The average American spends seven hours a day looking at a screen. We now live most aspects of our lives heavily impacted by digital influences. We use our phones to hail a ride, we stream movies and shows to a variety of devices, and now more than ever, we are using our phones and computers to do our banking.

Over the last 20 years digital adoption has completely changed the way we go about our lives. Access to online news is killing the traditional newspaper. The need for physical publications is becoming less and less crucial as we now have access to news updates immediately. Is banking on the same track?

According to a 2021 BAI report on banking trends all generations reported increased mobile banking usage. It makes sense. There is so much in banking that we can do digitally that we could not before. Functions like online bill pay, electronic transfers, applying and managing revolving credit and installment loans, even qualifying for, and closing a car loan or mortgage, can be done through a phone or computer. Digitization has reduced the cost of doing business and improved the customer experience by reducing friction, but digital is a double-edged sword.

Overcoming the Impersonal Digital Divide with Digital Communications

In the past credit unions differentiated themselves by building personal relationships. With fewer people regularly coming into the branch, it is hard to establish and maintain those deeply personal relationships. As digital becomes the status quo, how do credit unions stand out from the crowd? The offerings that were once seen as amazing innovations are now expected.

The catalyst of digital innovation intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many positive impacts to the accessibility of banking. Naturally, this is also causing member expectations to rise with it.

Just as many other facets of business have gone digital, online statements offer an upgraded member experience. They allow members to have access to statements at any time. The digital format makes it easy to search for key information and provide an interactive way for customers to see their financial information. Another underutilized aspect many credit unions do not make use of is the free advertising space. Statements are a perfect vehicle to utilize the white space by promoting other services you offer.

For digital, eyeballs are key. Startups get multi-hundred million- or billion-dollar valuations due to the number of eyeballs they can acquire. The value comes from the eventual monetization and attention those eyeballs can lead to.

But can we expect all those eyeballs to engage? People often ignore emails or, at best, delay viewing an email until “later.” Of course, “later” may never come. People’s inboxes are full of offers from dozens of other companies trying to get their attention; it is easy to understand why they ignore them. Similarly, members are constantly bombarded by notification after notification, naturally causing people to become inattentive to the many alerts they get daily.

The Role of Printed Communication in a Digital World

With so many factors working against a credit union’s efforts to get a statement delivered and viewed, credit unions need to utilize a multi-channel approach. In addition to digital statements, a credit union should reinforce that effort with a paper statement. This makes sense for a couple of reasons. There is still a small percentage of people who still prefer paper statements. Additionally, people still check and sort their mail, which means credit unions have a small opportunity to capture attention.

Even if the recipient does not normally open a mailed bank statement, if the envelope, or the mail piece showing through the window of the envelope is intriguing enough, they will open it. According to HC3 data, members spend around 7 minutes reading and opening their mail, financial documents have an open and read-through rate of around 95% and around 78% of people who receive paper statements review transaction details. That is the average. Statements with a more captivating design have even more engagement potential.

When credit unions combine engaging print communications with their growing digital presence, they can build value in ways either format cannot do on its own. Additionally, since a larger percentage of members will at least scan statements, banks get an additional chance to advertise other products or share important communications.

Credit Unions can utilize the paper statement to drive people to their website for the more feature rich version of their financial information. Similarly, credit unions can use QR codes and other technologies to send members to specific web pages to track traffic for marketing efforts while reducing the friction of taking action from their message.

Griffin McGahey is president at HC3. Formerly High Cotton, HC3 is a data-driven technology company delivering customer communications. For more information please visit, HC3.IO