Making Banking Intimate: Fintech and the Customer Experience

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This post originally appeared on the American Marketing Association’s website and was written by Ethan Morantz, Miglena Armutlu, Cody Greer, and Vishal Pua.

Banking has come a long way from its roots in 2000 BC when merchants were using grain as currency for loans (Davies 1994). During the Italian Renaissance, the banking process became more sophisticated as services such as deposits and withdrawals were added (Varadarajan 2014). With the continued modernization of commerce, the industry progressed at an exponential rate. This progress eventually tapered off when the 2008 Financial Crisis hit, effectively tarnishing consumer trust in financial institutions. In the aftermath, it was apparent that in order for banks to remain profitable, a new model was needed – one that focused specifically on the experience of the customer.

For the average person, the traditional banking customer journey involves going to a conveniently located branch, waiting in line, talking to an oftentimes less-than-friendly teller, accessing personal accounts, and walking out wondering if any of this could have been avoided. Enter Financial Technology (Fintech).

Over the past decade, the banking customer experience has seen numerous technical disruptions that have moved a vast majority of services away from the branch and into an online platform. With the ability to perform stock trades, transfer funds, make mobile payments, as well as budget in real time, the physical branch has ceased to be the obligatory passage point of personal banking.

The question, then, is: how can banks leverage their longstanding foothold in the industry when innovative services offered by Fintech now exist? The answer: by enhancing the customer experience. Banks currently see Fintech as a threat, but they need to realize that this is not about their eventual replacement; rather this is about recognizing the opportunity to create an intimate, social, and personalized customer experience.

1. Integrate Apps and Humans into an Intimate Customer Experience:

A historically crucial component of any customer experience is social interaction with employees. There is an obvious comfort in knowing that banks have human capital on hand. An employee can provide expert information vocally and in-person. An opportunity therefore presents itself in constructing the next phase of digital banking.

Apps make banking easy by electronically facilitating financial transactions, such as direct deposits and mortgage payments. Wouldn’t it be great if an app could also link the customer with a human professional available 24/7 to address any and all banking needs? Offering this connection is something that Meuter et al. (2005) call “hand-holding,” and they identify it as a key factor in shaping the customer experience with self-service technologies such as a banking app.

Now imagine if Siri could check account balances, or pay off credit cards, or facilitate the transfer of funds from parent to child. Improvements in artificial intelligence allow apps to capably handle natural language queries and connect a multitude of services (Popper 2016). Essentially, bank customers could have a conversation and build an intimate social experience as if they were actually talking to a bank teller or financial advisor. Such an advancement would restore and ultimately enhance the social aspect that is the core of the banking customer experience.

2. Design a Personalized Digital Customer Experience:

Further, what if financial technology could retain information about a customer’s personal interests and combine that with purchasing pattern data to create a personalized digital experience? If a customer has budgeted wisely, and an app is aware of this, it could suggest tickets to the customer’s favourite hockey team’s next game or an upcoming concert as a reward for responsible spending. Such an innovation could create an exciting partnership between financing and fun, with the traditional role of the financial advisor being taken to socially cognisant new heights.

3. Achieve an Automated Customer Experience:

Lastly, banks could utilize Fintech to improve the customer experience through machine learning. This would allow for the prediction and anticipation of customer issues before they occur. Banks could then proactively identify improvement opportunities throughout the customer lifecycle such as reducing service fees in high transaction periods, such as holidays, or improving services that customers desire, like text message e-transfers.

Fintech can and will revolutionize banking. Financial institutions should be eager to lead the industry into its exciting next phases. Siri could fund RRSPs, contribute to RESPs, or pay off a line of credit – the four walls of a branch cannot contain the endless opportunities that lie ahead. Move over, paperless ATMs, the future of the banking experience is here to stay!

In-store Staff Become Even More Important As E-Commerce Gains Popularity

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In a recent interview discussing how AI will change the world, prominent venture capitalist Marc Andreessen was asked about his thoughts on the relevance of retail employees as we progress to more automation and digitization across industries. Here’s an excerpt from his interview:

“Timothy B. Lee

Are they though? Retail stores employ almost 5 million people, and the Labor Department has projected that to grow by 7 percent over the next decade.

