While the banking industry struggles with branch closures as customers migrate to mobile, we are pioneering a new retail strategy with Bendigo Bank that's working better than anyone expected...
Leichhardt is the second site in our quest to repurpose Bendigo Bank’s 530+ national branch network. Again in partnership with strategic research agency The Shopper Collective, we are testing the brand’s ability to connect with a very different community to that of the pilot branch in Norwood SA.
The main difference being that Leichhardt is currently emerging from a low ebb in the health and wellbeing of it’s community. Having suffered heavily since 2014 from the lockout laws, there is much work to do in resuscitating the community behind this once thriving street scene.
Engaging like minded builders and craftspeople to procure the site is just one of the strategies we have adopted to demonstrate an authentic approach to rebuilding the community. The bank does not see it’s role as dominant or heroic in this quest but recessive, supportive and collaborative as part of a group of local businesses who are already on this path.
We engaged local artist Shannon Crees (https://www.instagram.com/shannoncrees/?hl=en) to create the largest mural she’s ever done for the garden space. Even her process brought a sense of serenity and joy to the team as they were preparing to open.
Over forty new initiatives are being tested in the pilot branch in Norwood (opened Nov 2018), many of which have now been integrated into Leichhardt. One of the main learnings has been the value in the new staffing model. We have created a new role called a LEO (Local Engagement Officer). This is Caz, our Leo for Leichhardt. She is a full time appointment to the team but does absolutely no banking. Her ability to motivate and inspire the branch team by ideating with them around community engagement makes her role as critical for this new direction as it does for BAU.
The new staff teams have a greater level of collaboration and empowerment than ever before. They have decided that trading on a Saturday may be a good idea as their target audience for home loans are typically at work when they are open. On their first Saturday morning ‘Open Garden’ the team secured five home loan applications.
Following the remarkable results published from Norwood after six months of operating, we are keenly anticipating a similar outcome for Leichhardt. Watch this space for the next few sites opening in 2022.
Following the success of their collaboration on Singtel, Public Design Group and FITCH have once again joined up to create the future retail experience for Maxis, Malaysia’s leading Telco.
Malaysian’s spend a great deal of their down time in malls. Shopping in KL today, as with most developed major cities in the world, is all about experience.
Mall retailers have an inherent responsibility to engage and entertain shoppers well beyond the confines of product.
The business focus for network retailers is no longer on selling third party devices, it’s now all about raising awareness of how the internet enables better living. This leads to multiple devices, premium content, and managed services all being sold under one curated lifestyle story, for example Wellbeing.
Staff’s understanding of new devices and technology can’t be taught, it must be experienced. They are furnished with the latest devices, apps and content so that they can become expert demonstrators in store.
Brand experience over branded environment
The lack of corporate colour and the recessed store entrance is part of the Maxis corporate brand being deliberately recessive. We are seeing a gradual shift in retailers understanding of the importance of brand experience over and above branded environments.
Shoppers believe this environment has been designed for them to experience rather than for Maxis to sell, it’s very much a ‘pull’ rather than a ‘push’ psychology. When we look at what the Maxis brand means to people, it’s not their logo, their promotions or their tone of voice any more, it’s a fantasy world that shoppers can escape into, full of optimism, colour and compelling lifestyle stories.
With a brand legacy steeped in community and a business directive to build sustainability back into the communities in which it operates, Bendigo Bank are now repurposing their branches to this very end.
A few words with Richard Fennell, Consumer Banking Executive
“While our competitors keep closing bank branches, we know that along with an intuitive digital presence, a physical banking presence remains important for communities to grow and thrive.”
SHOP! 2019 Retail Design GOLD AWARD
SHOP! 2019 Environmental stewardship GOLD AWARD
“The way customers choose to interact with us is evolving rapidly. This presents us with the opportunity to reinvent the way we engage with the community through the physical channel (where we previously only talked about it).”
“This project has been a transformational initiative for our retail business; We have new branch team roles dedicated solely to local community integration, traditional products have become in-branch experiences and our ability to connect customers to the people they need to meet (anywhere in Australia through any channel) will soon become a major differentiator in consumer banking.”
As well as a dedicated creative area for artists to work, ‘Retail Springboard’ offers local business owners access to free pop-up shopfront space, while the community space gives local groups a central location for meetings, art exhibitions and business presentations.
Local artist Cathy Gray live in the branch. https://www.instagram.com/cathygrayinkwork/?hl=en
Mr Fennell said Norwood was chosen as the location for its Australian first branch format because it presented broad community, consumer and partnership opportunity… “However there are many variants we are simultaneously developing to understand how our idea of community can be delivered across our entire branch network.”
He said regular ‘Property Journey’ events and seminars would commence at the branch in the new year, bringing together local experts and specialists to provide customers with information and guidance on their own property investments, developments and projects.
A ‘Business Connection’ service would also be offered he said, using in-branch video conferencing facilities to connect a network of business mentors across the country who will share their experiences in running a successful business.
