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Café-style Branches: I’ll Have a Latte and a Checking Account

August 17, 2021

In the wake of the pandemic, an unsettling economy, and increased merger and acquisition activity, financial-services providers have accelerated their evaluation of how today’s bank branches should look and operate. Many consumers prefer bank branches that are casual, streamlined, and café style. In addition, consumer response to smaller, limited-staff facilities and fully automated facilities is increasingly positive. These are among the findings from Consumer Branch Monitor 2021, a study by Phoenix Synergistics (a unit of Phoenix Marketing International). The Consumer Branch Monitor has been conducted annually since 2020 and includes a national, online survey with 2,000 consumers ages 18 or older.

Many branch users indicate that their current primary branch is a full-service, fully staffed branch, yet many are warming to various alternative branch configurations. Approximately two-thirds (67%) of branch users report that their primary branch provides full services and is fully staffed (down slightly from 71% in 2020). Branch users ages 50 or older are more likely to indicate that their primary branch is a full-service facility. Younger consumers are more likely than older consumers to use various types of alternative branch facilities.

When asked about the appeal of various alternatives to fully staffed branch configurations, the largest number (73%) of branch users say a casual facility is very/somewhat appealing. This is followed by a supermarket branch (61%) and a branch with limited staff and self-service devices (59%). A fully automated branch with no staff is appealing to slightly more than half (54%) of branch users. Positive response to supermarket branches, branches with limited staff and self-service options, and fully automated branches has increased since 2020.

Many consumers also find café-style branches valuable. Slightly more than four in ten (44%) branch users report that one of their financial institutions has café-style branches (up from 24% in 2020). One-third (34%) of branch users indicate that they have visited a café-style branch (up from 18% in 2020). Almost all (93%) of those who have visited a café-style branch find them to be valuable, with two-thirds (68%) reporting they are “very valuable.”

A variety of features of café-style branches are appealing to those who find these facilities valuable. A more relaxed atmosphere (48%) tops the list and is followed closely by liking coffee, drinks, and snacks being available for customers (46%). A notable minority (42%) report that the café-style atmosphere makes them feel more connected to the financial institution.

Many younger consumers seem to indicate that traditional branch facilities are “so yesterday.” When branch users are asked to describe the type of branch style they prefer, “comfortable and casual” (44%) is most widely cited, followed by a “traditional and conservative” branch (28%) and a “modern and high-tech” facility (23%). Those in the 18 to 49 age segment are significantly less likely to say “traditional and conservative.”

Bill McCracken, president of Phoenix Synergistics, stated, “It is clear that many consumers prefer branches that are more in tune with a casual lifestyle. Smaller branches with more automation are increasing in appeal, as are facilities with limited or no staff. Consumers’ usage of café-style facilities, similar to a Starbucks, is increasing. These branches or cafés have features that encourage customers to relax and stay awhile. In particular, many younger consumers—who are more apt to be branch users and to be in the market for financial services—find these innovative facilities attractive. When designing new branches and updating existing branches, FIs need to recognize that branches need to transition from the traditional, conservative model to branches that better reflect the needs and attitudes of today’s consumers.”

These are among the findings from Phoenix Synergistics’ latest study, Consumer Branch Monitor 2021, which features 2,000 online interviews with consumer financial decision-makers ages 18 or older.

Phoenix Synergistics, a unit of Phoenix Marketing International, is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email bill.mccracken@phoenixmi.com

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