How Are Banks Attracting New Customers? By Keeping Them Away

October 5, 2021

How are banks attracting new customers? By keeping them away. Banks are finding new growth opportunities through online and mobile channels, proving once more that consumers are increasingly attracted to the convenience and speed of mobile and online solutions. Understanding consumer trends will help banks position themselves as we move into an increasingly mobile reality.

Bank foot traffic is on the decline. In fact, from 1992 to 2012, branch transactions decreased by nearly 50%. So will local branches be deserted by the end of the year? No. But the forces driving individuals away from in-person banking are only getting stronger. Let’s look at some specific ways this is happening.



Let’s start with credit cards. How often do you think online shoppers stumble across that perfect appliance, which happens to be on the last day of a great sale, but they don’t have the available funds to make the purchase? My guess is it happens all the time. Before online instant approval, shoppers might need to visit their bank, apply for a card, wait for approval, and ultimately never start the process knowing what lies ahead. This is just one example of banks reaching their audience online without ever seeing them.

Citibank reported an increase of 472% after implementing online instant account opening and only needed to hire an additional 38% of new employees to handle the growth. This is a powerful example of how not only does catering to the millennial mindset of easy and instant create results, but it does so at a fraction of the cost.

Investing in online account acquisition can be up to 60% cheaper than traditional acquisition means, mainly direct mail. Many banks seem to get the picture. In 2007, 55% of new credit card accounts resulted from direct mail. Four years later, that amount was down to 38%.

While online account acquisition produces more accounts with lower investment, direct mail still has an advantage. In addition, many banks value the quality of their ability to pre-screen individuals receiving credit card offers. This allows for more qualified account acquisition, whereas online acquisitions are not so easily screened. For this reason, banks continue to utilize both traditional and online methods.

Beyond new accounts, there are many ways that online and mobile innovation is keeping customers out of their local branches.

Cardless ATMs

I recently wrote about cardless ATMs as driven by millennial demand for all things quick and convenient. While giving people a mobile-friendly way to use ATMs might not directly pull them out of the branch, there are features included that certainly will. For example, The Diebold cardless ATM app allows users to transfer funds to other individuals. The money can then be picked up at an ATM through a one-time SMS PIN. At no point does either party need to interact with a teller to transfer the money.

Mobile Deposits

Most banks now allow customers to deposit checks through their mobile app by taking a picture of the check. If a check comes to me in the mail, and I can take a picture right there or drive to the nearest bank, I don’t have to think hard about which option makes more sense.


In the recent past, we have seen the emergence of entirely new types of banks. Many words come to mind if you tell me about a bank with zero branches, one of which is convenience. And that is exactly what Simple has set out to be, an entirely mobile and online way to bank that is utterly simple. With more than 100,000 customers in less than two years, it appears they have figured something out. And a traditional bank realized its importance. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), Spain’s second-largest bank, acquired Simple earlier this year for ~$117 M. The company will operate independently along with BBVA US operations.


While the argument may be compelling to abandon the local branch, they still meet customer needs on multiple levels.

The Others

We have established that the digitally comfortable masses are both growing and moving society. However, a vast populace either doesn’t understand tech or simply doesn’t trust it. These customers are just as important as any other. Many times these are customers who have been loyal for longer than the tech-friendly customer has been alive. A physical location with real people is crucial to these individuals. Although the rate of growth of connected devices and individuals adopting them is growing at a swift pace.

Online/Mobile will have to further innovate to meet these needs, needs that are currently only met by individuals in brick and mortar branches. I do not doubt that the industry will get there before long. But, until then, we can expect our local bank with friendly smiling faces to be around a little longer.

Crisis Management

Sometimes it just helps to look someone in the eye and hear them tell you they have it under control. While phone and chat support pick up some of the slack, many want to speak face-to-face in the moment of crisis. Online and mobile banking innovations have a ways to go before giving customers this sense of intimacy, but I suspect that innovation is not too far off.

Do you see online and mobile banking driving brick and mortar branches into extinction? What other ways do you see the banking industry favoring online over in-person? Share your thoughts below.

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