A new study from Samsung summarized in The Financial Brand confirms what we’ve learned in solving sales and customer engagement problems for community banks.

For the majority of banks – community banks in particular – true competitive advantage is still where you can immediately engage your prospects and customers: IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

This quote from the article is no surprise to those of us with experience in other retail sectors.

“According to the findings of the Samsung study, Americans don’t feel that they are being forced to use branches at all; they actually like using branches for many banking activities, particularly those involving more in-depth and complex matters.”

Those seeking to “market to millenials and gen-X” (as we often hear) may be surprised to learn that 74 percent of those in both the 18-29 and 30-44 age groups visited a branch for transactions over the last two years, according to the study’s findings. That number was 85 percent for customers aged 60 and over.

This doesn’t mean they’ll come weekly; it means they have needs requiring a branch. Not having what these customers and prospects need surely opens the door to competitors with more appropriate market segmentation and channels to accommodate customers.

Effective market segmentation allows for precise targeting of customers based on need and, crucially, recognizes that effective customer acquisition and engagement channels may be different from the channels customers preferred for all transactions. A mix of channels is the answer. True, some retailers have failed in the face of growing online sales, but many more have successfully added online to their mix of sales and service channels in response to a segment of their customers.

In other widely available retail sectors, restaurants for example, it has long been understood that customers grow both into and out of the primary target market segment for your offering. The teen-aged fast food fan will certainly be a much less desirable customer ten years later.

As younger bank customers mature, their needs will evolve to demand services requiring a relationship their phone and a bank website cannot deliver.  The real opportunity is still at the branch, especially for community banks.  Community banks are at a pointed disadvantage when they follow the lead and use tools perfectly suited to exploit alternatives that are only cost efficient for the big banks. Just because big banks are taking a path doesn’t make it right for all banks to follow.

It is not wise to allow the competitor (in this case, the big bank) to determine where and on what terms the battle will be waged. Remember, regardless of the sport, the home team ALWAYS wins more often than the visitor. Don’t play in the competitor’s ball park, or use their equipment, unless you have no other alternative or don’t mind losing.