Bank & Credit Union Market Research Options for 2024

As financial institutions face increasing competition and changing customer expectations, it's essential to stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and consumer preferences.

Luckily, there are several bank and credit union market research options that can provide valuable insights into customer behavior, industry trends, and competitive landscape.

For financial services organizations looking to gain a competitive edge, market research can also help inform strategic decision-making, improve product offerings, and enhance customer satisfaction.

In this blog post, we'll explore some of the most effective types of market research for banks and credit unions, along with costs and a real-world example of a banking market research study.

Why Conduct Bank and CU Market Research

Market research provides valuable insights for financial institutions that can help them make informed business decisions and develop effective marketing strategies.

Here are some ways that market research can benefit banks and credit unions:

  1. Identify customer needs: Market research helps FIs understand their customers' needs, preferences, and behavior. This information can be used to develop new products and services that meet customers' needs and improve the overall banking experience.

  2. Evaluate competition: Bank and credit union market research also provides insights into the competitive landscape, including the strengths and weaknesses of competitors, market share, and pricing strategies. This information can help financial services organizations develop effective strategies to differentiate themselves from the competition and gain a competitive advantage.

  3. Determine market trends: Market research can help banks and credit unions identify emerging market trends, such as changing consumer behavior or new technologies. This information can be used to anticipate future market developments and adjust business strategies accordingly.

  4. Test marketing campaigns: Banks and credit unions can evaluate the effectiveness of marketing campaigns before launching them with the help of ad concept testing surveys. This can help to optimize marketing spend and improve the chances of success.

  5. Measure customer or member satisfaction: Lastly, banking market research can provide feedback on customer satisfaction with the FI's products and services. This information can be used to identify areas for improvement and enhance the overall customer or member experience.

Overall, market research can help banks and credit unions make data-driven decisions and improve their products, services, and marketing strategies, leading to increased customer satisfaction, retention, and profitability.

Bank and Credit Union Market Research Options

By conducting market research, banks and credit unions can gain valuable insights into their customers' or members' needs and preferences, allowing them to tailor their products and services to better meet those needs.

Doing so can ultimately lead to increased customer loyalty and profits.

In addition, a financial services market research company can help banks identify potential new markets and competitors, providing them with a strategic advantage in the industry.

Common bank and credit union market research options include:

  1. Online banking user experience (UX)
  2. Customer or member satisfaction surveys
  3. Focus groups
  4. Image and awareness surveys
  5. Branch or remote mystery shopping
  6. New account opening surveys
  7. Closed account surveys
  8. Customer service follow-up surveys
  9. Customer experience (CX) and member experience (MX)
  10. Competitive rate analysis

But what type of market research is best for your financial institution's goals and objectives? Our banking market research company dives into each methodology below to help your decide.

Or, for a short synopsis, watch this 60-second video summarizing four critical surveys for all financial institutions. 

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 with actionable improvements to enhance your website and mobile app to ensure your customers can accomplish their mini day-to-day goals without being frustrated.

Banking UX research is a 2-pronged approach including:

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

  2. 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.

example of banking UX study

This market research option for banks and credit unions 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 by the UX are actionable and impactful immediately.

2. Customer or Member Satisfaction Surveys

Customer satisfaction or member satisfaction surveys are the most basic forms of market research.

These types of methodologies measure key metrics such as customer or member satisfaction and net promoter score (NPS).

Member surveys cover a variety of topics, such as overall satisfaction with:

  • The bank or credit union as a whole
  • Customer experience
  • Product and service offerings
  • Customer service 
  • Wait times

The feedback collected from customer and member surveys can help banks or credit unions identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to enhance the overall customer experience and increase member loyalty.

Member surveys can also help banks stay competitive in the financial industry by adapting to changing member needs and preferences.

For this reason, 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.

3. Focus Groups

Focus groups are a type of qualitative research that allows banks and credit unions to explore customer perceptions and mindsets.

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

Drive Research focus group facility

Bank and credit union focus groups provide in-depth feedback on factors such as:

  • Relationships with competitors
  • Awareness and perception of the institution
  • Factors of choice for financial institutions 
  • Sources of awareness for banks and credit unions

Additionally, this bank and credit union market research option can provide you with in-depth anecdotal feedback which is used to improve your data-driven marketing strategies. 

