The tech giant’s brand loyalty, integration and consumer benefits can and should be emulated by credit unions.
Speculation had been long brewing in the financial services industry about when—not if—Apple would enter the payments space with its own products, and what that would mean for the industry. Apple officially threw its hat in the ring on March 25 with the launch of a company-branded credit card, Apple Card. Interestingly, the promotional branding around Apple Card ties back to one key theme—“Created by Apple, not a bank.”
Time will tell whether Apple’s venture into consumer financial services is a successful move, but there are three main attributes of the announcement that credit unions can learn from today.
1. Brand Loyalty
Apple has a strong following of loyal users and a hold on the U.S. market, with nearly 45% of Americans using an iPhone in 2018, according to Statista.com. Apple is trying to leverage this loyalty through its card branding and marketing, starting with the name itself: It’s not a credit card, it’s an Apple card.
While credit unions have strong relationships with their members, it may be hard to imagine having Apple’s level of loyalty. However, credit unions are some of the most trusted financial institutions out there, so why not strive for next-level dedication from members?
Consider assessing what products and services are key differentiators that make your credit union stand out from the rest. Is there an opportunity to build upon the foundation of loyalty? How are your marketing messages relaying these differentiators, if at all? Use this assessment as an opportunity to find new ways to create excited and engaged members.
2. Technology Integration
Digital continues to grow as an industry buzzword, and it won’t slow down any time soon. If anything, the launch of Apple Card has sparked new discussion around what digital means to both consumers and financial organizations.
According to Apple’s official announcement, “Customers can sign up for Apple Card in the Wallet app on their iPhone in minutes and start using it with Apple Pay right away in stores, in apps or online worldwide.” If Apple can provide approvals in minutes with immediate access to a digital card, what is holding back credit unions from providing a similar service?
Apple also states that the card is “designed to help customers lead a healthier financial life, which starts with a better understanding of their spending.” This language is not often associated with credit cards, but the in-app financial health platform, and promotion of this feature, suggests Apple Card can help consumers better manage their money. And, when a cardholder needs help, support is available 24/7 via iOS’s built-in Messages app.
Apple Card is a key indicator of where the market is headed—an all-digital, integrated experience. Credit unions should continue to seek and promote new, creative ways to enhance the online and mobile member experience. Consider partnering with fintechs or CUSOs that can help support this mission.
Member benefits are where credit unions excel. Credit unions often provide the lowest interest rates, yield the strongest returns on deposit accounts and provide member-first service.
One of Apple Card’s biggest benefits—and a competitive aspect for credit unions—is that there are no fees associated with the card. This includes annual, late, international or over-the-limit fees. Additionally, the app shows cardholders various payment options and plans while calculating interest in real time.
While credit unions should continue to market their aforementioned benefits, don’t be afraid to think outside the box in terms of new product offerings. Credit unions exist to serve their members, and offering a product that is often viewed as fee-laden at little to no cost is one way to showcase this commitment.
As credit unions continue to put tremendous effort into attracting new members, particularly millennials, understanding what is most important to consumers in the digital era can help separate your credit union from the pack. Traditional member benefits that tend to be the most widely marketed are still important. But to remain truly competitive, credit unions need to understand and stay ahead of the rapidly changing industry as household names, such as Apple, start to enter the space.
Joelle C. Johnson is an account representative at William Mills Agency, the nation's largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or its blog.