Marc Andreessen

That’s right. This is the thing where the luddites just keep getting it wrong. It’s an application of what you said, which is that the scarce thing becomes valuable. Retail clerks are growing.

The other thing that’s been growing for decades is bank tellers. That one might actually finally begin to decline. But bank teller jobs have continued to grow for the last 30 years as ATMs and online banking were rolled out exactly for the reason you said. Which is all the sudden there’s an opportunity to differentiate by providing a higher level of service by providing a person.

Vinod Khosla has written all these stories about how doctors are going to go away. He thinks computers are going to be so much better at diagnosis that there’s no room for doctors any more. And I just think he’s completely wrong. I think the job of a doctor shifts and becomes a higher-level, more important job that pays better as the doctor becomes augmented by smarter computers.

That’s why I’m so optimistic about the economy. That’s why I think the Luddites and the slow-growth people are wrong. We can have tremendous amounts of job creation and have huge productivity improvements. They’re not actually in conflict, despite what everyone thinks right now.”

Through our in-store clients, we’re also noticing more of an emphasis on engaging a store’s staff to play a greater role in creating better experiences for customers. Retail associates will need to go from being ‘button pushers’ who pass transactions through, to becoming informed brand ambassadors who act as the most important customer touchpoint for brands.

How can marketers reach customers at the right time, with the right product, in the right way?

STRATFORD, ENGLAND - JULY 31:  Shoppers peruse the outlets in the giant Westfield Stratford shopping mall adjacent to the Olympic Park on July 31, 2012 in London, England. Trading in the huge 1.9 million sq ft mall has been boosted by the footfall of spectators, volunteers and competitors from the Olympic Park; whilst shops and restaurants in London's West End are reporting up to 70% declines in revenue.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

One of the biggest challenges marketers face in our world of endless data and communication channels is the ability to talk to the right customer, about the right product, at the right time and in the most impactful way. In order to do this accurately, customer identification is key, followed by the ability to tap into insights and deliver real-time service.

Ad Age discusses some of the setbacks today’s marketers face as they try to combine multi-channel data to establish ‘identity graphs’.

“This is hard stuff,” Steven Wolfe Pereira, CMO at Neustar, told Ad Age. “We need to move past the conversation of probabilistic and deterministic. We need something that is authoritative.”

As Mr. Wolfe Pereira explains, the data “needs to be collected, correlated and corroborated in real time from a multidimensional way, where you have tier-one sources like billing and utility information — things you cannot compromise — and then tier-two sources like credit card transactions and tier three, which would be all the social stuff.”

When it comes to physical commerce, the point-of-sale system, or point-of-experience system as we like to regard it, is the connector behind establishing this much needed accuracy. Most customers have a smartphone on them, which can be treated as sensors that interact with the point-of-sale infrastructure to recognize the identity of the customer when they enter an establishment, collect key insights about their likes and dislikes, and leverage those insights to deliver meaningful offers to them in an impactful way.

Here’s a look at how we’re thinking about the future of bricks and mortar, customer experience, mobile and point-of-sale systems.

Lucova brings mobile food ordering to more campuses via partnership with Creative Dining

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Lucova’s latest partnership with Creative Dining Services, a highly regarded hospitality and food management company in the US, named in 2015 as a Top 50 contract company by Food Management, expands its campus mobile food ordering solutions across to even more North American higher education institutions. Lucova is the only provider of end-to-end, white label mobile food ordering solutions, in the campus technology space – which has been attractive to food service operators who are keen on preserving the integrity of the brand names they have built both online and offline.

Creative Dining has initially launched their Lucova powered food app, Eatable, at Acqinas College allowing students to:

  • Order food and pay, ahead of time, from anywhere
  • Pay hands free for onsite purchases
  • Digitally store their meal cards (so they no longer have to carry around a physical card)
  • Provide real-time feedback about service and food quality
  • Access special offers and promotions

The app delivers the end-user features like mobile order and pay, while Lucova’s FIIT POS enables staff and head office to provide students with a home-away-from home experience where they’re automatically recognized and greeted by name at every visit. FIIT accepts mobile payments in addition to traditional payment methods making the transition to a mobile program easy for campuses.