This ensures every dollar you spend on advertising is driven by feedback generated from target customers.

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 with customers and non-customers to understand total awareness figures for your financial institution.

Additionally, the same questions are asked about local, national, or global 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 an 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.

5. Branch Mystery Shopping

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

This type of market research for banks and credit unions can be both qualitative (a small number of scenarios to explore an issue) or quantitative (a large number of scenarios to measure experiences).

Bank and credit union mystery shopping can be conducted in person or remotely.

  1. 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.

  2. Remote mystery shopping calls. 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. 

Bank teller servicing customer

6. New Account Opening Surveys

New account opening surveys are questionnaires that banks and credit unions conduct to collect feedback from customers who have recently opened a new account.

These surveys typically ask customers about their experience with the account opening process, including the ease of opening the account, the level of service received, and any areas for improvement.

The feedback collected from new account opening surveys at banks and credit unions can help financial institutions identify opportunities to improve the account opening process, enhance the customer experience, and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

7. Closed Account Surveys

Often a forgotten bank and credit union market research option, closed account surveys can provide financial institutions 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.

8. Customer Service Follow-up Surveys

In-person experiences at banks and credit unions are few and far between. Studies show the majority of consumers (61%) use digital banking services at least once a week.

Digital Banking Stat

But, this transition to online banking 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.

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 continually.

It's a combination of several 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.

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

Metrics collected through customer experience research include:

  • CSAT
  • NPS (likelihood to recommend)
  • Customer effort score (CES)
  • Likelihood to switch

Our bank and credit union market research recommends 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.

10. Competitor Rate Analysis

A competitive rate analysis for banks and credit unions is a type of market research that involves comparing the interest rates and other terms offered by a FI's competitors to its own rates and terms.

The purpose of this market research option for banks and CUs is to identify areas where the bank may be falling behind its competitors and to determine whether adjusting rates or terms could be an effective way to attract new customers or retain existing ones.

By examining the rates and terms of similar financial products offered by competitors, banks can gain insights into industry trends and customer preferences that can inform their marketing and pricing strategies.

Cost of Bank and Credit Union Market Research

Outsourcing bank or credit union market research to a professional research firm may be an option for some financial institutions.

In this case, the cost is likely a primary deciding factor in determining if hiring a third-party market research company is possible.

The cost of banking market research can vary widely depending on the scope and complexity of the study, the research methods used, and the size of the target audience.

Here are some factors that can impact the cost of banking market research:

  1. Research objectives: The complexity of the research objectives can significantly impact the cost of the study. More complex research objectives may require more resources, expertise, and time, leading to higher costs.

  2. Research method: The cost of the research can vary depending on the research method used. For example, surveys and focus groups are generally less expensive than in-depth interviews or ethnographic research.

  3. Sample size: The size of the target audience can impact the cost of the research. Larger sample sizes may require more resources and time to collect and analyze data, leading to higher costs.

  4. Geographic location: The geographic location of the research can also impact the cost of the study. Research conducted in low-populated regions may be more expensive than in highly populated regions.

It is important to carefully consider the research objectives and budget before starting the study to ensure that the research delivers valuable insights within the desired cost range.

Overall, the cost of banking market research can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars or more, depending on the factors mentioned above.

Example Banking Market Research Study

Our market research company specializes in banks and credit unions.

In this section, we'll uncover a real-world banking market research study we conducted with a Massachusetts financial institution.

Challenges of the Bank: Earning New Customers

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 on how to acquire new customers outside of a bank's core market.

The Solution: Online Focus Groups

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.

Online focus group

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 Banking 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.

Final Thoughts

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

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

Luckily, there are plenty of market research options for banks and credit unions. All methodologies discussed in this article, leverage feedback from the most important segment of all, your customer or member.

As a result of conducting these methodologies, your bank and credit union will better understand customer behavior, identify industry trends, and make data-driven decisions that drive growth.

Contact Us to Conduct Bank and CU Market Research

Drive Research is a national market research company specializing in qualitative and quantitative studies 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 Drive Research by filling out the form below or emailing [email protected].


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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