As retail banking channels converge and innovations continue, an engagement strategy is beginning to emerge that will not only position your credit union to better attract Gen Y but will set you on a course for greater general consumer engagement regardless of demographic.
Though the population at large might not define themselves by their technology preferences, Gen Y is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to understanding where all demographics are headed.
Though you might see marketing to Millennials as a mysterious puzzle, the communications and product strategies you develop to reach Gen Y will lay the groundwork for the rest of your market while positioning your credit union as a progressive, channel-rich financial institution.
So, how do we leverage technology to engage credit union members?
According to Bank 2.0 author Brett King, we are an increasingly tech-focused society seeking instant gratification. He argues consumers gravitate toward rich and personal online experiences, a mobile wallet, robust social media, "branches of the future," touch-screen ATMs and personalized digital marketing. The channels and tools members use to manage their financial lives, improving efficiency and convenience often at the expense of member intimacy, now have the power to engage members like never before. Consumers choose all of these channels at different times when they provide the most expedient means to achieve their goals.
King said that those financial institutions that classify the Internet, ATM and mobile phones as "alternative" channels will be playing catch-up for the next decade while pop-up intermediaries will progressively capture niche service opportunities. We will all come to expect personally relevant interactions in any retail experience and therein lies our opportunity.
Rule No. 1: It's All about Engagement. Offer services that allow expression and collaboration, invite dialogue and engage members of all ages in conversation. This can be done through message boards and blogs and social network sites. Blur the lines between your products and your marketing-make them seamless. Find ways to better interact and engage members through every payment channel: branches, ATMs, call centers, mail, online bill pay and more.
Rule No. 2: Be On-Demand as Well as Online. Establish ways members can interact with your credit union via online and mobile banking. This goes to the heart of access and convenience that all potential members demand and is a key component to compelling a greater cross section of your membership to regard your credit union as their primary financial institution.
Though online and mobile banking are essential services, do not neglect your branch. Consumers today don't visit a branch to get better service unless they feel that human interaction is a critical element of a specific solution.
Rule No. 3: Show the Credit Union Spirit of Social Responsibility. Gen Y and upwardly mobile women segments use corporate responsibility values to screen companies. Showing civic-mindedness is easy for credit unions. Promote your next Credit Unions for Kids fundraiser throughout your community. This is one of the best ways potential members can naturally discover your credit union.
Rule No. 4: Be Authentic. Gen Yers are extremely savvy, so don't give in to hype when you are marketing to them or any of your members for that matter. They will sniff out insincerity faster than you can deliver it. Give them the tools to make their own decisions by ensuring that data is easily available via your website or other channels. Allow the flow of information to go both ways. Invite feedback and engage them in dialogue, which does not have to be done exclusively online.
Don't be afraid of technology. Dive in, integrate your efforts and share experiences. By putting these strategies to work, you increase the chance of not only engaging Gen Y but also demonstrating the credit union difference to all audiences, ensuring your credit union is relevant today and in the future.
Samantha Paxson is vice president, marketing at CO-OP Financial Services.
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