Making sense of money
Engaging with an enigma
By Sherryn Macdonald
Money is an enigma. Despite being integral to our day-to- day lives, our money and how it works remains much of a mystery to many of us. A high number of transactions does not translate into high engagement. Just how does a bank wishing to build sticky customer relationships work with this?
By working from within the enigma.
For a bank, holding fast to a vision of converting your branch into an engaging retail space raises some bold questions. The obvious one would be, what else are customers going to engage with? In a world awash with cashless transactions, going into the branch needs to offer new ways to engage with money and bank staff.
Where to start? The obvious is with the customer and their existing relationship with money. Work within customers' current understanding, or mental model of money, and the enigma starts to crystallize. You have something to work with and to build an engagement upon.
This is exactly what we did when tasked with creating the second iteration of Out of The Box (OOTB) banking for the BNZ. The bank had already successfully begun to use boxes as a mechanism for offering customers basic financial products. Yet as the portfolio of products in line to be boxed grew, customers became confused and increasingly opted out.
How do we make sense of money?
In optimising the OOTB concept we took a step back from the boxes themselves to find out how customers actually made sense of their money, and how they went about managing it on a day-to-day basis. People will only engage with what feels valuable for them, and to have this feeling, they need to understand what is on offer. The challenge was to create a merchandising system that sat seamlessly within the customer’s mental model, and to then embed it within the branch staff’s way of working - and the physical delivery of the ‘retail’ space.
Working with customers was enlightening. Free card sorts (a research technique traditionally used in information design) revealed the absolute simplicity of money for many, i.e. money in, money out. Open discussions on the nuances of how they managed their money revealed the intimate nature of money for many, and the embarrassment people feel around financial illiteracy.
Our approach is open and flexible, so we thought OK, this is good - let’s work with that as a basis for packaging and engagement. In essence the customer value for the OOTB concept was a need for accessibility, simplicity, autonomy, sensory stimulation, and self-efficacy. Under this premise the boxes were indeed a fantastic mechanism to engage with the enigma of money. The opportunity was to ensure they enabled high touch engagement, an engagement built on getting it, wanting it, and acting on it.
Thinking outside the box
Firstly, (as was the case with the existing OOTB approach) an empty box perpetuates the ethereality of money. A box is not just a brochure reconstructed into a 3D form. In holding true to retail principles, the box is the packaging. Its role is to provide allure, stimulate and entice pick up. Here we tapped the holy grail of retail. Studies have shown that touching a product gives you an increased belief in your perceived ownership of that product and that by this point consumers are well on the way to purchase.
A major driver of most retail businesses is to increase sales per staff member. Seeing a customer holding a box gave bank staff, uninitiated in the ways of the shop floor selling, a solid cue for beginning a relevant conversation. Non-customers now also have a tangible reason to be in a competing bank to browse and compare other options.
Tangibility goes a long way towards crystallising an enigma, perceived value takes it even further. The next step was to ensure that what was on offer in the banking retail space actually made sense for the customer. An intuitive merchandising system, which kept true to the customer values of simplicity and accessibility, was required for the plethora of financial products and services on offer.
Putting it all together
The OOTB system comprises of product cards, how-to guides and kits (which contain the relevant product cards and how-to guides). The system pulls together the three streams using colour and numbering for customers to readily self identify what is relevant for this time of their life.
The core of the merchandising system lies in the product cards. These heavy-weight cards deconstruct financial products to their simplest denominator making them digestible and immediately actionable. They are true off-the-shelf products which can be purchased ‘as is,’ as had been already proven by the resounding success of the ‘Life Insurance for $5 a Month’ OOTB offer. Keeping the product information within the bounds of a card strips away the complexity and moves the point of action closer to the customer. Fitting easily into the hand, a card, more so than a brochure, begs to be being picked up. With a card in each hand for comparability a decision is confidently made.
How-to guides deliver to consumer values of self-efficacy. They are booklets which build understanding and financial literacy around potentially foreign issues such as “Budgeting”, “Start A Business” and “Get Into Your First Home”. How-to guides are self enablers which start the decision making process and can be used to up-skill before going to a banker with queries, making the engagement with staff more equal footed.
Kits are the true autonomy pieces, housing all that’s required to successfully navigate a major task or change in life stage, i.e. “Buy A House”, “Finance Family Life” and “Work For Yourself". For those who take little interest in the nuances of money, or are faced with an unfamiliar situation, these kits take them on a journey of what needs to be done and when, providing all the relevant product cards and how-to guides required to master the situation at hand. The joy of the kits is their ability to act as an enabling tool in assisting others to up-skill. Sit down with your 17-year-old about to leave home with the “Start Out On Your Own” Kit and pull out the budgeting worksheet, the student banking product cards and the Basic Banking how-to guide. Broach a sensitive topic with your aging parents with the “Retire in Comfort” kit, which includes investment options, insurances and retirement planning.
All this can be done whereever and whenever, as the convenience and sensitivity of the situation requires. Across all the streams and boxes customer stickiness is accentuated by the tangibility of a well-designed package which fits in a handbag (or manbag).
Working 'within the enigma'
The outcome of this inside-out approach, and working ‘within the enigma’, is an attractive and desired engagement for both staff and customers. The true success is that the engagement is not forced. The boxes, merchandising system and the staff all work together to create a high touch experience within the banking retail space – all of which sits comfortably within the customer’s mental model of money. The hard edges of banking have fallen away and a softer, more human experience of banking is possible. Money is no longer an enigma and the branch no longer a torture chamber.
Related to this topic is the article by Martin Grant (DNA) on how the banks are trying to get better utilisation out of hectares of retail space and why this change is also about what people are increasingly needing from a high-street branch.
Disclosure: DNA works for the BNZ and did work on the Out of the Box banking project.
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