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How to Foster Community Through Your Bank’s Digital Experience

Your users are the lifeblood of your financial institution. They choose local banking services because of the institution’s investment in the region. Unfortunately, community-building goals stagnate when in-person visits decrease. Yet, there are steps you can take to infuse the human touch into online interactions. 

Moreover, taking these steps helps your bank or credit union deliver on their original value proposition — fostering community through connected, meaningful experiences. Here are a few ways financial institutions increase engagement, delight users and develop relationships.

1. Take a User-First Approach

Building a community online starts by understanding your users. Not only who they are and where they live, but their personal preferences, behaviors and needs. Data collection and analysis also helps organizations develop a data-based strategy for digital and outreach initiatives. Banks and credit unions can: 

  • Review direct and indirect competitors to analyze features along with website, platform and social media interactions.
  • Collect demographic data post-COVID, as user behavior changed during and after the pandemic.
  • Survey bank and credit union users using email, text notifications and website popups to ask about their digital preferences. 
  • Take polls on social media to gauge users’ thoughts on platform features or comfort levels with various technologies.

2. Enrich User Profiles

It’s tough to build a community if you’re relying on outdated or impersonal user personas. Your user profile affects content creation, promotions and even emails. If financial institutions and platforms can’t differentiate between college students and retirees, it’ll be tougher to earn their trust. And consumer trust is essential to building community relationships. 

Banks and credit unions collect first-party data and use it to build robust user profiles — often referred to as 360-degree profiles — and segment users. While a customer relationship management (CRM) system is necessary, increasingly, organizations use banking technologies, such as customer data platforms (CDP) or data management platforms (DMP). 

By collecting and acting on customer data, financial institutions can provide personalized experiences and targeted promotions — consequently, user satisfaction, loyalty and engagement increase. 

3. Personalize Online Interactions

During in-person experiences, employees can assess the person before them, review their financial details and make personalized recommendations. That’s harder to do virtually. J.D. Power finds, “overall customer satisfaction with retail banks tends to decline as customers transition away from branches to digital-only banking relationships.”

However, personalizing communications and content at each touchpoint feels more human and less “robotic” — even though the technologies often include artificial intelligence (AI). For instance, “49% of consumers want tips based on spending patterns whereas 78% will share data for advice that fits their personal circumstances,” according to Accenture

Look for ways to personalize current promotions and support financial wellness, such as: 

  • Electronic newsletters
  • Dynamic web pages
  • Downloadable content
  • Mobile alerts
  • Personalized offers 
  • Tips or advice

4. Create Mobile-Responsive, Accessible Experiences

Today’s communities thrive online, from Facebook groups to message boards. But many people access community features via smartphones. A number that only increased over the past year. J.D. Power notes, “44% of retail banking customers said they are using their primary bank’s mobile app more often.” Additionally, Bank of America reported a 117% growth in mobile check deposits during the third quarter of 2020

However, don’t discount the importance of your website or financial platform. The Accenture study, “Making Digital More Human,” finds, “50% of consumers now interact with their bank through mobile apps or websites at least once a week, compared to 32%” in 2018. 

Providing options for users of all abilities and devices makes your bank or credit union more accessible to everyone — a key aspect of community building. Ensure your website, platform or mobile app supports users by:

  • Meeting all accessibility standards according to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), including alt tags for images and captions for video or audio recordings. 
  • Offering multiple communication methods, accessible by any device, such as click-to-call, live chat, support tickets or email. 
  • Providing answers or tips for how users can get the most out of your platform, like checklists for various goals or ways to customize their home page view.

5. Encourage Engagement With an Online Platform

A recent survey by PwC finds “only one-fifth of respondents said that they talk to their primary bank about their financial goals.” Yet, “64% of digitally-active consumers across 27 markets use fintech,” meaning they likely hand over information to send or receive money, track their credit report or set savings goals. 

Users like all-in-one platforms where they can learn about a topic, compare their options and take their next steps without switching websites, apps or devices. Banks and credit unions arm their communities with a library of resources, friendly experts and interactive tools. 

