Pioneered by digital innovators like WeChat, Alipay and Grab, the rise of all-in-one applications is showing no sign of slowing down. It’s not difficult to see the value of frictionless so-called super apps where users can do everything from order takeaway food, hail a taxi, pay utility bills and play games.
Customers don’t have to keep switching between apps, reentering payment details or passwords, with a wide range of services being available within a single app. In a digital ecosystem dominated by mammoth super apps, smaller organisations need to double down on what makes them unique to survive and thrive.
For building societies and credit unions, there’s no question that challenges will arise from the constant shift to digital platforms. But those businesses that start work now to solidify their strong relationships with customers, as well implementing modern technological solutions into their operations will be best prepared to gain a competitive edge.
While on the technological front, challenger banks and other digital upstarts have a clear head-start over building societies, the distant, hands-off approach taken by many digital-first companies is an area where building societies can flex their customer relationships. Whereas digital firms have the ability to offer a great array of products to users, building societies can hone in on core needs and solutions that they know their customers want.
In a world where consumers have almost unlimited options in countless industries from retail to food and banking, providing a tailored product offering backed by innovative technological solutions and strong customer relationships can be a welcome service.
The shift to digital is happening on a daily basis with many traditional services now being available on digital platforms. Yet, simply migrating all services online and reducing physical, in-person services clearly isn’t an effective way to embrace the digital future the industry is entering.
Building societies often have diverse customer bases with tech savvy digital natives using the same products as those customers who prefer not to use digital platforms. It is possible to meet member requirements, regardless of their generation, if digital solutions are viewed not as the best option for all users but rather seen as an additional service customers can make use of.
Maintaining branch networks and investing in digital solutions is a win-win for both customers and building societies. By providing customers with as many options as possible when it comes to accessing products, they will be empowered to make the decision that best suits them.
For example, a user may be happy to carry out day-to-day banking activities on their smartphone, but when they remortgage or start a new savings account, an in-person appointment could be what they want.
Many building societies have already began to implement effective technologies to improve the customer experience and increase efficiency, with chatbots, digital ID and AI solutions being found across the ecosystem. Marrying together the best in breed technological solutions with the customer service that building societies have developed over decades is a powerful way to stay competitive.
Finbarr Toesland, Editorial Contributor, VC Innovations