Early indications suggest that the new branch format is raising eyebrows in the local community with three times the foot traffic coming in than in the previous branch in the same location. Says CJ Majica, the new Local Engagement Officer at the branch: “Our community engagement has had an amazing start with huge interest in Retail Springboard from the local business community and a long list of customers and non customers wanting to get involved in the Business Connection program.”
Rebranding a 50 year old local icon into a national power brand has been intense, raw with emotion and bursting with excitement.
A brief Introduction
We are privileged to be reinventing one of Australia’s longest standing retail brands. A 50 year old local garden centre business, hand built by a passionate Australian family, approached us to rebuild their brand in preparation for national rollout. Watch this space for the full case study when Australia’s largest garden centre opens soon…
The entry of specialist players in any services category is a clear indication of market maturity, something the bigger players cannot ignore.
In recent years the fitness industry has undergone a major transformation with the entry of multiple overseas and smaller specialty brands entering the market. F45, Anytime Fitness and She are all examples of how gyms can expand markets by specialising in product, access or even segment. The entry of specialist players in any services market is a clear indication of market maturity, something the bigger players cannot ignore. Having designed Fitness First’s only Titanium grade club at Barangaroo two years ago, we were invited back to re-develop their flagship CBD stores.
Working in collaboration with Apple, we have repositioned Bond St for the launch of their Gym Kit App in Australia.
With a focus on the digital personalisation side of fitness, Apple have selected the most high profile gym in the largest gym network to launch. This project would not have been possible if it weren’t for the contractors MPA who never gave the impression that they were not in complete control of the juggernaut.
Simplify. Thirty screens becomes one screen in the right place (the largest ever to be deployed in a retail space in Australia). Equipment is reorganised to align with the natural auditorium shape of the space, focussing users towards the screen. Retail is consolidated, removed or redesigned to be more aligned to current customer and trainers needs. For example, replacing a pop up supplements store with a permanent customer lounge where personal trainers can comfortably interview new members has enabled a far better experience for members and trainers alike.
Member and staff feedback has been overwhelmingly positive since the re-opening of Bond Street December 2017. We are now working on several other CBD clubs as part of Fitness First’s initiative to defend its position as Australia’s premier gym brand.
“Imagine a place where, as a Queenslander, you would feel comfortable talking about things that matter the most with someone you’ve just met...”
RACQ is one of Queensland’s largest insurance companies and has recently merged with a bank. They are currently #2 in the KPMG best customer experiences in Australia and are in the Roy Morgan top 10 most trusted brands in Australia.
The merger with QTMB poses a significant challenge for the RACQ brand as it has a strong association with motor vehicles but less association with consumer banking. At the core of this challenge lies the need for RACQ to transition from a trust built around its existing insurance and assistance business to a trust associated with everyday banking. Added to this is the challenge that all banks face with retail – they don’t sell tangible product.
SHOP! 2018 Retail Design SILVER AWARD
We know the experience has to resonate with the outdoor life Queenslanders revere. It also needs a significant residential reference to build credibility in the category of home that lies at the core of banking.
Working alongside the awesome Brand Behaviour in designing a service experience that supports every likely transition from an insurance relationship to an everyday banking one whilst allowing two very disparate legacy service cultures to merge seamlessly.
This site is currently processing five times as many home loan applications as the previous QTMB bank in North Lakes Shopping centre.
This project represents a significant step for consumer banking in Australia by taking the retail brand experience to a whole new level.
Every aspect of the design adopts the same approach; replace traditional corporate banking design paradigms with ideas infused in humanity and community.
If we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard a bank say they are a community hub! It’s not good enough to say it any more, because people don’t believe you any more. Genuine community is about making it happen quietly and confidently in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling to that community and not simply another marketing stunt or tagline.
The biggest challenge for any financial services institution with community investment is that it’s invariably difficult to quantify the short term ROI. To do it properly takes a not so conservative organisation with an open minded board and a creative thinker at the helm.
Welcome to CUA Toowoomba, reinventing community banking.
With a dedicated internal project team of over thirty full-time CUA staff, the depth of commitment to this initiative gives us confidence that this is not another ‘talking’ financial services brand. Our approach to the site was to strip the environment back to its original structure, exposing the story of the site. This has created a sense of history and belonging for CUA, even though it was new to the high street.
Convincing the brand team at CUA to drop their primary corporate teal colour for the logo in the branch window, enabling us to turn it into a white glowing sculpture, immediately broadening it’s visual interpretation. Every aspect of the design adopts the same approach; replace traditional corporate banking design paradigms with ideas imbued with humanity and community relevance.
To date, this branch is sustaining an increase in high value transactions of 15% which proves there is a real appetite in regional Australia for financial services brands to be locally relevant.
Suffice as to say the branch is visited almost every week by other financial services institutions who have consistently given great feedback to CUA for having finally implemented what they have all been talking about for some time now.
