There has been a lot of buzz around Apple's release of iBeacons late last year and its ability to enable micro-location capabilities. iBeacons uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to interact with sensors and identify a user's location with much greater precision. The feature is able to track when a customer crosses the threshold into a store and where a customer is at within a store.
Forbes recently reported offerings from companies like Shelfbucks utilize iBeacons to allow consumers to receive promotions for products on shelves where they are standing; instantly get product information or compare prices, all while in the store itself. Grocers such as Giant Eagle and Safeway have already launched pilot programs integrating their own mobile apps and iBeacons technology so customers can opt in and be reminded of items a spouse placed on their shared shopping list, earn loyalty rewards or receive relevant offers in real time.
In-store mobile experiences make a lot of sense for retailers who have shelves stacked with goods. But what's an in-branch mobile experience look like for banks?
While banks have made good progress around mobile banking applications, when it comes to combining their branch and mobile channels, they lag far behind other retailers. As Tomi Ahonen notes, consumers dip into their pockets or purses about every five minutes to look at their mobile phones. So customers could take three or four glances at their phones while they are waiting to meet with a teller or a banker. Each glance at the phone is a prime opportunity to interact with a consumer while standing in their branch.
Banks have an opportunity to create an in-branch mobile experience that is highly relevant to today's retail banking customers. Customers will need to opt-in to receive this experience. However, the following service offerings can create an enhanced value in the banking relationship that customers should be willing to receive.
Sharing specialized services and information. Banks should expose key pieces of information they have about their branches. This can range from allowing customers to see where mortgage officers, small-business specialists and financial advisors are located in the branch network to revealing current wait times at branches to those with enhanced ATMs.
Creating appointments and advanced check in. As early adopters, like of Bank of America and most recently Regions Financial, are finding, the use of appointment and lobby management services are excellent ways to boost professional treatment scores. These services could be extended so mobile app customers can check themselves into their local branch while enroute to reduce wait time upon arriving.
Crowdsourcing customer service. With the precision of a technology like iBeacons, banks can pop a request for feedback on their branch experience as the customer walks out of the door. Banks could provide these specific customer ratings and comments to branch managers for real-time customer experience management.
Sharing offers and digital forms. Banks might not have shelves of products for real-time coupons, but they could use iBeacons and other microlocation technologies to pop offers to customers' phones while they are waiting to see the banker or the teller. Also, digital forms can be downloaded (as part of the offer or via Quick Response Codes) which can be be started on the customer's mobile device and then transferred to the banker's tablet via NFC in the same way some smartphones share photos.
Making real-time customer identification. Most banks discover their prime customers were in the branch a week or two after they were actually there. If customers opt in to a mobile app, it's possible for lobby leaders or managers with tablet computers to receive a real-time notice when a prime customer enters the branch. Sensors in the store could pick up the customer's unique mobile phone serial number and alert the manager. Then, the manager could greet the customer by name and start up a meaningful, productive conversation.
Banks are at various stages of building out their mobile banking applications. As consumers become more used to accessing their mobile devices while shopping for clothes, food, or electronics, their expectations are being set to integrate their mobile phone into their in-store shopping experiences. Banks have an opportunity to step up the game by integrating their mobile and branch experience and create an in-branch mobile experience.
John Berry has led branch transformation, customer experience, and channel integration efforts in retail banking for more than a decade. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.