As product manager responsible for all digital offerings at Vericast, Rachel Stephens keeps financial institutions up to date on household and deposit acquisition strategies, digital and technology trends, and generational marketing.

Physical stores still account for over 90 percent of all retail sales.

By 2020, it’s expected this figure will drop only to 88 percent.

What does this tell us?

That, despite all the hyperbole from industry pundits sounding the alarm bells about the future of brick-and-mortar branches, they aren’t going away anytime soon.

Sure, the largest banks will have less of them than they do now. And what’s offered inside them will change as transactions continue to migrate to digital and mobile channels.

But just as email didn’t completely replace “snail mail,” and Facebook and Twitter didn’t replace email, and SMS texts didn’t replace Twitter or Facebook, there will always be a demand for face-to-face interactions inside the branch — just as there will always be a demand for online and mobile interactions.

We live in a world where communication channels never go away. We just keep piling new ones on.

One indication of this is the rise of location services and store locators on mobile devices. Consumers are using the latest technology to find stores, not to replace them.

What does this mean for your bank or credit union?

First of all, we have to do away with the notion that we live in an “either-or” world of digital vs. in-branch. Our customers aren’t thinking this way, and neither should we.

We live in a “both and” world, as in “both digital and in-branch.”

It’s the relationship between the two — your digital channels and your in-person channels — that you should pay attention to.

Financial institutions that achieve the right balance and harmonize their touchpoints will win in the long run by providing a frictionless and seamless customer experience, from desktop to phone to branch, and back again.

In the next episode of Rachel Sets the Rules, I’ll talk more about this relationship and why it’s vital that all your physical, in-person information is represented clearly, completely and accurately online.