Effective Approaches for Online Retailing

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In terms of online banking, today’s credit union members expect their credit union to be up-to-date on the latest technologies. According to a recent analysis of all credit unions using CU*Answers’ flagship program, CU*BASE, over 417,975 transactions were performed using online and mobile banking in one month’s time, accounting for 29.5% of all member transactions. With this number increasing every year, today’s credit unions must proactively establish effective online retailing strategies. But what is an effective online retailing strategy and what competitive edge does an online store give to a credit union? Recently, I sat down with CU*Answers Web Application Developer Keegan Krajniak for a discussion.

“Members utilizing online banking may have a higher propensity to expect their credit union to make products and services available to them through the internet,” says Krajniak. “The key is to maintain the same level of service for members by making products accessible while also leveraging costs and time.” The primary components of establishing an effective online retailing strategy include technology, purpose, organization, marketing, and a plan for how you will respond to member service needs of the online member.

Technology

If you’re aiming to have your members shop for products online, the first step is to select the various components necessary to build your store. Similar to selecting the right property, materials, and technologies to build and operate your physical branches, online stores require a safe environment in which to shop and an operating system to ensure your staff have the ability to fulfill the order in a timely manner. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” indicates Krajniak. “Credit unions should shop for vendors that understand the unique environments and challenges of today’s credit unions.”

Purpose

After you’ve selected your technology partner, you will want to be sure your vision for the store is communicated clearly. What are the reasons members will visit your store? What are the products you want them to buy? Which members will have the propensity to shop and make purchases online? Answering these questions prior to your launch will help your technology team properly set up your online store. Additionally, having a clear direction and purpose for your store will help your marketing team develop the right audience and increase member satisfaction once your program has been launched.

Organization

When effectively established, your purpose will drive the actions associated with building the proper environment or web presence. Organization plays a large role in ensuring the success of your store. Select a team to work on the project and determine the various roles each member of the team will play.

Separate your products and services into categories. Things can get messy as you expand. Give as many details as possible without being too basic. Create an outline to share with your team prior to set up. With the proper planning and organization, your stores will be visually appealing, accessible to the member, and easy to navigate, rewarding you with the potential to earn.

“User feedback is important too,” Krajniak adds. “Think about any online experience you’ve had. Chances are you read the reviews rather than buying the product sight unseen. Give your members the opportunity to provide feedback and testimonials for future buyers. They will feel much more comfortable and satisfied making their purchase.”

Marketing

Online retailing is the way the world moves. According to Amazon, over 5 billion items were shipped through its Prime program in 2017 alone. Credit unions must plan for change and must do so quickly.

Let’s go back to those numbers regarding online transactions. Over 29.5% of all transactions are performed online and the majority of those members on average are between the ages of 23 and 48. Knowing this information can allow credit union marketing staff to develop clear messages on the most sought after products within these groups and educate the member on the ease of purchase through the comfort and convenience of their home.

Krajniak’s best advice for the credit union marketer is to remember there’s always room for improvement. “Online stores are not set it and forget it. Do what you can to consistently add in features and not let your stores become outdated. Have a well thought out maintenance plan and stick to it. This will differentiate you from others and move you from good to great.”

Member Service Online

Members do expect excellent member service, even when your traditional brick and mortar branches are closed. Krajniak recommends following your marketing plan with a plan for operations. “The person in charge of this will assist with product knowledge and orientation throughout your organization,” Krajniak notes. “Determine whether your products will be fulfilled automatically using various technological approaches or if human interaction will be required. Determine who will respond and how long the member should expect the process to take. Effective processes for order fulfillment will please the member and increase their desire to shop again.”

Brick and mortar services will continue to have a strong presence for many years to come. However, with an effective online retailing strategy, credit unions can set themselves up for success now and in a future of completely digital banking.

What are your strategies as an online retailer? What have been your biggest successes? How does the value of the cooperative help you design winning solutions for online retailing?

Author


  • A 17-year veteran of CU*Answers, Julie has dedicated her career to advocating for financial services that benefit credit unions and their members. At CU*Answers, Julie leads business development and marketing initiatives in support of a variety of management service offerings. Julie spends her days working with credit union executives and managers to establish strategies that maximize the opportunity to succeed in both credit union operations and member service.

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