Digital Signage Adoption High In Retail Banking, But DBSI Research Suggests Content, Workload Are Pain-Points

February 9, 2022 by Dave Haynes

There are a few companies in digital signage that have picked a vertical market, got into it, and stayed very much in that lane. 

But I can’t think of any other companies in the sector that operate like DBSI, a Phoenix-area company that provides and manages a full-featured digital signage solution for its retail banking  customers, but also designs and builds branches, among many things.

The company has been around for 20+ years and its customers range from small regional credit unions to whale accounts like Wells Fargo.

For the last eight years, DBSI has done a survey of banking customers that benchmarks the adoption rate, state and trends with respect to in-branch digital efforts. I’ve been through the deck and noted a lot of interesting insights about how on-screen messaging is being used, and how banking customers see the ROI.

I spoke with a couple of folks from DBSI – Jared Jones, a Digital Transformation Strategist, and Alisa Semyekhina, the Head of Digital Signage. 

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Jared and Alisa, thank you for joining me. Can you give me a rundown on what DBS is all about, where you’re located and what’s the range of work that you do? 

Jared Jones: Yeah. So DBSI is located just outside of Phoenix, Arizona in Chandler. In short, our mission is really just to redefine the banking industry.

We found a very unique way to fuse together the design build aspect, the equipment aspect and of course, technology up to including to be a little bit more parts of this podcast, digital signage. 

Yeah, it’s interesting, I assume DBSI the DB is designed to be built, and it’s interesting that you do the actual design of bank branches and credit union branches and so on.

And that digital signage is not just a bolt on thing. It’s like a big part of what you do, Right?

Jared Jones: Yeah, absolutely. All too often, what we’re finding is our clients. Whenever you use the bolt-on approach you get a lot of finger pointing and the messaging is concise with the staff, the members and customers get a very choppy experience to where it’s whenever you’re able to house it all under one roof. It allows you to really take a very intentional and proactive approach to all the different elements of the bank branch process.

And this is what DBSI does. You’re not also servicing the healthcare industry or hotels etc. Like banking is your vertical.

Jared Jones: Exactly. Exclusively we are vertically actually. And that’s really one of our competitive advantages. Simply due to the fact, whenever you work with a local architect.

We found that the banking credit executives have to spend, I’ve seen it everywhere for a week to a month, really just educating them on the industry or maybe industry’s best practices, what their customers and members are really trying to achieve. How do you really try to guide the flow?

So by exclusively dealing in the banking industry, it allows us to develop our own best practices. That way we can almost take a driver’s seat and really educate our clients on the industry, what it’s really evolving into, how we can maybe stroke the footprint. We understand what a teller cash recyclers.

We understand how to move into MADEC too, to where we can lower that to you and things of that nature. So again, my us exclusively dealing in this industry and allows us to take the driver’s seat. And really educating our clients rather than having to local educate a local architect. 

And I assume that with the banking industry, like many industries these days, really don’t want to have a whole bunch of service providers doing one aspect of what they do. So if they can nail it down to, okay, you guys just figure this out for us and help us with it as opposed to let’s put together a team of vendors and make this happen.

It’s just cleaner this way. Right?

Jared Jones: So it’s not really that single point of contact. And it just allows us to really take ownership over the entire project and allows us to ultimately own the project and allow us to deliver. 

So is it strictly in the United States? Are you in other countries doing work? 

Jared Jones: Presently, we were just in the United States.

We have either current or past projects in all 50. But we do not do it internationally. 

So, I live in Canada, I don’t really know the banks down there other than ATM machines when I’m traveling. But if I were a U S resident, what institutions would I.. Are you guys active with who they might know and that you’re allowed to talk about?

Jared Jones: Wells Fargo, we do a lot of business with a super regional down there in the south, Navy federal credit union, they utilize our technology. And I would say those are probably our big three. A lot of your listeners will understand the reality of what you do. 

So you have big whale clients like Wells Fargo, but you also do small or regional credit unions sort of thing.

Jared Jones: We’ve done business with, like I said, I went from Wells Fargo to and obviously they are in the trillions and asset size to where, we also deal with very local community credit unions 700 million assets. 

We’re having this chat because you guys as I’m interested in speaking with you, anyways, but so you have a benchmark report that you put out that looks at the state of digital signage and the adoption rate of it.

