Headquartered in Hangzhou, China, China Zheshang Bank has a network of 300 branches in major Chinese cities across the country. Shikatani Lacroix, in partnership with MetaThink, developed a new immersive branch concept for CZ Bank, which includes a new branch of the future design, sales choreography and integrated digital experience.
On June 30, 2004, the China Banking Regulatory Commission approved the restructuring, renaming and relocation of Zhejiang Commercial Bank. On August 18, 2004, China Zheshang Bank officially opened as a new bank in Hangzhou. In 2015, CZ Bank, headed by the President of the company, Mr. Liu, initiated a repositioning and rebranding program to better meet the needs of its current and future customers. MetaThink, a leading Chinese strategy and brand identity firm, was retained to develop the bank’s new position and identity, laying the foundation for the design of a new channel strategy and branch experience. Shikatani Lacroix, a leading global design firm, partnered with MetaThink to leverage the new identity and position it as part of an initiative to create a new “branch of the future” in both flagship and community branch formats.
CZ Bank launched 12 years ago to provide customers with convenient and reliable banking services, while competing with larger and more established financial institutions. The banking industry in China is very competitive with both national and regional companies all competing to meet customers’ financial needs. With customers becoming more digitally savvy, more financial transactions are occurring online and challenging the purpose of physical branches. Various design strategies and approaches would need to be measured to ensure that they would succeed before major investments in construction could be made. Understanding how customers would emotionally respond and connect with the new design and experience was vital.
We started by pioneering the blending of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Neuroscience to test various concepts and understand how consumers emotionally responded to different designs. We used these results to refine and create a vibrant new branch experience. Digital experiences throughout the branch help attract, transact and retain customers along the path to purchase. Unique architectural elements with integrated digital experiences and easy-to-use interactive queuing stations engage customers and help them navigate the branch. Comfortable seating throughout includes tablet experiences for customers’ use while they wait. A digital learning zone with curved screens and gesture-controlled interactivity is available to educate customers. An innovative VR zone lets customers experience a virtual banking concierge or relax in a beautiful park setting. The new branch also features a VIP banking and wealth management area with premium finishes, comfortable seating and digital experiences that provide real-time financial information and news.
Two prototype branches opened in Chengdu and Hangzhou in August 2016, reflecting elements of the new design while the flagship prototype branch is scheduled to open in Beijing in November 2016. The feedback from bank staff has been phenomenal. The media coverage of the launch was shown to more than 250 million people and was a big hit. The new design will form the foundation for a branch revitalization of more than 150 branches, which is already scheduled to begin in late 2016.