Case Study: First Tech Federal Credit Union's Omnichannel Strategies

Contributing Writer

10 minutes

In this Q&A, Jack Weldon, VP/marketing, and Stephen Owen, chief retail and marketing officer, for $8 billion/440,000-member First Tech Federal Credit Union, Mountain View, Calif., share their views as marketers on how omnichannel delivery brings together all departments to deliver on a 360-degree view of members’ needs and preferences.

How does First Tech FCU define omnichannel delivery?

We look at omnichannel in a number of ways. Our first priority is to focus on our members’ experience with us, which was core to First Tech’s OC design principles from the very beginning. We want members to be able to interact with us in whichever channel is best suited for them, in that moment, which means we need to have capabilities that make their experiences with us as seamless as possible, whether via call, click or branch visit.

Secondly, to do that effectively, it was clear that we needed to approach the underlying technology platforms that support these channels in completely new ways—across member relationship management, sales teams, business development, support and operational services and certainly marketing. This includes capabilities that begin to offer a 360-degree view of our members’ online and offline activities, which allows our teams to create more personalized relationships and deliver more relevant solutions.

Has First Tech FCU committed to omnichannel delivery and, if so, when did you begin aligning CU capabilities behind this approach?

Absolutely. First Tech truly began the journey in late 2013 and early 2014, aligning all of the teams within the CU to focus on providing more relevant and empowered experiences, and to ensure we mapped the processes, workflows and needs of our members, and of course of our internal teams.

To do so required tight alignment from IT and technology, business units and channels, marketing, operations, and support, along with executive sponsorship. Evolving to omnichannel is not something that can be done in a siloed fashion, and tight alignment and cross-team commitment is fundamental to its success. We brought in key technology partners spanning each of these areas and have challenged them to help us succeed as we transition from legacy technologies to a more integrated, modern approach.

Is it a time- and cost-intensive process?  

If you put the member experience at the center of the discussion, it’s less about time investments and costs, but about how can you start the journey now and make stepwise enhancements and investments to support the effort. Omnichannel is here to stay, so it’s not a question of if we should do this. It really comes down to how we get started on the journey, and aligning the investments with increased member value, loyalty and advocacy.

The technologies needed to run a modern, large credit union are extensive, and many legacy systems were built to support single-channel silos of delivery. CUs are not like tech companies with a “simple” sales-marketing-product environment and single sales-support channels, which many would argue is hard enough to modernize. Integrating financial services solutions, systems, data, workflows and member insights across whichever channel members are engaging with, in the moment, is incredibly complex.

The question is how to prioritize what needs to be done foundationally, which sets the stage for increased member value from the effort as it moves forward in time. The core team that envisioned First Tech’s omnichannel strategy and execution plan did a terrific job of applying design-thinking principles and agile development methodologies, both of which have been instrumental in First Tech’s progress to date.

What role does the marketing department play in omnichannel delivery? 

At First Tech, marketing focuses on four primary areas, each supporting omnichannel delivery:

  • sales and channel enablement;
  • content marketing and thought leadership;
  • integrated campaign strategy and execution; and
  • innovative marketing technology and operational excellence.

How did you begin aligning marketing capabilities behind this approach?

We put members’ channel preferences first and then began to build integrated, multichannel marketing strategies that deliver our story across both online and traditional vehicles (website, search, email, in-branch displays, direct mail, digital advertising, etc.).

Each of these have to support an omnichannel delivery strategy: Members choose their preferred channel in each and every interaction, meaning they might start a mortgage application online and then go into a branch to complete it. Or just the opposite, they might start in-branch, call from work to ask a clarifying question, and then complete the application and submit everything once they get home. 

While marketing might hypothesize that some products are better suited to specific delivery channels, we can’t presume our members will be consistent in their channel choices. As marketers, we need to anticipate that members will engage with our channels via their smartphones, work and/or home desktops, tablets, in-branch or on a call to our contact center—and often multiples of these at the same time. It’s also about ensuring all of the teams have insights, tracking and intelligence about member and prospect behaviors, and their progress to date for the “next channel” that might touch them.

For example, if a member starts in-branch and finishes online, and their experience was delivered the way they wanted it, our overall program is a success. Marketing, in support of this strategy, uses all the various marketing touchpoints to help the three channels spread their messages and to guide members to the best channel for their immediate needs.

Utilizing detailed analytics and results reporting, we are able to identify process bottlenecks and optimize member-facing messaging. Teams meet weekly and sometimes even daily to look at campaign reports and develop insights that inform making changes on the fly, in an agile style of marketing and cross-team collaboration.

Does this marketing approach help your credit union improve member service, member recruitment and retention, and/or financial results, and if so, how?

Our recent deposit growth campaign (in fall 2015) was a new pinnacle for First Tech’s teams and channel leaders working together to accomplish a critical financial and member-experience goal.