5 Reasons Why Students Dropout Of College

Group of students in a cafeteria. Focus is on foreground, on three young adults communicating.

Colleges and Universities depend on a healthy volume of student enrolment and retention to remain competitive. They provide extra amenities, throw the best frosh week parties, and hire the best teachers for their respective programs. But sometimes, that isn’t enough. Here are 5 main reasons why a student might make the ultimate decision to dropout:

Program isn’t suited to the student

When a student begins their search for post-secondary education, they are limited to a pamphlet outlining prospective schools or a college fair booth full of overly cheerful (and biased) students. This leads them to select a school without a proper handle of whether or not it’s the right fit. For this reason, come Thanksgiving, many students dropout due to classes not being what they expected.

Students may not be mentally prepared to transition from high school

High school doesn’t always prepare or give students a realistic expectation of college. College is a huge transition, new teachers, new school, new standards that the student must reach. High school students tend to be chased for assignments, reminded of deadlines, and ample help is offered to get work done. College on the other hand comes with a new sense of responsibility and independence. The stress of this can cause a student to fall behind, miss assignments and so on, leading to an eventual dropout.

Students get too caught up with social events

When you are entering from high school to college, frosh week is offered to boost morale and help students make friends/get accustomed to their new environment. Despite frosh week’s obvious benefits, many students get preoccupied with continuing this party lifestyle long after frosh week has ended. This can distract them from their studies and cause grades to suffer. This may be a case of sheer will power, but nevertheless can lead students to dropout.

Professors failing to motivate students

We’ve all encountered a class in which the teacher was dull, unenthusiastic, and failed to engage a classroom. It is very likely the success rate of that particular course was quite lower than those courses you enjoyed. A lack of engagement from the teacher could cause a student to lose the motivation to attend class, and be actively involved in their class. When this is the case, students can easily lose interest and decide to dropout for good.

Leave for another school

Depending on the individual, certain amenities, events, and courses will attract a student to move forward with attending a particular school. These preferences could cause a student to be drawn to another school when their needs are not fully being met, or of their social needs are not being met (ie. making new friends).
At the end of the day, schools need to listen to their  students wants and needs, and help them feel a sense of community in their new surroundings. This could be as simple as having the cafeteria staff interact with them in a meaningful way – like greeting them by name at each visit (we create solutions that do this).

Lucova acquires FIIT point-of-sale and inspires how staff, students and mobile technology can interact on campus

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Official Press Release

Toronto, Ontario – Lucova Inc. today announced the acquisition of FIIT from One Fit LLC, a new generation point-of-sale (POS) system complementing its existing software solutions, to enable experience commerce in-store – helping brands differentiate with compelling experiences delivered through personalization. Designed for mobile first and customizable to industries, FIIT has already gained traction across North American campuses by offering features competitive to Square, with the sophistication of customer proximity, meal plans, advance reporting and inventory management required for food service.

 

“The campus market is in need of disruption and existing solutions are not keeping up with the changing preferences of millennial customers,” said Robert Love, Lucova’s Vice President of Product Experience and a seasoned food service executive (no pun intended). “Young consumers expect service that’s customized to them and a POS system is the gateway to creating that experience. We weren’t able to find a POS in the market that does that, so we’ve created one.”

 

FIIT’s cloud-based software goes hand-in-hand with Lucova’s customer introduction, hands free payments, mobile order and pay, and loyalty solutions. However, the key differentiation from other POS systems comes down to FIIT’s human-centric approach. Lucova’s proprietary Bluetooth technology turns a customer’s mobile device into an intelligent sensor that interacts directly with FIIT, allowing staff to create meaningful interactions with their customers by identifying them by name and face the moment they walk in-store, remove pain points associated with transactions, empower staff and create brand loyalty.

