Many financial institutions don’t want to admit it, but the truth is simple – financial institutions are retailers. If you are not operating that way, you are missing key opportunities to engage with consumers and provide them solutions based on their needs.

Think about it. When consumers shop at clothing stores, they generally don’t head to the register, make a transaction and leave. They browse. Sometimes they know what they want and sometimes they don’t. The sales staff is there to ask them questions, make recommendations and offer solutions. This is what financial institutions should do every time a customer or member walks through the doors to conduct a transaction.

Operating like a successful retailer also means marketing like one. Here are some marketing lessons financial institutions can learn from retailers.

MAKE YOUR BRANCHES WELCOMINGThat doesn’t mean you should completely redesign your branches. It means make your environment inviting. Play upbeat music. Make your signage look less like a stuffy financial institution and more like a store. Update the décor with brighter colors. Do things that make people think twice about what business they are in when they walk through your doors.

CREATE EXPERIENCESAs Millennials age and become an even greater spending force, retailers are reinventing the way they do business. Millennials want experiences. Stores like Macy’s are hosting age appropriate raves in their stores. Financial institutions don’t have to go that far. Umpqua Bank has offered yoga classes and book readings in its branches. What can you do? Put people in a money machine and give them even more money if they take a selfie, post it on social media and tag your financial institution. Host wine and cheese events for first time home buyers. Do what works best for your market. Just make it memorable and incorporate social media whenever possible (see the next point).

ENGAGE CONSUMERS ON SOCIAL MEDIASocial media has to create conversations. Retailers like H&M post pictures of their products on social media and invite consumers to comment on them. They also post video and pictures of events and consumers. When you do social media correctly, consumers will do some of your marketing for you by sharing their stories, providing positive feedback and passing your videos and pictures to others. Just remember to choose the social media outlets that work best for your demographic. Facebook and Pinterest are where your older 30s and up are hanging out. Snapchat and Instagram are popular with teens and young adults.

DEVELOP A LOYALTY PROGRAMRetail loyalty programs are offering everything from free merchandise to cash back to travel points as an incentive for consumers to shop with them more. These programs are particularly popular with Millennials, who want to feel valued as consumers. Starbucks has a very popular loyalty program that bumps members up to different status levels as they purchase more. Members who get to the highest level – gold – receive a reloadable gold card to use whenever they make a purchase at Starbucks. Ask your customers or members what they want, then find a way to give it to them with a loyalty program.

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