Multichannel Management: Avoiding Channel Myopia

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16 May 2011
Bob Meara
BAI Banking Strategies recently published an excellent piece on multichannel management featuring an interview with Jim Di Ciaula of BMO Harris Bank. Reading the article inspired me to share two common pitfalls in multichannel management: following the customer and listening to the zealots. Both are examples of channel myopia. Following the Customer In a previous post we addressed the all too common method of determining channel priorities – following the customer. In a Fall 2010 Celent survey of North American financial institutions, the most common mechanism for determining channel spending priorities was simply measuring and reacting to channel usage. In other words, as channel usage goes, so goes channel investment. The inevitable result of this approach is to continually lag the market. Bad idea, but way too many financial institutions are stuck in this rut. Listening to the Zealots An apparently less common approach is to let hype drive distribution channel decisions. As example, one analyst whose focus included social media castigated me for not including social media as a unique distribution channel in our 2010 research as evidence of myopia. Apparently in that analyst’s mind, social media is every bank’s way to riches and rightfully belongs as a #1 channel priority. I’m still wondering how social media constitutes a delivery channel. Seems to me, social media might be more usefully considered a growing array of communications mechanisms that need to be integrated into multiple delivery channels. One interesting observation Celent uncovered as part of its research on branch channel transformation was a pervasive multichannel discipline among financial institutions having highly advanced branch channels. Going into the research, I fully expected to find branch channel zealots among FIs having highly evolved branches. Stands to reason, we thought, that FIs with staunch branch advocacy would be investing most heavily in the branch channel and perhaps neglect the others. What we found was just the opposite. Instead, in nearly every case, FIs having the most highly evolved branch channels were also committed to a rigorous multichannel management discipline and had competitive (and increasingly integrated) ATM, internet and mobile channels too. Jim Di Ciaula is right; multichannel management is both art and science. But, avoiding some common pitfalls can help financial institutions get beyond channel myopia towards a more balanced objective of maximizing their collective effectiveness.

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