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When you think omnichannel, you’re probably thinking of the movers and shakers in the retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industries. Best Buy may come to mind as one of the leading brands to provide the coherent experiences customers want across different platforms. It seamlessly accommodates their purchase journeys by paying particular attention to what shoppers do on its mobile application in order to coordinate, personalize and improve their in-store outings.

That’s just one example of why retail is on a fast-moving upward track: McKinsey & Company has reported that the sector is growing between 40 and 70 percent annually.

While many banks have focused on improving their digital experience, though, they lag behind in omnichannel offerings. They have experienced challenges in moving beyond organizational and operational silos and in maintaining product-centric rather than customer-centric cultures, according to a 2015 PwC report. A trend that continues in today’s market based on PwC’s 2018 Digital Banking Consumer Survey in which the firm points out that “many banks still analyze the customer journey within a single channel.” But that journey, it says, is more convoluted now, with more “cross-channel interaction points.”

Banks can use their traditional channels for competitive advantage by learning from retailers and the dynamic nature of today’s customers. Customers may cycle across mobile, web and in-store channels – not to mention call centers – at different times. They often research products or services from different providers online without necessarily deciding on one option in one session.

Perhaps they ultimately narrow down their choices to a few finalists and then do a deeper back-and-forth comparison among them. When they at last determine the best choice for their needs, they might fill out an application and close the deal using their smartphone, or they might visit a  branch of their bank to do it. The 2018 PwC survey says that while people often like to use traditional channels to buy many financial products, 73 percent of its survey population starts by researching investment products online or through mobile applications.

If the individual customer experiences along the way don’t reflect that the bank “knows” who they are – at that moment and in context with their past history and with their current services explorations – as part of a thoughtful experience across channels, their relationship with the organization may suffer. It may even lead them to reconsider other banking and money management options.

Banks are like any other industry when it comes to profiting from personalization: Brands, including financial sector brands, must “reimagine their business with an individualized value proposition at the core, merging physical and digital experiences to deepen their customer connections,” according to the The Boston Consulting Group.

Connecting across various channels with the goal of providing anywhere, anytime personalized digital engagement experiences of course requires the ability to extract relevant customer data. It also requires using analytics to act on that information at appropriate times in the customer journey, and business controlled policies and rules that define when and how to act.

But changing all the underlying infrastructure to enable a rich omnichannel experience is not as easy as flipping a switch. From a technology perspective, most banks’ data and customer interaction points are composed of a series of prepackaged point solutions purchased over the last three decades. These solutions don’t natively connect to each other, making it difficult to have a common customer context that is ubiquitous across channels.

A core infrastructure built on open source that uses open application programming interfaces (APIs) can create an agile platform on which to build. Modern development approaches can help integrate new systems of engagement, legacy systems of record, and intelligence gleaned from analytics to create common context with real-time interaction points. Agile development practices such as DevOps and DevSecOps can accelerate application development. Embracing a hybrid cloud strategy and containers can cut costs, increase flexibility and boost productivity and time to market.

Capabilities such as data analytics, integration, process management, decision management, optimization, messaging, caching, and a wide variety of application runtimes can all now be hosted in a cloud-native container platform. These capabilities are critical to rapidly connecting and enriching the new as they maintain or phase out the old. This gives banks choice and flexibility, which is a key to staying agile as banks look to move more quickly and decrease time to market in the increasingly competitive environment of financial services.

Adding these capabilities to better utilize existing and future infrastructure gives banks the tools they need to turn omnichannel service to optimal channel service, engaging and satisfying customers’ needs for digital engagement in the ways that work best for them. Bank on it.

There are key steps to uplevel your capabilities for digital engagement. Take a look at our executive guide to learn more.

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