How was that put together and how often have you done that? 

Jared Jones: Yeah. So we started doing the annual digital signage benchmark about seven or eight years ago now. And essentially what it is like I told you before, we tried to take that very intentional approach, very data centric, data driven into our process.

So with that, we really want to understand what the industry was saying and how they are leveraging it. Of course you don’t allow us to better refine our best practices. But now we’ve actually grown to about, I think just over 400-430 respondents different banks and credit unions and allowing us to get an insight into how, or I guess if and how they’re using digital signage in their branches and headquarters

So you are doing a survey of some kind?

Jared Jones: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s an incentive-based survey. It’s actually a unique approach we use because there are a couple of barriers, sometimes whatever they are accepting guests from different vendors. We actually offered a $10 gift certificate either to the executive filling out the survey.

Or we were going to donate that $10 in a charity of their choice. So it was fun. It allows us to give in their name cause I don’t know how familiar you are, but that’s actually one of my most passionate favorite parts rather than working with community banks and credit unions is their true commitments to their community.

So through this, obviously we get the data that we can share with the industry and then they get a continuation of their mission to do right by their community. 

Okay. So let’s talk about what you found in the 2022 report. It’s called off the charts. Were there any surprises?

Jared Jones: Yeah. Yeah. So a work surprise that I actually found was that only 6% of digital signage content was going to be utilized for onboarding to a little lower cost channel or either mobile platform. For whatever reason, this has been a hot topic item for probably the last 10-15 years.

We’re making executives try to actually onboard their clients to a little bit lower cost channel. And I don’t want to speak for other industries. I can only assume that being the same, but it is a lot cheaper for me to sign up for a different financial product, like a savings account or checking account, or maybe even a credit card.

Whatever I can offload it into a mobile channel. It allows them to take it from, I think it’s just over maybe $3-$4 a transaction, all the way, I think maybe 20-25 cents. So that was probably my biggest surprise, but at least I think you end up more.

Alisa Semyekhina: Yes, definitely. I actually had a lot of surprises from the survey.

I would like to share study with content management like flex systems. So we noticed that the increase of actual expenditures for the software increased, but with that also increased the stress level. So I was actually interested to see the correlation between that. And one of the interesting facts was that our clients will, but then or just banks and credit unions marketing manager teams, they’ll be looking for features and capabilities.

So again, just displaying content is not good enough for them. It’s actually looking for a fast approach to deploy to all branch networks. And we’re talking about not just one or two branches, we are talking about 300 plus branches. So how efficient you are with that? And the next part is about the IT side because again, if you’re using, let’s say flash drives, you are not going to be efficient. You need the whole team or facility teams, or IT teams to go to each branch and deploy content. And that’s where, again, that disconnect is. So many different vendors teams are working on content or deploying content that you can not be on time with weather information, weather rates change, or anything like that.

And with that your branch team is left with no support from the marketing team. So that’s where I found one of my biggest surprises. 

Yeah. I was interested in that, the big painpoints. Within the banking industry with respect to digital signage was managing the content and creating content for it.

And also worrying about the side of it. I find it quite amazing that you still have vendor or primary end users who are using flash drives and don’t have scalability or anything. Is that just a function of this version, one of what they were doing and that they learn the hard way that they should not have done, or are they just keeping with what they were doing originally and not even understanding that there’s an easier way?

Alisa Semyekhina: I think your spot on Dave I think it was the conceptual phase for even proving that digital signage has a place in their branches.

And with studying, and that’s like having the conversation with quite a few of our clients who are transitioning to a different solution. And as we are not only partnering with software companies, but also content creators. So with that, when we have conversations we are coming from different perspectives.

Again, what’s the best solution for them? And of course, again, the ease of deployment, ease of creation, content, ease of updating content. And it’s also on the goal. Now, everything has to happen on the goals. Yeah. When you update your content from your cell phone for example, or bring that experience, that’s differentiating you from anyone else down the street?

So if I’m coming to a branch and they see my name on the screen welcoming me. Yeah. I would love to see that. But can software support. So I think it’s proving the concept and then moving into a different level where, how do we do that? And that’s where I think most financial institutions need help.

Is it a function of the financial institutions and the communicators within those companies, understanding that this is not a technology investment, as much as it’s a communications investment, and you have to think content first and the technology is important, but it’s the underlying stuff. 

