Many know that credit union members tend to be highly loyal and greatly value engagement. It would therefore make sense that members pay attention to the loyalty and rewards programs their credit unions (CUs) offer in return for their continued membership. Although CU members want innovation in member loyalty and rewards, most credit unions are not delivering these programs up to the desired standards.
PYMNTS’ Credit Union Innovation Playbook found that nearly 50 percent of the 2,000 CU members polled said they want their financial institutions (FIs) to focus on loyalty innovations, such as rewards offerings, in-app coupons and card-based cash back programs. Less than 30 percent of credit union decision-makers say their CUs prioritized loyalty innovations in the past three years, however, ranking the priority behind fraud management, real-time payments, digital wallets and other initiatives.
This month’s Deep Dive examines loyalty programs’ significance for retaining members, generating customer referrals, adding cost efficiency and enabling user-generated content, such as ratings, that can help boost brand awareness.
The Member-CU Loyalty Disconnect
One of the largest disconnects between credit unions and their members relates to the lack of investment in loyalty programs and the resulting impact on members’ willingness to stay. Banking customers generally remain loyal, yet PYMNTS research revealed that nearly four in 10 members are likely to consider leaving their current CUs. One would expect credit unions to invest in the areas most valued by members and place a higher value on loyalty.
Credit union members’ high expectations when it comes to loyalty innovation do not necessarily make or break their banking relationships. Only 7.3 percent of members say their credit unions must innovate or they would consider switching FIs, while 59 percent support innovation but would not change FIs because it was lacking. The number of credit union members who support having their CUs innovate therefore greatly outnumbers those who demand it. Just 3.4 percent of CU members in the survey said they would prefer their CUs to not innovate at all, while 76.3 percent supported having their CUs innovate and 17.3 percent said they would be willing to switch institutions if their CUs did not choose to innovate at all.
Loyalty Innovation Strategies
New product and services innovation can help credit unions attract and retain members who appreciate the convenience of faster and more secure banking systems, and the moves will help retain existing members who value the time, investment and efforts credit unions put in. Approximately 61 percent of CU members who favor loyalty innovation said that while they like innovation, it did not change their decisions about where to bank, according to PYMNTS' research. The same was said by 57.1 percent of CU members who do not consider loyalty innovation important while just a small share of members are wary of their FIs actually investing in new technologies and dislike the idea of credit union innovation.
This group’s opinion represents only a small portion of the study’s sample, but it provides an opportunity for CU decision-makers to take measures to overcome these obstacles with member engagement efforts. Outreach can help gain the trust of these members, build awareness about innovation initiatives and also provide CUs with insights on what members truly want out of their loyalty offerings. Investing in loyalty innovation is a strong sign that credit union decision-makers are also forward-thinking on innovating in other areas, such as payments and security.
Credit union decision-makers who have rolled out new loyalty innovations in the past three years are more likely to say that their FIs invested in mobile payments, anti-fraud efforts, payments technology, data analytics, know your customer (KYC) tools and consumer engagement technology. Thirty percent said their CUs released user experience innovations during this time frame as well, up from 20.8 percent from CUs with no loyalty innovation track record. Likewise, 33.3 percent of loyalty-centered CUs focused on KYC innovation, compared to 25 percent of their non-loyalty-focused peers.
This research suggests that the CUs that make loyalty innovation a priority are more customer-centric than others. Credit unions operating in today’s competitive financial space should keep in mind that rewards are a valuable tool for gaining customer loyalty in several ways, yet many member engagement tools are in the CU toolbox. Understanding how to support all customers and build trust can yield the best results over time.