Blame it on my Seattle location, but I continue to believe there are good synergies between banking and the so-called coffee culture, both on- and off-line (full disclosure, I’m writing this in a coffee shop). I’m not talking about converting bank branches to coffee shops like Exchange Bank Coffeehouse (left); but using espresso and other coffee and tea tie-ins as a perk for banking online and/or other product usage.
Here’s why banking and espresso go well together:
Brand image: Thanks to Starbucks, coffeehouses have developed into a pop culture phenomena that is unlikely to fade in our lifetime (evidence: nearly 10,000 Starbucks locations worldwide, growing 1300+ per year). The community-building, relaxed, and relatively wholesome image of the modern coffee shop fits well with the brand images many financial institutions are attempting to convey.
Traffic patterns: Banking is usually a daytime activity, correlating well with coffee consumption.
Real estate: Whether located in a city center, suburb, or small town, bank branches are usually located in high-traffic locations. They often have enough extra space to squeeze in an espresso station and a few small tables.
Promotional opportunities: For years Horizon Air, a regional provider owned by Alaska Airlines, used its Starbucks beverage service to attract customers to its routes. Banks could do the same thing.
This is not a new concept. Umpqua Bank has had great success with its retail model that included coffee service and no teller line. The bank’s website carries a subtle coffee theme throughout with terms such as, find your own blend and savor. It’s Experience Umpqua Flash presentation starts with a close-up of a coffee mug on a table in the branch.
ING Direct operates four urban cafés in the United States that serve coffee and pastry along with financial advice. No transactions are processed on-sight, but customers have access to Internet terminals and ATMs.
But the bank closest to what we have in mind is Charter One Bank. Prior to its being bought by Royal Bank, the Cleveland-based bank embarked on a co-location program with Starbucks (see inset, Post & Washington, Indianapolis).
Financial institution opportunities
Partner with Starbucks or a local chain to create a joint banking and beverage program
Develop a usage program with free coffee as the perk, for example, paying two bills online each month and/or estatements instead of paper
Offer a prepaid coffee option that allows coffeehouse purchases to be charged directly to credit or debit card, or deducted directly from checking
Consider expanding the concept beyond transactional banking, with coffeehouse tie-ins for investments (see, The Coffeehouse Investor, OBR 49)
Use the book, The Coffeehouse Investor, as an incentive/premium
Use it as an incentive for going totally online, for example, "Go to XYZ Coffee Shop instead of the branch"