Alisa Semyekhina: I think it’s also an interesting point where both of them need to be going hand-in-hand.

It has to be a strategy of what technology as well as a strategy for content. And they believe Jared has some more thoughts on that. 

Jared Jones: Yeah. So to your point, yes, of course it is a technology investment, but it’s also an experience investment. All too often, what we’re seeing inside these branches and headquarters is a stale environment. Wherever you’re actually gonna have to take that intentional approach behind your digital signage strategy, it allows you to have complete control over your end points with the right content and system.

Anywhere from as granular, as changing the hours that your content is going to display, whether you want it client facing or staff facing, or it’s that very hyper customized content. What Alisa was just talking about, where either I can say, what am I walking or make your credit union say welcome Jared or something of that nature.

So really it’s an experience investment is how I think about it. 

And do you have a sense I’m sure you do have, what’s truly impactful content and messaging in the branch. Because when I go to my local branch, after I do this interview, I’ve got to go to the bank. I’m going to walk in there and it’s going to have digital signage behind the counter showing me news headlines and the weather, and then some kind of generic messaging about the branch.

 And I’m just thinking they’ve made the investment, but they really haven’t thought through the content because I just came from outside. I know what the weather is. And I don’t need news headlines when I walk into a branch. 

Jared Jones: And really, that’s where we start to differentiate ourselves as you’re well aware and I’ve listened to several episodes.

I get your understanding of it, the placement of screens, and you have the quality of the screens, but really that’s just one pillar. And really, I would almost say the second pillar is going to be this content development. It’s not just saying, Hey, now we offer free checking or here’s the local news headlines, or maybe the weather or something of that nature.

It’s really about getting that hyper vocal content. One of the more rewarding things that I get about working with these community banks and credit unions, like I said, is their community involvement.

So whether it’s setting up scholarships, whether it’s going to be volunteering for habitat or community, whether it’s going to be charitable donations, Whenever, each branch has its own, little fun mission.

It creates a little bit more sense of community. It allows a little friendly competition and ultimately it allows the communities to win. I don’t want to speak for other industries but I think right now people are more concerned with the missions of the businesses that they do business with. So whether it’s Tom shoes, whether it’s going to be, I buy a pair and they donate a pair of Bomba socks.

Again, I bought a pair of hair. I want to feel good about where I’m spending my money, where I’m spending my time. So whenever these banks or credit unions can educate their client base saying, Hey, I just raised $52,000 or something. It makes me feel good. Hey, they’re actually taking my money and they’re investing it back for my community, which obviously I care much about. I really like that approach. 

I’m looking at some of the results of the survey and what gets shown on the screens more than anything else is promotions and branding, right? Is that the right approach or is that just what people are doing and you would move more towards community messaging?

Jared Jones: That is an approach. That’s really where we’re going to work with the marketing teams and really understand what their overall overarching business objectives are. Yes, of course, product education is one. Then we’re going to actually move into that community involvement piece, then we’re going to go to meet the team that way we build a sense of trust and a little bit of camaraderie that way I can understand who my Baker’s going to be. 

So there were seven pillars and actually I want to pass it back over to Alisa to go into a little bit deeper dive from content creation on where would you like to focus for that embraced strategy? 

Alisa Semyekhina: Dave, you raised quite a great point about promotions. So many promotions, as traditionally speaking, have short legs, right? We are talking about just something very actionable. There is a headline, there is a copy and so in so many cases, it’s not actually thought through based on the campaign-level because the campaign-level it’s, again, we are connecting on an emotional level and we are connecting with our customers’ members from the lifecycle approach, what’s important to them, where they are right now, why they actually add the branch and how we can help them?

So we’re moving from that transactional mindset into an advisory mindset and be able to speak to them and see where and what they’re doing right now at the branch, how we can help them, how we can migrate them, let’s say to mobile channels to again, be time efficient, give them time back because rather than coming to the branch and coming to the branch only for very specific reasons, like are we starting out something, are we at the stage where we’re setting up our business or we’re buying a new car and all those questions being answered, not something where we go and Google, which we can, but it will be that approach where you actually mean something and that’s personalization of experience. 

