In a retail space, there are three ways to turn customers on: attraction (enticing decor), engagement ("stay awhile" perks), and connection (the hard sell). "The problem with banks," says Chris Kay, a former Target exec who's now managing director of growth ventures at Citi, "is that they're skipping the first two and moving straight to the third." By focusing on the foreplay — excuse us, "user experience" — Citi's innovation lab has developed multifunctional ATMs and interactive store displays that seek to attract younger, more tech-savvy customers and transform banks into a destination. Although most of the technology won't be available stateside until later this year (it's being market-tested in Asia), Citi offered us an exclusive peek at what's to come.
1. Tabletop Kiosks
Anyone, including non-Citi customers, can use Money Touch to learn area real-estate trends or access travel deals. "We want to make banking relevant to people's neighborhoods," says Jeff Semenchuk, Citi's head of growth ventures.
2. Media Wall
The two-sided Media Wall will stream local news, weather, and event listings to attract passersby outside. In the bank, it will create "a sense of theater," Kay says, by projecting widgets and video feeds that customers can tap to engage.
3. Smart ATMs
Beyond letting users customize their welcome screen, Citi's dual-screen ATMs will learn their tendencies so they can offer a regular withdrawal amount and recommend services. "We're reengineering the ATM to be more than a dumb cash terminal," Kay says.
4. Sales Wall
For investments or major purchases such as a new home, the Sales Wall teaches customers about their options, allowing them to have a more informed conversation with a live service rep once they reach a decision and are ready to enter sensitive data.
Citi's "digital wallet" lets users pay for everything from sneakers to subway rides by tapping their phones on a console. The wallet uses near-field communications (NFC) chips — think Speedpass — and was recently tested in Bangalore, where Citi partnered with Nokia, Vodafone, MasterCard, and Vivotech (makers of the tap-to-pay consoles) to launch a 5,000-person, 500-merchant pilot program. Citi hasn't scheduled a U.S. launch yet.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.