ICBA Research Reveals Characteristics of Today’s Community Bank Customers

By Rob Birgfeld

If there’s a universal truth for community banks, it’s this: you know your customers. Through deep relationships and engagement, you know them, not just by their banking transactions but through their personal stories — their ups, downs and life experiences. This is, after all, cornerstone to relationship banking and the community banking business model.  

Today’s COVID-influenced environment has shifted customer tendencies and behaviors unlike anything we’ve witnessed before. Accelerated by the pandemic’s early quarantines, community banks have stepped up their digital game and provided online solutions for everything from account openings to loan applications to deposits and beyond.

These new options, coupled with customers’ increasing familiarity with the digital environment, have meant that consumers are relying on online and mobile channels more than ever. The actions and activities of customers you have known have evolved, and potential new customers are now seeking different products and services than they would have just two years ago.

Today’s Community Bank Customers

With this knowledge as a backdrop, in late 2020, ICBA gathered research to uncover the “new normal” of community bank customer behavior and preferences. Using syndicated MRI-Simmons data, we dug deep on existing community bank customers and our efforts yielded some provocative insights that will help you in better serving existing and targeting future customers.

Specifically, research found that community bank consumer customers are:

  • Experienced, well-educated professionals. In fact, more than half (55%) have a college degree or higher and another 42% earn at least $100,000 annually.
  • Mobile-first consumers. Resoundingly, community bank customers rely on their mobile devices for web searches (84%) and social media engagement (84%), far exceeding home computer, work computer, and tablet offerings.
  • Multitaskers. While watching TV, your customers indicate they also jump on their mobile devices visiting websites (15%), texting (14%), and making calls (9.3%).

Actionable Insights

These statistics, while interesting, do not just act as background information, they fuel decision making. In fact, this research helps your bank:

  • Better know the typical community bank customer and audience.
  • Understand their media preferences and use this information to expand utilization and/or share of wallet.
  • Prioritize message dissemination and media buys by channel, according to engagement, to reach them.
  • Consider the cost of obtaining a new customer versus retaining and deepening the relationship with existing customers.
  • Prioritize channels for innovation or user experience improvements.

For example, when evaluating where to invest customer education dollars, a focus on mobile solutions aligns with the firm knowledge that your customers are intense users of their devices. In short, having greater insights into your customers will allow you to better focus your retention and acquisition efforts, yielding more effective and efficient results.

To be clear, no syndicated research effort or analysis tells the complete story of your community bank’s customers. That’s why ICBA will continue its evaluation of the changing needs and interests of consumers and share those insights to help your community bank better understand and connect with today’s varying customer predilections.

Because above all, we see these statistics as one key component of your marketing toolbox — one that will help you in anticipating and responding to customer needs, even as the market fluctuates, and preferences evolve.

To access the complete report, visit ICBA’s Marketing and Communications toolkit, accessible to all ICBA member banks.

Rob Birgfeld is ICBA Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.