The rise of the ‘omni-digital’ customer – what does it mean for banks?

What does the rise of the omni-digital customer mean for banks?

It shouldn’t be news to any financial institution that more people than ever are making digital channels their first port of call when looking to interact with their bank. But for many consumers, these solutions are quickly becoming the only option they consider.

While for many people, using a mix of digital and physical channels remains the most familiar way of conducting their banking, the number of consumers who are eschewing offline offerings altogether is growing faster than many people have expected.

The swift growth of the digital-only consumer

This is one of the key findings of PwC’s recent 2017 Digital Banking Survey, which found nearly half of consumers (46 percent) now rely solely on digital solutions for managing their finances – including PCs, tablets and mobile phones. In 2012, this figure stood at just 27 percent. PwC described these people as ‘omni-digital’ consumers, and this growing segment of the market is a trend banks will have to be aware of in the coming years.

The research highlighted the rise of the smartphone as one of the key factors behind this increase – with 81 percent of consumers now owning such a device and 60 percent of these users engaged with mobile banking. Partners at the organization Catherine Zhou and Ashish Jain commented: “The speed of change in recent years has been pretty revolutionary. We’re now at a point where new has become normal.”

They added: “At the same time, true omni-channel behavior is shrinking. Five years ago, about half of all customers used all of a bank’s platforms. Now, it’s just about a third.”

How should banks respond to digital-only consumers?

PwC noted that the research should at the very least be a wake-up call to banks that they need to react more quickly to emerging digital trends. While many organizations will have recognized that digital-only will be the future for many customers, they may well have assumed that this was still some years off becoming an everyday reality.

But with almost half of consumers already in the ‘omni-digital’ category, they may have much less time than they realized to adapt their solutions and offerings to meet these needs.

“The shift is big, and with it comes big implications for bank strategy, investments, business and staffing models, etc,” Ms Zhou and Mr Jain said. Key issues that will need to be answered include how many contact centers they will need to invest in, what services they need to offer on each channel, and where they still need to focus on branches.

However, banks that are looking to scale back on physical services in response to these demands will need to think again. PwC’s research found nearly two-thirds of consumers (62 percent) still feel it’s important for their bank to have a local branch, with these still being seen as vital for services such as opening new accounts or applying for a loan.

This should indicate that banks can’t neglect their physical channels – but if they are to remain successful in the coming years, they’ll have to act now in order to get ahead of the growing number of omni-digital consumers.

Written by Jack Dougal

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