 

Lucova’s focus on creating solutions that speak to experience commerce comes at the right time. Forward thinkers such as Starbucks are aspiring to transform their customers’ everyday coffee buying transactions into meaningful relationship building moments, by leveraging technology to empower frontline staff with relevant customer information.

 

“We believe commerce should be a connected, personal and seamless experience,” said Amit Jhas, Chief Executive Officer of Lucova. “The FIIT POS, combined with our existing solutions, generates opportunities for unique brand moments where the emphasis is on knowing the person behind the transaction, which in turn drives positive growth and results for organizations.”

 

“(Lucova’s) solution has changed the way we think about how food service can be delivered,” a client of Lucova shares.  The FIIT POS is available immediately and is currently live across several US campuses.

 

About Lucova Inc.

Lucova brings technology, data and people together to enhance the human touch-points in the world of offline commerce. Their tools for enterprise businesses strengthen loyalty by turning customers’ smartphones into intelligent Bluetooth sensors that interact with the in-store point-of-sale infrastructure – informing staff of their customer’s presence on arrival, enabling hands free payments and generating opportunities for brand moments.

Lucova’s comprehensive suite of white label products ranging from hands free mobile payments, mobile order and pay, loyalty and rewards and real-time customer insights have helped campuses across North America grow sales and increase student satisfaction. For more information visit Lucova.com.

Official press release via Marketwired: Read here.

How To Get Repeat Customers

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It’s nice to have new people coming into your store, but it’s your loyal customers, the ones that keep on coming back, who keep your business going. According to a study by Bain & Company, customers that come back are likely to spend about 67 percent more than your first-time customers. Loyal customers are also worth 10 times as much as their first purchase over their lifetime (finding by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs), which means there’s great incentive for brands to become effective at getting repeat customers. Here are some simple steps they can take to encourage customer loyalty:

Don’t treat them like a stranger

If a guest comes over to your house, being the great host that you are, you would greet them at the door by name and welcome them in. Loyal customers are like guests- they’ve bonded with your brand enough to keep giving you their business, so it’s not too much to ask for brands to make the effort to at the minimum learn their name when then walk into your store(our solutions are built around this premise).

Don’t force a sale

If your customers have a habit of frequenting your store, chances are they’re very familiar with what it is they like and don’t like. The best way to service them is to inform them of new products that align with their interests, but if your staff are forceful in their approach to close a sale, the customer will feel intimidated and re-think a repeat visit.

Keep in touch

Similar to maintaining friendships, it’s good to keep in touch even if a customer is not physically around. While you wouldn’t want to overwhelm them with daily e-mails and app notifications, relevant pieces of communication here and there are a great way to maintain a relationship with customers and encourage them to come back to your shop.

Do something nice for them

Everyone appreciates nice gestures, especially when they’re spontaneous and customized to their unique personality. This could be something as simple as keeping aside an item of clothing that you know they’ve been asking about for their next visit or giving them a discount they didn’t expect. An effective loyalty program, which is integrated into your POS can enable these types of brand moments with customers.

Retailers Are Adopting ‘Experience Commerce’ To Differentiate Their Brands

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The explosion of e-commerce and changing consumer behaviour, towards experiences and not things, has created an urgent need for physical retailers to adopt innovative practices. While studies show that customers still prefer to shop in-store, individual brands are still faced with tough and numerous competitive players in the industry, where differentiating based on price and selection are no longer successful strategies. So, what gives? At a time when customers have more choices than ever before, the answer to attracting and retaining loyal customers comes down to creating unique experiences that revolve around the customer and their individual preferences – or ‘experience commerce’. Carrying this out involves truly knowing your customers (who’s the person behind the transaction?), what they like/don’t like, and how they behave:

Who’s the person behind the transaction?

It’s difficult to deliver personalized experiences to customers, if you can’t identify who they are. Being able to recognize a person, by face and name, are the key elements of initially establishing rapport and trust in any relationship. When it comes to other forms of 1:1 interactions (meeting for networking, dating etc.), not knowing these two individually unique pieces of information are deemed as unacceptable, but we don’t hold commerce to the same standards despite the fact that customers share very personal details (payments, clothing size etc) with brands and often frequent the brand’s locations multiple times. For experience commerce to work – brands need to get to know the person behind the transaction and stop treating their loyal customers like strangers.

