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Best practices to localize your branch designs

Regional-inspired designs can create a sense of community while reinforcing overall brand experiences and promoting client loyalty.

Feb 17, 2023 / Consumer Banking

The popularity of online banking might be growing, but brick-and-mortar banks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. A recent Sykes survey found that more than half of consumers had visited their bank in-person in 2021, and one in four respondents ranked the ability to visit a physical branch as the most important benefit offered by retail banks.

Still, most consumers are no longer coming in for quick tasks that can be achieved online. Instead, they’re seeking banker interaction for higher value conversations. And with this shift, design has evolved too.

Traditional banking footprints – think walls of tellers and ATMs – are increasingly out of vogue. In their place are sleek, relationship-focused designs aimed at creating a welcoming and comfortable environment for high-value interactions. And to make this work, many national and regional brands are leaning on localization strategies to ensure their clients feel immediately at home.

Regional-inspired designs can create a sense of community while reinforcing overall brand experiences and, ultimately, client loyalty. Here are some best practices bank leaders should incorporate into their design process to successfully bring local touches into their branches:

Start with grassroots research: Each community has its own unique demands and expectations that vary based on location. Finding what works best for each branch is vital. Going the extra mile to understand your clientele, and what they need most from branch interaction, will increase satisfaction and make a greater impact on the consumer’s experience.

Considering what footprint to build within a specific community doesn’t have to be a daunting process. Retail brands have incorporated this strategy for years, creating unique tactics for each location they have nationally and even globally. Conducting walk-throughs from the perspective of the consumer or associate will allow your team to gain subjective insights from those who will experience the environment on a daily basis.

Assessing how many locations are needed to make the biggest impact is essential. Will one larger, more equipped location be best? Or will multiple smaller, more convenient outposts such as Target’s “Tiny Target” concept, which has mini-locations in neighborhoods with products that cater to the community?

Finally, identify cultural components that are most important to highlight, such as sports teams, national parks or community landmarks. For example, Glossier, the digital-first beauty company, strategically weaved its communities’ personalities into its pop-up store design, including moss-covered innovations that paid homage to the Pacific Northwest and a pink rooftop to represent London’s skyline.

Ensure your brand pulls through: When pulling in familiar and beloved community components into design, it’s critical to ensure your corporate brand still shines. This can be done by identifying the brand elements or experiences that are table stakes across branches, so much so that consumers expect these touches at each location.

Once the foundation is set, weave local touches into hallmark design elements to create an experience that’s both comforting and on-brand.

An easy way to do so is by having a handful of localized design components – such as murals, photography, styled maps, or décor elements – that are consistent yet tailored across different locations.

Be wise and digitize: You might often read about omnichannel experiences from the perspective of retail stores, but consumers expect these hybrid online and in-person offerings no matter the industry – for example, digitizing signage to enhance or streamline the customer experience. Not only are these components easy to update with new information, but they make it easy to share updated community highlights or seasonal events.

Digital touches, however, shouldn’t detract from or replace the human interactions many patrons come for. In the spirit of localization, ensure that digital design elements are additive to CX without attempting to replace the personal touch offered by a helpful banker.  After all, by walking into the branch, the customer has decided that they want to talk to a person, not an app.

Then there’s efficient execution to consider. Is this a one-off project, or will multiple branches be refreshed and localized, thereby requiring customized interior kits of parts? Precise engineering and program management ensures your branch localization initiatives cross the finish line on-time and on-budget.

Great localization starts with a building deep understanding of the communities your branches serve and zeroing in on those specific customer wants and needs. Bank branches need to tightly align the intended customer experience with the brand aesthetic. Every detail matters, inside and out, from concept to completion.

Craig Thompson is SVP, client services, at Miller Zell.