Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Commerce Bank - Network Rollout





Virtually since it began its aggressive branch expansion, Commerce Bank has relied on digital media to communicate to its customers. The bank, whose 450+ branch network spans the Atlantic coast including the key markets of Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, New Jersey, Washington DC, and Florida, is well known for its commitment to service excellence and differentiated branch experience. It has been well-documented that Commerce was the pioneer of extended hours, having branches open seven days a week, and including customer-friendly ammenities such as coin counters and bowls of water for accompanying dogs; what is less-commonly identified is that Commerce can be largely credited for the inclusion of flat-screen monitors behind the teller counter in the thousands of denovo bank branches that have been built in major markets across the US in the past few years.

The Commerce network is simple and focused in its strategy and execution. All branches receive 40"-42" monitors behind the teller counter showing Commerce promotions, educational pieces on financial needs and banking products in general, and some general community information. Additionally, branches located in areas where there is substantial pedestrian foot traffic also receive a large-screen installation of either a 64" plasma, or an array of rear-projection screens, which is designed to operate like a rotating billboard. Where content on the screens on the teller wall is clearly oriented toward cross-sell or retention, the "billboard" screens focus entirely on brief, focused acquisition messaging, with common themes including the number of branches Commerce is opening or has open in a given community, or enticements to visit the branch like the coin counting machines or events. The simplicity and clarity of purpose of the network has enabled Commerce to operate it seamlessly for years in the absence of a large media production budget or high-speed network bandwidth (or, in some cases, any network connectivity at all).

Given the level of integration with the overall branch design and the low-cost of ownership, imagine my surprise when a few years ago I heard Jeff Porter of Scala identify Commerce in his annual 10-worst digital media installations for being able to manage some updates using a cd-rom, rather than the internet...a classic case of a misguided technologist (and in this case with an agenda to peddle network software) forgetting that what really matters is the impact of an installation, not the means to achieve it.

It will be interesting to see the fate of Commerce Bank's digital signage network with their recent acquisition by Toronto Dominion, who have experimented with digital signage using Canadian service providers but have never rolled it out. For the time-being content, network management, and site installation/maintenance is provided by New Jersey's Diversified Media Group (a small gem of a network service provider who I was not aware of until recently, but who manage digital signage networks for Nike and JC Decaux, among others). Software for networked sites is provided by C-nario.

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