Banks investing in scent marketing

Walk through Clapham Junction in South London, and you might catch a whiff of something heady, but rather fragrant.

The scent, it transpires, is white tea and thyme. And it is coming from a new branch of Lloyds Bank.

"It gives that inviting feel, that welcoming feel," says the building's designer, Sarah Harrison.

"You can smell it on the High Street when the wind's blowing in the right direction."

Lloyds is not the first bank to spot the possibilities of sensory attraction.

Across the Atlantic, one bank offers its customers freshly brewed coffee, using the nutty aromas of Arabica to entice new followers. In fact rather than banks, it calls them cafes.

White tea is being tried out as a scent by Lloyds Bank

In the UK, High Street banks are set to close hundreds more branches in 2017.

Nevertheless, with ideas for alluring new formats, the industry believes that the concept of branch banking at long last has the whiff of something positive about it.

Hence they are investing millions of pounds in makeovers. In fact, in 2017 at least three British banks will open more branches than they will close.

Branching out

When the US firm Capital One launched a digital-only bank, it thought it would never have to go to the expense of building any branches.

But seeing that customers wanted a more physical relationship with their bank, it changed its mind. Now it has 13 banking "cafes" across the US, where a cup of coffee is half price for those who pay with their card.

Account holders can also enjoy a freshly baked muffin, or tuck in to as many bytes of data as they wish from the free wi-fi, as they do some online, or face-to-face, banking.


Capital One cafes, where customers can get a loan with their latte

 

"We had a digital bank, and we needed to connect with the communities that we serve," says Shaun Rowley, director of Capital One Cafes.

"These cafes give customers a chance to come in, and experience our brand: see, touch and taste Capital One."

He describes the branches as "more cafe than bank", but promises that customers can do any financial transactions they would normally expect.

"There are a lot of banks experimenting with different formats. There's all sorts of transformations going on," he tells the BBC.

The aroma device is now a key part of Mr Pfaudler's thinking too.

"It moves further away from the traditional, rather stiff branch environment. So, while it wasn't necessarily a design feature, I think we're going to roll this out into many more of our branches - maybe not that specific scent, although I like it."

'Defusing rooms'

In 2017 at least three smaller brands expect to grow their network.

Metro Bank - which opens its latest branch in Basingstoke on 31 December - is planning a dozen new "stores" as it calls them.

Both TSB and Handelsbanken will also expand their branch numbers next year.

And Santander will upgrade as many as 60 branches.


Customers can pay in cash at some Santander cash machines, as well as withdraw it

 

At a pilot branch in central London, customers can already pay in cheques and cash at the same machine they use to withdraw money. And they can receive an email confirming the transaction.

The old-style counter, complete with tellers, is hidden away at the back.

Uniformed customer service assistants show members of the public how to switch to the new-style cash machines.

'Concierge'

It's not just the branches themselves that are changing. It's their attitudes to customers.

In an attempt to be more welcoming, some in the industry want their branches to feel like hotels or restaurants.


The hotel industry is providing a model for some banks

 

"From a physical perspective, hospitality offers a very good role model," says Ray Ehscheid, senior vice president for store design at Bank of America.

"If you think about a hotel experience, it can be relatively scripted: you enter, there's a welcoming experience, you're either directed to where you want to go - which might be the restaurant - or there's a check-in experience."

He even refers to the front-of-house staff member as the "concierge".

"Again, I would go back to the hotel experience. The doorman might be able to get you a taxi, they might be able to tell you where the nearest restaurant is, but they're going to turn you over to the concierge if you say you want a particular kind of dining experience. So we want to have that same idea."

In 2017 visiting your bank will feel better, and quicker, than it used to. With perhaps a few nice smells to enjoy at the same time.

Get in touch with Scent Australia to see how we could help you diffuse a Signature Scent in your business environment.

This article was originally published in Business Insider.