In First Tech marketing, we use the term attribution often. That is, can we track all of the various marketing touchpoints the member interacted with and, ideally, all of the various channel interactions and activities within these that contributed to the marketing or sales objectives?

In the world of consumer marketing, conversions or activities are often attributed to the last “touch,” the one that caused the consumer to take that final action. At First Tech, our goal is to look at how all the channels “win” by supporting each other, so we deploy a hybrid business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing model that strives to look at all the touchpoints and capture as much of the member’s “digital body language” as possible, integrated into our member CRM for all channels to see.

At the current time, we are focusing on capturing their activities on our marketing website, our emails and campaign landing pages, and with our digital advertising. We also are looking to bring in, where possible, interactions with online and mobile banking applications, and digital campaigns we run there.

In this recent campaign, we were able to clearly pinpoint not only how much revenue was directly sourced by marketing activity, but to capture “influenced revenue” data, which clearly connected marketing-created member behaviors and actions to the overall campaign results, even if the final action happened in-branch or via our call center.

Late last year, Marketing was honored with a CU industry award for our new member welcome series, which focuses on creating a more consistent onboarding experience throughout members’ first 30 days of membership. The campaign delivers a series of automated marketing emails that introduce new members to First Tech’s values and mission, and provide tips on security and online banking set-up, selected sets of solutions and consultative offerings. We also had offline integration, which set up a sequence of scheduled, in-person follow-up phone calls to ensure their new relationship with First Tech was nurtured from their very first day with us.

The results were outstanding: 80 percent of members who joined the CU in June and received our new member welcome series opened a checking account by Oct. 31 vs. 61 percent of members who did not receive the communications, a 19 percent differential. Similar differences in engagement were noted in several other categories, including enrollment in direct deposit (42 percent vs. 26 percent); use of e-statements (65 percent vs. 51 percent); average deposits ($14,000 vs. $5,000), and active use of online banking (69 percent vs. 62 percent).

We continue to refine this program to improve targeting, message relevance and calls to action. But most importantly, the email campaign is fully automated using our Eloqua Marketing Automation system, so once the initial campaign set-up is completed and fine-tuned, it runs every day to all new members, whether members are in day 6 or day 23. We see automation as one of marketing’s secret weapons in delivering relevant communications in a timely fashion.

What marketing technologies does your credit union rely on in developing and maintaining an omnichannel experience?

Core to most CUs, and to most marketing and channel teams, is a CU-wide CRM. In our case, we use CRM from Salesforce ( We call it our member relationship management platform, or MRM. It is integrated with many, if not most, of our front-office and back-office systems and strives to provide a 360-degree view of our members. It is also a key integration point for our many marketing technologies and systems, including our marketing automation platform (for email and campaign landing pages), our CU main website, and our marketing database (or MCIF), and the integrations, processes and workflows between marketing and other systems beyond CRM.

We also use a number of Web technologies and analytics tools that together help us provide that “digital body language” back into the CRM, and for our own analysis of the leads that marketing creates for our sales and channel teams. Outside of marketing, many other systems support marketing, including our CU-wide data warehouse, our Net Promoter Score measurement systems, and others that support our retail and contact center partners. Marketing tends to use information from many front-office and back-office sources to make more informed marketing strategy decisions.

How does First Tech Marketing measure the results of these investments to support omnichannel?

We strive to measure at all levels of marketing, including at each tactic level, each system (website, marketing automation, digital advertising, ATM, in-branch digital), and of course aggregated across each of these for integrated, multi-touch marketing campaigns.

With campaigns, we look to measure usual marketing metrics, such as open rates (email), engagement and activity rates (e.g., savings or investment calculator interactions, site page views, video views and marketing communication downloads). We also closely track First Tech’s social presence and member/prospect activity, including content consumption, member advocacy, sentiment, and common social media statistics: fans, followers, likes, shares, reposts and reviews.

We measure brand attributes, such as member and prospective-member brand awareness, preference, loyalty and advocacy. We also pay special attention to our digital channels, especially our social and email channels, where we can very accurately measure sentiment at the brand level and tie those sentiment scores to our overall CU-wide NPS scores. This year, we’re going to be relooking at all of our brand metrics, both digital and traditional, and revisit ways to ensure our brand continues to be relevant and measurable across the omnichannel.

We also look at higher-order metrics, including leads, opportunities and sales closes. Ultimately we are striving to get to a level where marketing can confidently model and predict the return on marketing investments up front, across any channel or tactic. This is the “holy grail” of all marketing organizations, whether in financial services, tech or retailing—proving the value of marketing in meaningful, concrete business results.

Karen Bankston is a long-time contributor to Credit Union Management and writes about credit unions, membership growth, marketing, operations and technology. She is the proprietor of Precision Prose, Middleton, Wis.

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