Use Data to Help Members Better Manage Everyday Spend

smartphone showing a savings app with a piggy bank
Corey Gross Photo
Founder and CEO

4 minutes

Success means more dollars in members’ pockets and greater loyalty to your credit union.

The widespread economic challenges resulting from the pandemic have proven that most people aren’t planning for their financial futures in terms of years but rather in weeks or even days. In fact, the overwhelming majority live paycheck to paycheck. Despite this, most personal financial management tools available today are designed to help save for vacations or retirement, which are luxuries, not reality, for many. Members desperately need help managing everyday spend before they can successfully start planning their financial futures beyond the next pay period. It’s time for credit unions to step up to help to solve the problem by providing better tools and capabilities to manage spend and promote financial wellness. 

Most institutions today fail to proactively offer advice about how members can make their money go further but they can and, what’s more, they should. Credit unions should be helping members save money by tracking their transactions, including monitoring for price drops and credit card discrepancies; automatically ordering needed products; providing expense analytics; managing subscriptions; and more. Helping optimize everyday spend means extra money in members’ pockets, yielding strengthened loyalty toward their institution. 

More Granular Data

To make this vision a reality, credit unions must be able to leverage deeper, contextual data to better know their members and more narrowly understand their spending habits and behaviors. Traditionally, institutions have solely relied on transaction-level data, such as the merchant, total purchase amount and date. Such surface-level information makes it nearly impossible to gain a complete understanding of who these members are and the extent of their financial needs. The addition of alternate, SKU-level data (stock-keeping unit or barcode) points paints a much more telling picture, revealing items and SKUs, taxes and tips, off-card spend, warranty and return information, and brand loyalty and affinities. This increased visibility enables financial institutions to proactively and more accurately offer the tips and tools necessary to better manage finances. 

Imagine if a credit union could help members save money by spotting deals on regularly purchased products and then sending out alerts about those discounts in real time. For example, by leveraging SKU-level data, a financial institution can see that a customer buys fresh organic strawberries weekly, and then proactively find the lowest price for strawberries within a 10-mile radius. Or, knowing a member purchases cat food every two weeks, the institution can alert that customer to a sale on the brand, flavor and size of bag they prefer. Such insight can also enable credit unions to notify their members of price drops on recent purchases, so they can put money back in their pockets through retroactive price matching at retailers like Walmart. 

And the potential for savings doesn’t end there. With SKU-level insights, credit unions can proactively surface recurring expenses or subscriptions that members may no longer need or use, such as magazines, streaming services or subscription boxes. The credit union could then help identify where members might access the same thing for less. For example, a credit union can see that a customer spends a lot of money renting movies on iTunes and could suggest a Hulu or Netflix subscription instead. Or the financial institution might notice that there are two Spotify subscriptions in the same household and can suggest canceling one of them in favor of a less expensive family plan. 

The SKU Playing Field

Financial institutions aren’t the only ones noticing the power of SKU-level data and its ability to help customers save. Big tech companies like Amazon and Google are trying to find ways to harness and leverage this information as well. Amazon recently launched its Amazon Shopper Panel, which actually pays customers to upload receipts from outside retailers. Google just relaunched Google Pay including a feature that crawls Gmail and Google photos for receipts. However, financial institutions still have time to get ahead and protect their relationships and market share. While some tech giants have already tapped into the life management proposition, they have yet to figure out the savings component–a significant opportunity for credit unions.

Members are looking for every opportunity to save, especially as they look to regain their financial footing from the pandemic’s impacts, and credit unions are well positioned to be a source of support and trust for their communities. Small savings of $5 here or $20 there can go a long way; it can sometimes be the difference between having extra cash in case of an emergency, a cushion for retirement or even breathing room between paychecks. And those banks that prioritize helping members achieve financial wellness are typically more profitable and enjoy stronger banking relationships. During a time when every dollar counts, credit unions should leverage alternate data points to provide extra value and support to help make members’ hard-earned money go farther.

Corey Gross is co-founder and CEO of Sensibill, a leading provider of financial tools that help users manage their everyday spend, and SKU-level data solutions that help make financial wellness attainable through personalization. He is an award-winning repeat entrepreneur, digital receipts pioneer and thought leader in the world of fintech, digital banking and financial wellness.

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