Trends: Invasion of the Small Screens
Small screens are coming to a branch near you. That is a top line trend where, suddenly, digital, Internet-connected flat screens are transforming the in-branch experience and, said some credit union experts, it’s just in time.
“Ours is an increasingly visually oriented society,” said John Worthington, a senior vice president at $6.7 billion Security Service Federal Credit Union headquartered in San Antonio, “We don’t read brochures anymore. We will look at digital displays.”
Enter the flat screens that are showing up in an expanding list of credit union branches. “Credit unions have been early adopters of this technology,” said Jim Kueneke, an executive vice president at NewGround, a St. Louis-headquartered digital signage company that specializes in financial services. “Within three years just about every credit union will have digital displays in some manner, shape or form,” predicted Kueneke.
Meantime, big banks and retailers are plunging headlong into digital displays and a growing sense is that contemporary consumers are beginning to expect the technology in retail outlets and financial institution branches. Comparative affordability is a driver. Kueneke estimated that $5,000 per branch was a baseline number for getting started in digital displays and “at $20,000 you would be making a statement. You would be running with the big boys.”
Content, he added, is the wildcard. Some institutions choose to create their own. Others are purchasing content from content farms that are springing up to service digital displays. Many are blending home-brewed content with third-party content and, frequently, live cable TV streams are added as well. “A budget of $20,000 per year for content would be a lot,” said Kueneke.
The numbers aren’t inconsequential, however, and that is why many credit unions are implementing digital displays in phases. At Security Service, for instance, 25 of 70 locations have digital displays, said Greg Stroud, vice president of sales and marketing. As branches are added, or existing locations remodeled, digital signage is part of the plan, said Stroud.
Security Service uses its screens to deliver a medley of content that updates several times a minute. Some promote credit union products. Others focus on activities of the institution. such as support for a food bank. Roughly one-third is news and entertainment, said Stroud, who indicated that a plus of the screens is that in the event members encounter a line, the displays make passing the time more enjoyable.
Security Service displays are visual only, no sound. and the content typically gets a weekly refresh, said Stroud.
The key advantage to digital signage versus print brochures or posters, said Stroud, is that it is efficient and immediate. A few keystrokes at headquarters can change information–loan rates or CD rates, for instance–across the system.
Generations Federal Credit Union, a $394 million institution in San Antonio, also is deep into a rollout of digital screens to its 15 branches, said Wendy Bryant-Beswick, vice president of marketing. She added that Generations’ ambitious goal is to eliminate print by the end of 2013, which would mean no more brochures of any kind. “We don’t see print engaging our members. digital does,” she explained.
“Digital will help draw people into the branches,” she added. That is because her plan is to use the technology not so much for purely promotional purposes “but to tell stories that interest and involve our members. We see ourselves delivering brand messaging, testimonials. It’s visual storytelling.”
She added, “We will also save money by eliminating print.”
At the $1.2 billion Pen Air Federal Credit Union based in Pensacola, Fla., Patricia Veal, vice president of marketing, said that almost two years into a rollout of digital signage into all 15 Pen Air branches, “we are beginning to see cost savings. We used to have posters in all our branches. Now we deliver that content digitally and the savings are large.”
She added that Pen Air is testing a touch screen display where a member can toggle among particular topics of interest, car loans or insurance or CDs, for example. “The member also can choose to print out a brochure,” said Veal, who indicated the document prints at a nearby reception desk. “We wanted a person to physically hand over the document and indicate willingness to help get more information the member might need,” said Veal.
When asked if Pen Air had hit any speed bumps in its digital display deployment, Veal said it hadn’t and she added, “We started by asking other credit unions that already had digital displays what they would do differently. In effect we learned from their mistakes. I would recommend that any institution, in its due diligence, make the same inquiries. It made our deployment much smoother.”