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In the era of online banking, the strategic integration of digital and physical components is emerging as a key driver in enriching the customer experience. This evolution was highlighted by Lionel Sussman, VP of Design for In-Person Experience at Capital One, during a discussion at RetailSpaces 2023 in Palm Springs.

“Digital and physical design being separate? Those days are over,” Sussman stated emphatically. “At Capital One, those teams are together and looking at experience end-to-end as one team. In 10 years, this will be the standard.”

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Sussman’s background in retail and workplace design for renowned brands like Marriott, Amazon, and Starbucks has given him a unique perspective on creating spaces that resonate with customers. In an era where digital is ubiquitous, he stressed the importance of designing physical spaces that offer authentic, interactive customer experiences, which are vital for cultivating brand loyalty and encouraging repeat visits.

“How do you keep customers coming back? It’s all about experience,” he said. “We do a lot of research and it shows that customers are willing to travel even long distances for a truly well-designed experience."

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As the banking industry reevaluates the role of branches and their design, it is crucial to be creative and nimble to meet customer needs. Known as a mobile first bank (with a top-rated app), Capital One is now focusing on incorporating advanced technology into its physical spaces.

“Technology is our bread and butter,” Sussman said. “But we also really believe in the power of physical spaces.”

A notable example: For up to two hours per day, non-profit and student organizations can book space within Capital One’s cafes for free. But it’s not just about providing space for these groups; it’s also about getting people through the door, again and again. 

“At Capital One, in our café space, the big challenge is getting the customer to return. Many customers come in once but don’t come back. Today we are focused on creating an experience that enables a repeat customer,” he said. 

In this pursuit, Capital One is experimenting with several new features in some of its branches and cafes, like interactive digital walls and cardless ATMs. These innovations are aimed at enhancing the customer experience and engagement in their spaces. 

“We don’t want to become too salesy, but rather be an environment where you can come in and hang out,” Sussman said. “For us, it’s all about dwell time.”

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To help things along from an innovation standpoint, the bank set up lab spaces to test prototypes before launching them into branches. There, executives can “touch and feel” what’s being developed, and customers can give live feedback to designers and developers, he said.

“We are shifting into the idea that less is more, but those one-off experiences need to be really impactful,” Sussman said. The days when there may have been 10 or more branches in an urban area may be over, but having a handful of impactful branches that serve customers’ needs can be just as effective.

“It allows us to deliver a much more interesting and memorable experience,” he said.

Chris Killian

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Chris Killian is a Detroit-based content producer and veteran journalist focused on innovations and tech trends in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, education, and more. In his spare time, he likes to cook, play guitar, and work on his ’84 VW Westphalia, Harry, trying to coax him into another open-road adventure.

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