Popular online platform features include: 

  • Interactive tools, such as loan or mortgage calculators
  • AI-driven goal building applications
  • Integrated bill pay services 
  • The ability to oversee outside accounts
  • Customizable dashboards
  • Personalized recommendations and advice
  • Chatbots for navigation or frequently asked questions
  • Robust, searchable knowledge bases

6. Integrate Online and In-Person Experiences

Your bank or credit union’s personal touch doesn’t start or end at your doors. Instead, some users may rarely enter your building, whereas others stop by weekly. The experiences should flow together and not feel disconnected. After all, “50% of consumers want their banks to blend physical branches and digital services.”

According to Deloitte, technology enhancements should “cover digital-only channels” and “in-branch experiences.” Surveyed financial institutions are considering the following options to build seamless experiences: 

  • In-branch self-service kiosks and interfaces with contactless touchscreens
  • AI-based banking assistants or ATMs with access to live bank staff
  • Beacon or sensor-based virtual reality and augmented reality experiences

7. Connect to Your Community on Social Media

An active presence on social media helps banks and credit unions transform perceptions of stodgy institutions to those of an approachable yet knowledgeable friend. According to the American Bankers Association (ABA) report, “The State of Social Media in Banking,” “84% of respondents agree or strongly agree that social media is important to the bank — increasing from 76% in 2016.” The ABA lists six preferred platforms for community building: 

  1. Facebook
  2. LinkedIn 
  3. Twitter
  4. Instagram 
  5. YouTube 
  6. Blogs 

Financial institutions foster community on social channels by sharing positive local, new stories and partnering with community groups to drive awareness about events or causes. They also get involved with local schools and highlight those interactions on social media via photos and videos. 

Social media is also an excellent place to introduce new team members and show staff participating in community events. By combining scheduled posts with real-time interactions — like responding to comments or answering questions — financial institutions can develop a thriving social media community. 

8. Help Prospective Users to Learn About Your Bank or Credit Union

A community needs continual growth to thrive. One way to increase brand awareness and invite new users to your community is through Google My Business (GMB). Add your bank or credit union and ATM locations to your account. For best results, the ABA recommends creating individual website landing pages for each ATM listed on GMB. Doing so helps users learn about accessibility, transaction types and get directions.

Furthermore, Google My Business lets users ask and answer questions about credit unions or banks. Financial institutions can assist users by responding to questions and providing contact information. Plus, Google considers activity on GMB as ranking factors for its search engine results pages, so banks and credit unions benefit from the extra exposure. 

9. Embrace Fintech Partnerships

Small banks and credit unions don’t always have the technology or budget to deliver immersive, niche experiences. But, consumers want intuitive fintech platforms, with “73% of Americans saying fintech is the new normal.” By partnering with fintech companies, financial institutions can deliver memorable online experiences without investing heavily in information technology (IT) staff.

Fostering Community One User at a Time

Although consumers are embracing digital technologies, they still crave a personal touch. By taking a data-based approach and investing in a feature-rich platform, banks and credit unions can deliver on their promise to communities — on and offline. Learn how to build your community by partnering with Lumin Digital. Contact us to start discussing a dynamic, cloud-native platform.

Jessica Elliot is a business writer and communications consultant who develops insights from data collection, observation and analysis that enables clients to envision their future while taking immediate action. With 24-years in public-facing roles, she understands how to connect the dots so that professionals can develop their billion-dollar idea into total market visibility.


J.D. Power –Retail Banks Face Major Customer Satisfaction Challenge as World Shifts to Digital-Only Engagement, J.D. Power Finds

Accenture – What banking consumers want in North America

J.D. Power – Financial Services COVID-19 Pulse Survey

Bank of America – Growing Responsibly Through Strategic ESG Leadership

Accenture – Banking Consumer Study: Making digital more human

WAI – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview

PwC – Many consumers think their banks are doing a good job. In a COVID-19 world, will that be good enough?

Ernst & Young – EY Global FinTech Adoption Index finds over half (64%) of global consumers use FinTech

Deloitte – 2021 banking and capital markets outlook

ABA – The 2019 State of Social Media in Banking

ABA – Listing ATMs on Google My Business

Plaid – The Fintech Effect  Spotlight on COVID-19