Cars sell in a less pressured environment.
A common sense fact you’d think, but one that is changing an industry.
We have seen cars in shopping centres for years, it’s nothing new. Typically though they are seen in casual leasing spaces between the stores, adorned with competition rules and hired talent designed to distract you on your journey to Woolies. Subaru have recently uncovered a remarkable insight around selling cars in shops in shopping centres. We wish we could claim it as our idea but the brilliant brains at Subaru brought it to us. The insight is simple; people don’t expect to buy a car from the mall, they are therefore completely unprepared to deal with the mental challenge of doing so. Instead, they are delightfully surprised to see cars in shops – it’s a novelty – “Shall we just sit in one?”
The emerging trend of automotive mall stores (also see Volvo at Westfield Parramatta and JLR Westfield Bondi) presents a window of opportunity for car retailers in Australia. It’s only a window because as we know, as soon as the other car brands follow, the landlords will club them all together in one wing of the mall for a more ‘convenient’ shopper experience and over night the first mover advantage will disappear. The challenge therefore is to create an experience that is differentiated in a way that future proofs the brands approach to mall retailing.
We have deliberately moved as far away from the typical showroom experience as possible, blending retail lifestyle merchandising and photography with the cars in a way that allows shoppers to consider the broader context of why they would choose one model over another. We have interpreted the new Subaru ‘Do’ brand positioning for each model of car in the Subaru stable, creating a lifestyle story around the purpose of each model.
Overlayed with the model specific stories being told, we have introduced a 3D illuminated exhibition piece around the new Subaru Global Platform, showing off the world leading technology of the chassis now being used in all current models.
On the back of the success of the new Subaru Do store at Werribee, Inchcape have since engaged us to work alongside Centric architects on the JLR showroom at Westfield Bondi junction. As well as mall retailing, our work with Subaru is now entering its next phase with further new retail formats being developed in order to protect its category leading position as innovative retailers.
Our biggest challenge has been convincing the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) HQ brand team in the UK that Bondi Junction presents a unique opportunity as it’s the home of their future high value customer.
On the back of the success of the Subaru Werribee project we have been commissioned to add a little pizzazz to the standard JLR showroom format for this unique opportunity at Westfield Bondi Junction.
Yes, of course we need to sell cars but the overarching reason for this particular showroom is to present the product in such a way that it is aligned with the other luxury brands being showcased to the same audience in this Black Label mall. This means having a greater emphasis on product desirability and pushing the brand / heritage story into the background, something that at first, HQ were not all together comfortable with.
Suffice as to say our approach has been sensitive. Demonstrating that sculpting the physical nature of the site around the presentation of two hero cars is the best way to engage this audience, nothing else matters. Working in partnership with local incumbent agency, the awesome Centric Architects, we have created an ‘inside out’ showroom where the branded environment and sales experience is secondary to hero product display, presented in this case as ‘Jewels in a jewellery box’.
Other than Milan, this is the only JLR showroom in the world to feature a curved design and apparently top brass at HQ are in love with it.
“Yes, we want to remove the digital screens from your shop front. Why? Because they are a barrier to what we are trying to achieve with this channel”.
BUPA is Australia’s largest private health insurance company. It is also the first PHI brand in Australia to rationalise its’ retail network as the result of a customer focused channel strategy. This is why its new branches now look very different to its competitors.
The PHI market has a handful of established players offering similar products and retail experiences. The main reason for this is that retail is seen primarily as a sales channel where a captive audience can be sold products while they wait for service resolution. Sounds like a great idea from a business perspective but look at it from a customers’ perspective and you’ll see that however you design the environment, without a customer focused strategy, the experience will always be diabolical. The challenge with projects of this nature, particularly with market leaders, is to have the vision to dramatically change direction, away from the safety of the world they know. Luckily for us, our client is visionary and understands that the business needs to evolve from the old world into one where it can create and sustain a more meaningful kind of leadership.
The most powerful sales tool in the new scenario is a BUPA consultant who has just resolved a significant service issue for a customer. With this in mind, rather than selling to customers while they wait, we set about calming them down and preparing them for their consultation.
The waiting experience has therefore been elevated from a few plastic chairs against a corporately illustrated wall, to a customer lounge full of interesting books and artefacts. The digital media budget was repurposed from shop front advertising into creating a peaceful, slowly changing view through a five meter long window.
We worked alongside The Brand Institute, one of Australia’s leading brand reputation agencies who’s quest for creating new opportunity in a saturated market was nothing short of inspiring. Our learning and guidance from them has undoubtedly deepened our understanding of human centred design thinking.
Customer and staff satisfaction are both measuring higher than ever before. Duration of complex transactions has not decreased but we hadn’t hoped it would. High value sales on the back of complex service resolution have increased consultation times, which was the strategy. We are now rolling out the new design across Australia with specialist store communications and planning principles for Chinese communities.