Market Research Options for Banks and Credit Unions

Conducting market research for your bank or credit union offers several advantages.

It provides you with high-quality and evidence-based insights which help guide your operational and marketing strategies.

There are plenty of market research options for banks and credit unions. 

All methodologies leverage feedback from the most important segment of all, your customer or member.

But what type of market research is best for your financial institution's goals and objectives?

This blog post will walk through common projects our team conducts with our bank and credit union clients on a regular basis.

Market Research Options for Banks and Credit Unions

Banking Market Research Option #1

Online Banking User Experience (UX) Research

We don't have to tell you about the shifts in banking from in-person and telephone experiences to digital and online touchpoints.

As a result, your online banking services and mobile apps are now essential pieces to your customer journey.

User experience market research provides you actionable improvements to enhance your website and mobile app to ensure your customers can accomplish their mini day-to-day goals without being frustrated.

What is the process for UX market research for banks?

UX research is a 2-pronged approach including:

  1. Website audits 
  2. Traditional interviews

Website Audit

The first piece is a UX evaluation or audit of your website which analyzes everything from design to flow to the structure.

Traditional Interviews 

The follow-up piece is traditional interviews with real customers as they browse your website and app.

The research interviewer engages with the customer and asks specific questions digging into the reasons why actions take place.

For this phase, screen sharing technology is used.

This UX research meshes perfectly with your Google Analytics data and has been shown to produce an ROI upwards of nearly 700% of the UX cost to your financial institution.

Changes suggested from the UX are actionable and impactful immediately.

Banking Market Research Option #2

Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Surveys

Customer satisfaction and brand loyalty surveys are the most basic forms of market research.

These types of methodologies measure key metrics such as:

  1. Customer or member satisfaction (CSAT)
  2. Net promoter score (NPS)

They identify key drivers which impact loyalty to a financial institution.

This survey also aims at measuring more specific metrics such as usage of channels, satisfaction with tellers, satisfaction with phone support, and more.

Customer satisfaction surveys are longitudinal in they should be completed every 6 months, 12 months, or 18 months.

These continual benchmarks help your bank or credit union understand how the dial has moved over time and changes are made based on the results.

Banking Market Research Option #3

Branding Focus Groups

A type of qualitative research, banks and credit unions looking to conduct focus groups often do so with the goal of exploring perceptions and mindsets.

The structure of the groups can be designed to meet any demographic or segment of customers or non-customers.

In branding focus groups the idea is to explore word associations of financial institutions including:

  • Competitors
  • Test marketing messages
  • Creative for advertising
  • Awareness and perception of the institution
  • Factors of choice for financial institutions 
  • Sources of awareness for banks and credit unions

These focus groups provide you with in-depth anecdotal feedback which is used to improve your marketing strategies to ensure every dollar you spending on advertising is driven by customer feedback.

Banking Market Research Option #4

Image and Awareness Surveys

Similar to brand equity focus groups, image and awareness (I&A) surveys aim to not only explore brands but also measure perceptions (positive, negative, neutral).

These are conducted through random samples to understand total awareness figures for your financial institution.

The same questions are asked about your competitors.

In doing so, the results show a clear comparison to your major competitors.

It also showcases what differentiates banks and credit unions from each other from the perceptions of the customer.

Lastly, the insight from image and awareness survey identifies which advertising channels are most remembered as well as any messaging used in your advertising.

Results can be broken down by age groups, geographies, and other demographics.

Interested in learning other important types of surveys for banks and credit unions? Watch this one-minute video.

Banking Market Research Option #5

Mystery Shopping

Nothing provides a better customer perspective than living and breathing real-life experiences. Herein lies the power of mystery shopping.

Mystery shopping can be both qualitative (a small number of scenarios to explore an issue) or quantitative (a large number of scenarios to measure experiences.)

This type of market research for banks and credit unions can be conducted in-person or remotely.

Scenarios can be customized to any of your objectives. 

In-Person Mystery Shopping

Mystery shoppers are recruited and sent to a financial institution and asked to evaluate in-person trips to a branch where they engage with a teller.

Remote Mystery Shopping

Another scenario might involve a mystery shopper calling the customer service number and inquiring about a specific service to evaluate how well the representative can answer questions. 

Banking Market Research Option #6

Closed Account Surveys

Often forgotten, closed account surveys can provide a bank or credit union with definitive drivers as to why customers leave.