What are their preferences?

Taking the example of Starbucks, some customers like to order the exact same drink every single day, whereas another customer might want to try something new and exciting at each visit. Unless you have an amazing group of staff, who possess photographic memories, it’s difficult to track each customer’s individual preferences. But this information is extremely important for delivering a personalized experience to customers. The good news?  This is an area where in-store technologies have come a long way in automating relevant customer information, and delivering them to staff to leverage at the right moment during the course of their interaction with a customer, through people-centric POS systems.

How do they behave?

Sometimes customers indicate one thing, but their action speaks differently. In order to keep providing the right type of products and services, the ones that customers really want, understanding their behaviour through the collection of pertinent data and intelligent insights can help brands stay relevant in the eyes of their customers.

Commerce should be a connected, personal and seamless experience. The widespread adoption of mobile devices, an extension of our lives, has created the perfect opportunity for brands to establish genuine relationships with their customers and shift to a model of ‘experience commerce’.

 

How Cosmetics Brands Like L’Oreal Are Benefiting From Personalisation

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Beauty products are generally highly personal choices for customers as the smells, shades and textures need to speak to the individual’s specific characteristics and preferences. If brands can effectively cultivate loyalty, they have a customer for life. In the competitive beauty industry, personalisation is the most effective way to to attract and retain a loyal customer.

 

Econsultancy.com discusses three key methods of personalisation utilized by L’Oreal which is helping them increase brand loyalty:

 

1. Utilise real-time marketing

The consumer is becoming more and more impatient. This means that alongside the expectation of a faultless service when buying a product, they now expect an instant solution when there is a problem.

A great way for brands to enhance the customer journey at every stage is to implement timely customer care.

Whether this is via social media, a website chat tool, or a messaging service like Whatsapp, the key is delivering the right message at exactly the right moment.

2. Deliver even greater personalisation

Addressing the customer by name isn’t a new concept, and it’s certainly not the only way to deliver a personalised service.

Both order-based and profile-based personalisation is becoming a fundamental part of email marketing – and it is intrinsic to making the customer feel valued.

According to L’Oreal, event-driven emails are the most successful.

From focusing on past purchases to even predicting when a product might need to be replenished, recognising the life of the consumer is key.

3. Delve further with data

With an average of 24% of all emails going straight into the trash can, irrelevance is the biggest reason for poor click rates.

Though brands now have access to immense amounts of data, it is still easy to use basic segmentation such as gender or age.

Instead, focusing on more specific details like behaviour and product preferences is likely to lead to greater engagement.

With geo-locational technology allowing brands to discover where customers are based, there is the potential for that first tip I mentioned, real-time marketing, to be used in bold new ways.

Why Your POS Should Be Built For Mobile First

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Within a bricks and mortar environment, the Point of Sale (POS) can be overlooked by customers and staff as a tool for giving and receiving great service. It’s generally there to carry out practical functions like processing purchases and tracking inventory. But the right POS can play an integral role in delivering a memorable experience to customers, and empowering staff to create meaningful interactions with them – things that have started to become critical to the success of physical stores.

As mobile devices continue to play a bigger role in commerce, from showing inventory, to making payments to collecting and redeeming loyalty points, it has become necessary for POS systems to ensure that they can effectively communicate with consumers’ mobile devices to keep up with the times and customers’ service expectations.

Most existing POS systems were not designed for mobile first- requiring brands to invest in add-on hardware in order to accept emerging forms of payments and mobile tools. This results in extra costs (which can really add up if you have multiple locations), occupation of much needed counter space and a decrease in the aesthetics of a store.

Understanding that mobile devices are here to stay, and are an extension of most people’s lives, it makes sense to consider the mobile compatibility of a POS to help brands build stores of the future.

Pictured: Our FIIT POS was built for mobile first, and through our proprietary BLE technology, it can interact with a customer’s mobile device to enable customer introductions, hands free payments, personalized brand moments and more.