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An omnichannel strategy can go sideways if it focuses on channels rather than on customers and their needs.

It makes more sense to start with the needs of the customer and work backwards. Customers don’t care about channels; they don’t think about channels. Customers have problems, needs and desires. They care about solving problems, obtaining value and having a delightful, efficient experience. It’s true that an omnichannel approach can solve customer problems, but there are often unintended constraints applied to solutions developed within that approach.

“Channel” presumes a known access channel — e.g., branch, web, mobile, etc. If we broaden the solution space beyond known channels, we free ourselves to consider the problem the customer has in the first place — i.e., the reason they’re banking and trying to do something — and focus on new ways to solve that problem. Why do they want to buy something? What’s the problem they’re trying to solve? How can we help them better solve that problem?

This customer-first approach forces banks to consider the context of the customer when the problem arises. That is, it forces us to consider where and when a customer is and how they become aware of a need to buy something. We call the development of banking experiences to solve customer needs “contextual banking.”

Contextual banking is the design, development and delivery of solutions that solve customer problems by enabling them to efficiently and intuitively purchase a product or service at the point and place where the need arises. This approach brings value to the customer and doesn’t necessarily require them to go to a channel.

To summarize, an omnichannel strategy is necessary; however, it’s not enough. The solution set must be enlarged to enable customer needs to be understood and solved. Brands may find that some contextually relevant banking solutions deserve more investment — and yield greater value — than a me-too channel strategy.

Add data to the mix

No two customers are exactly alike. Beyond traditional demographics, transactions, product holdings and service preferences, marketers can now access online activity logs, call-center interactions, direct feedback and social media usage to build a “segment-of-one” profile. But, analyzing all of this internal and external data requires converting data into actionable insights, which is made more difficult due to silos and the impact of locational data.

To capitalize on opportunities, banks must leverage the wealth of informational assets at their disposal. They must analyze structured and unstructured customer data, and deliver real-time insights that result in unique and compelling opportunities for customer engagement. Most importantly, they must provide advice and solutions across multiple channels in a personal way.

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