How do banks communicate with their customers? Although conventional wisdom and many industry observers would suggest that bank branches are being displaced as customers migrate to digital channels such as mobile and online, new research finds that shift is happening at a glacial pace.

A survey of 306 bank executives conducted by the research arm of American Banker (a sister publication to Bank Technology News) has found that among all banks, 94 percent still communicate with their customers live, in the branches and from call centers, and that in 12 months that number will not change. By contrast, only 25 percent of banks report that they communicate with customers over mobile devices, although 50 percent say they'll be doing so a year from now. Bank websites, paper statements, online statements and email are all strong communication channels for banks. Only 29 percent say they communicate with customers over social media, although 38 percent expect to be using such sites in a year.

Among banks that are actively engaged in social media sites, 80 percent use them as a way to market products and services, 78 percent aim to deepen customer relationships through those customer interactions, and 72 percent would like to acquire new customers through the sites. Asked about the barriers to social media adoption, 80 percent cited security, 60 percent are worried about education and training, 54 percent are concerned about the demand for or value of what they could provide over social media and 46 percent saw cost as a barrier.

In spite of the endurance of the branch, bankers surveyed are strongly interested in offering new products via online and mobile channels. About 40 percent plan to offer personal financial management tools, which are typically delivered online and in mobile apps, in the next 12 months. A good chunk (39 percent) plan to offer mobile wallet solutions. And 26 percent plan to provide rewards over mobile devices. Mobile location-based awards are of interest to 22 percent and 21 percent expect to offer digital loyalty cards with scannable bar codes on mobile devices.