Omnichannel: it’s a popular buzzword in the banking industry right now, but what does it really mean, in its truest sense?
One important distinction to make is between omnichannel and multichannel. Multichannel is about offering as many customer touchpoints as possible and can involve different strategies for different channels. Omnichannel is more focused on unifying the customer experience across all channels. It’s about seamlessness and consistency, ensuring that customers always receive the same level of service, regardless of the channel. Both approaches recognize the importance of consumer choice.
So when it comes to omnichannel banking, financial institutions (FIs) should be focused on delivering a coherent service across all customer touchpoints. That includes growth areas like mobile banking, of course, but also covers traditional cornerstones of retail banking like the ATM.
In the rush to serve the tech-savvy millennial market and keep up with the latest developments in mobile and digital banking, some FIs might fall into the trap of overlooking traditional channels. There’s one very simple reason why the ATM channel must be at the heart of any omnichannel strategy: it’s a crucial part of the global banking industry and will remain so for many years to come.
According to Retail Banking Research, the number of ATMs worldwide rose by five percent to 3.2 million in 2015. That figure is expected to increase to four million by 2021. Developing economies like China and India are driving the growth, but established markets in Europe and North America have seen growth in ATM deployment and cash withdrawals too.
Developments in ATM functionality have allowed this channel to offer more services than ever before. ATMs can now effectively operate as mini-branches, as we’re seeing in India and other places. When we consider this alongside the increased accessibility offered by mobile banking, it becomes clear that combining these services as part of an integrated omnichannel offering can go a long way to addressing the problem of financial exclusion.
It’s important for FIs to remember that the growth of new approaches to banking doesn’t make more traditional channels irrelevant. A recent whitepaper published by Gemalto and Juniper Research revealed that most traditional banks agree that a mobile- or digital-only strategy is too restrictive. More than a fifth (22 percent) of UK customers who had not yet adopted mobile banking said they wouldn’t trust an exclusively online provider to manage their money.
Far from being a barrier to change, the ATM channel can be a powerful symbol of how FIs are investing in innovation and modernization. It’s one of the most direct and visible ways for banks to engage with the person on the street, serving to strengthen brand loyalty and awareness among existing and potential customers.
Innovation at the ATM can take many forms, from the aesthetic design of the terminal itself to the delivery of new services that make life easier for the consumer, such as on-screen connections to live tellers who can help with more complicated transactions.
As far as security is concerned, ATMs are benefiting from stronger protections against threats like card skimming and deposit fraud. Cutting-edge technologies like machine-learning analytics are opening up new ways for banks to fight fraud across all channels, from the ATM to mobile.
It’s clear that not only is the ATM channel here to stay, but it’s evolving in a way that will create new opportunities and experiences for FIs and customers alike.