considering your favorite, go-to retail stores, how does their messaging - whether in print materials, emails, video, etc. - make you feel? More than likely they elicit an emotional response that turns you into a loyal customer.
Putting it into practice: Take the lead from traditional retailers - make your messaging more relatable by constantly asking yourself and your marketing team, "But how does this copy make the reader feel? And is this the reaction we want to elicit?" If you can't answer or the answer is "nothing," you're not relatable enough.
Some retailers capitalize on every conceivable opportunity for a "special event." ("Our 3rd Annual Arbor Day Sale!" might be a bit of a stretch unless you're running a greenhouse.) But they're onto something that you could really use in your own business. Seasonality creates an urgency and an immediacy that demands a quick action without too much hesitation. And the other benefit - if you think about seasonality and what products people need at different times of the year, you're zeroing in on a much more effective sales pitch.
Putting it into practice: Take stock of your products and services and force yourself to identify what times of year a customer is most likely to utilize them. Some might be hard to pin down - do some research and look at past years' results. Don't bombard customers with everything you offer in a single sales pitch - restrict yourself to see more effective results.
Drive website appeal
It's time to do some side-by-side comparing. Think of your favorite retail store, whether it's a brick-and-mortar or online presence. Pull up that retailer's website and then pull up your financial institution's website alongside it. What makes one more appealing than the other? If your web presence, from your .com homebase to your social platforms, are dry, visually unappealing or lacking in dynamic, eye-catching copy, consider emulating your favorite successful traditional retailers.
Putting it into practice: Don't be afraid to stray from the norm on this - you want to stand out amongst a sea of banks and credit unions that offer very similar products. Most importantly - have fun. Sure, compliance and regulations restrict your messaging to a certain extent, but nothing's holding you back from talking to your customers in a conversational, rather than business-like, tone online.
How often do you find yourself opting for a store that's close to home (or just skipping the effort all together and shopping from your armchair)? Adding a convenience factor to its business model is a surefire way a retailer makes itself more appealing to an increasingly demanding consumer base. And this goes for banks and credit unions too - make sure you offer your customers ample opportunity to upsell themselves online and in your mobile app.
Putting it into practice: Make an effort to make your services more easily and swiftly attainable for in-branch customers. And get together with your webmaster or IT team to talk about ways to digitize your application processes for on-demand sign-ups, from checking accounts to mortgage apps.