  • Is it a competitive offer?
  • Is it your poor online banking options?
  • Is your app frustrating your customers?
  • Did they leave the area?
  • Did they close the account to create a joint account with a spouse?

Without reaching out and finding out why you will be making assumptions.

Understanding these reasons for churn can help your financial institution prevent it in the future.

Banking Market Research Option #7

Customer and Member Service Follow-up Surveys

Because in-person experiences at banks and credit unions are few and far between it actually increases the importance of live customer service.

When customers or members have a major issue with their account they need to be handled immediately. Many do not want to wait for an email response.

Customers immediately either visit the branch in person or call by telephone.

If they are happy with the outcome they become more loyal and if not, it creates a snowballing effect making the issue worse.

Understanding the level of customer service your representatives provide is key.

Sending out follow-up email surveys after a phone experience will help you measure all of this and flag negative cases for training opportunities.

Banking Market Research Option #8

New Account Opening Surveys

Have new customers or members joining your financial institution? You want to make sure things get off on the right foot.

New account opening surveys can be sent out regularly, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

These can be accomplished through the mail, email, or a quick phone call.

Banking Market Research Option #9

Customer Experience (CX) and Member Experience (MX)

This is the Cadillac of all your market research options and the most expensive.

A customer experience program aims to understand each and every priority touchpoint and measure it on a continual basis.

It's a combination of a number of studies listed above to provide your bank and credit union with a complete picture of your customer or member journey.

A CX program is designed to create both short-term insights as well as long-term benefits.

It creates a culture of customer-driven strategy driven by data.

What is the process for CX or MX research for banks?

You work to create a series of metrics and KPIs which evaluate the holistic CX.

This could include measurements such as:

We recommend starting small as you work your way into a larger CX program.

All areas of the CX program are structured with flagged cases and a standardized process for follow-up on experiences that fall below expectations.

Here are 3 reasons why every organization should have a customer experience program in place.

Real-World Case Study

Local Bank Conducts Online Focus Groups with Non-Customers

Our market research company, specializing in banks and credit unions, partnered with a Massachusetts financial institution in April of 2021.

The Challenges of the Bank

As with most businesses there comes a time when leaders scratch their heads as to why they are struggling to earn new customers. 

This challenge is perhaps more apparent for banks and credit unions. 

As many of our studies show, consumers choose a financial institution based on its location and rates. 

These factors of choice can make it difficult to think outside the box of how to acquire new customers outside of a bank's core market.

The Solution

With this goal in mind, our market research company suggested conducting online focus groups with non-customers.

As discussed in this blog post, focus groups provide banks and credit unions with in-depth feedback regarding various components of their marketing and sales strategies.

The Approach

Drive Research provided our qualitative recruiting services for the bank.

Targeting criteria for the online focus group included:

  • Residents in the client's market area in MA.
  • Non-customers of the bank.
  • Audiences from both growth and core markets of the bank.
  • All participants will be aged 18-54.
  • Best efforts were made to balance age groups, ethnicities, and genders.

The incidence rate of the banking online focus group was expected to be 50% or higher.

To find qualified participants our market research firm utilized paid social media ads on Facebook

This approach allowed our team to target both growth and core market zip codes provided by the client.

The Facebook ad directed potential participants to an online recruitment screener

Our team created the online screener to pre-qualify participants for the online focus group.

Those deemed qualified received re-screening phone calls. If fully qualified, our recruitment manager scheduled participants for the online focus group.

Details of the Online Focus Group

  • Drive Research will recruit 15 participants for each group so that 10-12 participants would attend.
  • The focus groups occurred on April 27 at 3:30, April 28 at 4:30, and April 29 at
  • Each focus group lasted 60-minutes.
  • Participants received a $75 stipend as a thank you for the feedback and time to attend the online focus group.
  • Drive Research processed the incentives as Amazon gift cards within 24-hours of the
    end of the interviews.

*Editor's Note: This blog post was originally posted in 2017 but has since been updated.

Conduct Bank and Credit Union Market Research with Our Team

Drive Research is a market research company for banks and credit unions.

Interested in learning more about our services or receiving a price quote or a proposal for one of the market research projects listed above?

Contact our team today!

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

Author Bio George Kuhn

George Kuhn

George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.

Learn more about George, here.

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