Banks Innovate Again

  |  July 9, 2010   |  Comments

Bridging the online/offline divide is easier than you think. Just ask Chase.

I’m excited that we’re living in a time when the banking industry isn’t the most boring sector of the market. Let’s be realistic: it was for a very long time. In almost 10 years of writing this column, I’ve rarely ever written about banks. I always found them slow to move, innovate, or do anything interesting. Retail has always been the "cooler" subject, as they seemed to move quicker and take better advantage of emerging technologies. But, earlier this year I wrote about how banks are taking multichannel interactions seriously, and last year I wrote about how envelope-free ATMs are renewing my faith that in a down economy, companies need to innovate to retain customers.

This week, Chase released an update to its iPhone app. It lets customers photograph a check and have it automatically deposited into their account, removing the need for the customer to visit an ATM or branch. To be fair, USAA did this a year ago, but to my knowledge, Chase is the only large bank to follow suit.

In fact, banks are doing even more in the way of creating customer convenience. Both Chase and Citibank (and possibly others) offer a home check scanner that lets you accomplish at-home check depositing via a "real" scanning solution similar to what they use in banks. At the moment, the systems don’t support the Mac (boo), so I’ve been unable to take advantage of it. But, Chase’s new iPhone app (even though its severe limitations on amounts make it less than useful for a business) piqued my interest, as it shows a strong commitment on Chase’s behalf to innovation. In the last year, we’ve seen Chase implement envelope-free ATMs, at-home check cashing, and now mobile check cashing. As I’ve often said, you need to innovate in a down economy, and it feels like Chase is constantly innovating ways to both make the user experience more convenient, and save costs (by cutting down on labor intensive customer operations). It’s a win-win situation. (P.S. Your online banking site still really sucks, Chase. Call me.)

In all corners of the industry, offline companies are trying to find ways to bridge the offline/online divide. This can be seen in everything from the e-book market to the emerging "phone-as-a-credit-card" market. Yet, many brick-and-mortar companies are still at a loss to figure out how to complement (not replace) their traditional channels with online channels. The banking industry is throwing the gauntlet down. If they can figure out how to do this with über-sensitive financial transactions, and something as sacred as check depositing, surely other companies can figure it out too, right? Way back in 2005, I wrote about a furniture store that was trying to figure this out, and offered potential solutions for them to bridge this divide. Every business, large or small, can harness the power of their offline brand and the convenience of online interactions. I mean, if banks can do it...

Do you have any examples of your favorite businesses bridging the on/offline divide? By bridging, I don’t just mean companies that operate over both channels, but companies that are really blurring the lines between what was traditionally an offline customer interaction and what the online experience is. If so, leave a comment below and share it with us!

Until next time...



Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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