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Writings

Amazon // Delta // Bonobos: Outsiders Influencing the Banking Toolkit

At the start of the new year, I took a few questions in regards to an upcoming piece on digital and physical banking and the future of channel utilization. The Q&A got worked into a nice article on American Banker, that dutifully covered a lot of ground (you can give that article a look here). However, as I read through a number of the quotes, I had a nagging feeling we, as an industry, were missing something.

This discomfort was rooted in the looming sense that to discuss the digital and physical meant we needed to bifurcate these areas and compartmentalize them. As such, you could either espouse a digital migration or legacy physical channel optimization, but not both. I became anxious we were getting myopic in our vision and endorsing the strategic equivalent of only using half of a given toolkit at one's disposal.

The conversation may be nuanced, but my sense is the banking industry can, and should, take some creative cues from our cousins in adjacent industries like retail, hospitality, and travel.

As I look for examples of really polished consumer experiences, I need not look further than the likes of Amazon, Delta, and Bonobos. Within each, an approach that recognizes the value of both a digital and physical experience arises in fluid concert.

Amazon, both in their desire to provide remote human to human interactions via their Mayday service, and now their expansion into brick and mortar locations (watch out university bookstores), underscores the desire of perhaps the most aggressive digital retailer to choreograph outstanding human interactions.

Delta, which has been on an absolute tear as of late, continues to enhance their mobile application, while simultaneously (and in some ways covertly) re-engineering their complete in-person experience. The necessity to harmonize both the digital and physical, remaining a constant every step of the way.

And lastly, Bonobos, a skyrocketing menswear brand whose ethos was an online-only business model. But as they began to truly take off, they skipped the kneejerk reaction to develop a mobile app, and instead chose to build their business by investing in the physical channel (for scale, they just opened their thirteenth guideshop).

The quintessence of this step being not just that they have a desire to curate high touch, in-person experiences, but also that they could pull off their entrance into physical retailing in microscopic footprints, with reduced inventory expenses (there aren't any), and representatives who don't have to be trained to transact (the point of sale is conspicuously absent). Again, it's human to human retailing melded with digital flourishes at every point of the experience.

There are myriad examples like this to pull from, but the key is the megratrends to come in banking have already been foreshadowed in adjacent industries. And in each, I continue to see a renewed emphasis on marrying the digital and physical - or to put it another way, making sure you're using the whole toolkit.