Sheboygan opening Associated has had great opportunity in partnering with local businesses across its footprint in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. Currently, Associated maintains 39 in-store branches and plans to open four additional in-stores during the fourth quarter (two of which are relocations).

Recent in-store openings--the Oak Creek Woodman's and Sheboygan Festival Foods, and a major remodel at Kenosha Pick n' Save--prove to be highly beneficial to Associated's growth. The in-store branch located within the Oak Creek Woodman's allowed Associated to debut its first in-store branch in Milwaukee County while expanding Associated's relationship with the Woodman's supermarket chain. With some of the largest grocery customer traffic in Wisconsin with 50,000 customers, Associated's presence in Woodman's increases customer awareness.

Why in-store branches?

In-store branches provide advantages to both Associated and its customers. In-store branch locations supply outstanding customer "bank-where-you-shop" convenience. By partnering with local grocery chains Associated can offer customers extended evening hours and seven-day-a-week service, which is more extensive than the typical branch hours. Partnering with local grocery stores allows Associated to lower the cost of operation, as typical in-store branches cost about 1/10 of the cost of a traditional brick-and-mortar branch to build. Overall, in-store branches also co-market with the grocery partners to build awareness of the brand and the bank services.

The great potential of in-store branches

Joanne Weber, Director of Consumer Banking, Associated Bank, offers insight about the great potential of in-store branches:

What do you see as the key roles the in-store channel will play within Consumer Banking?

Our in-store branches play several key roles for our company and for our customers. They provide customers with extended hours and great convenience. They open a significant percentage of our new customer relationships and do a great job cross-selling companion products and services. They are a great compliment to our traditional branches and give us a competitive advantage in many markets.

What do you think are the critical success factors in an in-store branch environment?

In the in-stores, aisle prospecting is key to success. While there are many customers who come straight to our branch, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential customers walking into the stores every day. We have to talk to them!

What do you think are the biggest differentiators between an in-store and traditional branch?

In-store colleagues have to be "fearless" when it comes to approaching people in the branch and in the store. They do this with special offers, contests and promotions. They do a great job telling our story and turning shoppers into loyal Associated Bank customers.

In-store branches open doors for success

More and more customers utilize in-store branches as a full service branch. In-store branch locations allow the bank to actively partner with a business. When businesses come together a more dynamic customer experience is created, which ultimately builds loyalty for all involved.

Associated Bank, N.A. is a Member FDIC.

Pictured: A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on September 15 at the new in-store location in Festival Foods of Sheboygan.