And you saw the report as well, one of the surprises I saw was that displaying rates were 46%, I believe and that’s a high rate of displaying just the rate and you’re competing with a cell phone. So if I see a rate on a screen, I want to know, am I getting the best of the best rate? But if I’m actually connecting with my members or customers on an emotional level. For example, if I had refinanced, if someone else got a fantastic experience and they shared that experience, I want to know what happened, I want to work with that person, because again, I want that experience as well. 

So I think a lot of marketing teams realize that, and they know that they probably just don’t have time to implement that moving from a promotional side into the community side. 

Yeah, it sounds like if you, for cost and resource reasons, use commodity information like financial rates, that sort of thing, it’s great in terms of the amount of time you have to allocate to this, but you’re not resonating, you’re not reaching your customers. You’re not striking an emotional cord with them. You’re just telling them stuff that they can get elsewhere.

Alisa Semyekhina: Absolutely.

Looking at some of the outcomes of the report, one of the things that I found interesting is that the perfect formula for doing content is a blend of in-house and agency work. So if you just do in house work, maybe you don’t have the creative chops and the understanding of reaching people emotionally, if you just do agency work, it’s going to take all your budget.

Alisa Semyekhina: That is very true, but we also work with teams of 1-3 marketing teams, and they have to actually not only spend time on digital signage, but on everything else, they’re wearing so many hats. And they have ideas, the question is always time and priorities. 

We’ve been working with many small towns and we are amazed at how many great ideas they have and what we are actually doing is we’re helping to streamline, help them to actually set the structure to content calendar, to again, content creation and helping them where they need us. Because at the end of the day, we don’t want to do everything for them, because like you said, if you’re outsourcing everything, then you lose that connection with the core of your institution. And if you are doing everything in house, you don’t have time for everything. So with this, we’re working as a partner with our clients to make sure there is that balance.

 And of course, sometimes you want to outsource something because it could be time consuming. So for example, we are talking about animations or drone videos or any other fun projects that you would like to bring into your space, whether it’s headquarters or a branch, but again, you have to hire someone or you have to look for someone and that’s where our expertise comes in. 

One of the other data points from this year’s report, I was struck by how built out the banking industry and credit union industry is. The great majority of them and particularly when you get to the larger institutions have digital signage, but I also get a sense that while there’s a lot of digital signage activity out there, maybe a lot of it isn’t done all that well yet. Is that a fair statement? 

Jared Jones: Yeah, it is. And that’s what Alisa was talking about as far as we’ve had the pleasure of working with teams of all, consisting of one to probably two or three dozen, depending on the size of the institution. 

It’s really interesting and it’s really not just from an asset size of the bank or credit union, as far as their sophistication or their level of intentionality that they’re able to put beyond their concept development because marketing teams tend to wear very many hats. So unfortunately they are constantly being pulled in all these different directions. So I guess in short, to answer your question, there’s not really a rhyme or reason as far as the size of the team. It’s more so just the priority list of the bank or credit union for the content development. 

Another point that was made is that the understanding of what to do inside the branch is pretty broad. Maybe some institutions could do it better, but the next big area to be looking at developing is outside the branch. How would that work? 

Jared Jones: Yeah. One of the things that we’re actually trying to leverage in digital signage is really trying to take it from the interior approach to also increase its reach from the exterior and that of course means implementing it into the pillars of the drive-through to actually implement two-way video in the drive through lanes themselves.

And essentially what that is, is what we like to say is almost like a 24/7 sell element while the basic credit unions are traditionally only open for about eight to nine hours a day, whenever you have a strategy that’s going to be going branch and exterior wise, it allows you to really gain potential clients that you could be having in that community and allows them to just draw recognition to the branch and invoke that feeling to get them to come in.

There’s an argument to be made and I’ve heard this a few times that the pandemic and the need to restrict access into retail operations, including banks and so on has forced people who were maybe digitally hesitant to learn how to do online banking and mobile banking and so on and therefore the branches which were already started being narrow in terms of their audience are getting even narrower and forcing banks to rethink what a branch was all about and how it worked and so on. 

Is that happening and does that connect to how digital signage is being rethought in those branches? 

Jared Jones: Yeah, absolutely. Just internally here at DBSI, we’ve seen a drastic shift from the way our banking and credit union customers interact with their clients to where you actually see a drastic shift into the drive through and that’s where we want to try to pivot. And say, hey, we need to get that homogenous feel from not only from your social media and interior. Now we actually need to start pushing this digital signage into your drive through and then actually we started looking inside, incoming into the exterior branch and the pillars.

So it’s really not just a one trick pony, if you will. There’s a very intentional approach to where we ensure that it’s a proper placement where the clients really interact with it. 

If you had to define an ideal mid-sized non flagship branch indoors and out, what would be the mix of things that are there and what are you showing on those screens?

Alisa Semyekhina: I would say it’s going to be a lobby screen and something behind the teller line. So it could be a single screen. It could be 2×2 video walls, but again, we’re talking about non flagship branches. So usually you’re going to see some two screens or maybe one screen depending on the footprint and the mix of content and that’s where the strategy of content is coming into play, like what’s the percentage of content to show behind the teller line and in the lobby area. So that’s where the community involvement piece, business recognition and involvement in charitable events are coming into play. 

You already made that point about whether to use all kinds of information. We don’t want to see that. We want to connect with our community, with our members and customers, and then provide them The advisory function and educational function behind the teller line, because that’s where we see a lot of financial education and security content. Especially in the past two years, I saw the increase of that content over there. 

I would say from the interactive experience, tablets in medium-sized branches are going to be more prevalent than interactive kiosks. So you will see those more in the flagship branches. And again, allowing that mobility as well at the branch. 

And when it comes to interactive, what’s the content mix? When people interact with touch screens, what are they using it for? Because I’ve been in branches where they had touch screens and then blinked away on them and thought I didn’t really need to use this. I could have used my phone or I don’t see the point of this. That’s just like, “Hey, we’ve got a touch screen, please use it!” 

Alisa Semyekhina: You are so spot on, because again, there has to be a strategy for having interactive digital signage in your branch. Just placing the interactive screen on a tablet doesn’t mean that it is magically going to be utilized and you’ll also need to train your branch team to actually use that technology to their advantage.

And what we’ve seen when we are working with our clients is actually the information about getting them to understand that this is your tool to dive into the products and services onboarding tutorials. We actually create those and recommend our clients create those, quick 1 to 3 points with maybe even videos or static images on how to quickly onboard on whether it’s mobile banking, IE statements, or anything like that. Because again, our clients have 60-70 products and services, you cannot remember all of them. So this is the tool that they are going to be using. So it’s probably not specifically for customers and members, it’s more for the branch. 

The last thing I wanted to get into was ROI. One of the questions in your survey was, why are financial institutions investing in digital signage? I was intrigued that one of the big reasons was modernizing the branch look and feel, but the biggest ROI thing that I came across which was encouraging, was it boosting sales.

Jared Jones: Yeah. I think going on three or four years that we’ve seen that we made this approach or assumption transitioning to ask on this question, because all too often, I feel like marketing teams are being asked, “what’s the so what?” Is it just a matter of looking pretty as it, like you said, it says it is just about modernization.

As Alisa was just talking about, the average financial institution has anywhere from 50-70 products and sometimes even more. And also the play there is, depending on what publication you read, if it’s going to be hovering around this two to three, as far as average financial products per household. If I consider you my primary financial institution, and really the main contributor is that just a lack of knowledge? So let’s say I have a credit card at one credit union and then maybe a checking and savings account at another bank. And then now I’m going to actually have my brokerage account, and my insurance with each individual institution. So that’s going to be four or five different FIs there. And that’s simply because I didn’t realize that the credit union or bank that I primarily go to deal with three-four miles away from my house has all those products and services.

So really what we just educate our clients and their customers is just gonna be centralized around product education and more importantly, product utilization, because it’s not about just increasing your financial product. It’s more so about helping your clients really guide them down that financial journey. 

All right. This was super interesting. The benchmarking report, how does one get that? Do you need to be a client?

Jared Jones: So we actually have it published on our website at under our blog section. Of course, I’m sure our contact information is going to be listed in the podcast so please feel free to either reach out to either myself or Alisa, and we’d be more than happy to get you a copy.

Alright. I appreciate you guys taking some time with me and I hope you’re enjoying the weather down in Chandler, which is way nicer than it is here. 

Jared Jones: Just a little bit, just a little bit. You’ll get the last laugh in summertime though, I promise. 

That’s correct. All right. Thanks again.

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