Industry News

Written by Christine Loftus

Following the meteoric growth of M-Pesa in Kenya, mobile financial services (MFS) have been lauded as an important channel for expanding access to financial services to the un(der)banked. Yet, global activity rates (33% per GSMA in 2015) have lagged behind those seen in Kenya (47% per GSMA in 2014), and other  frontier markets. The reasons for such inactivity vary; some find MFS solutions inefficient, burdened by cumbersome hierarchical mobile money phone menus that prolong even basic transactions. Others lack the literacy skills necessary to navigate text-heavy interface that often fails to capture key terms in local languages due to unicode constraints. Some cannot even register for MFS as they cannot access agents given mobility restrictions. For many, existing models do not fulfill their needs and, as such, they remain unbanked.

Thus, the Center for Financial Inclusion asks us to consider how to keep clients first in a digital world as we celebrate Financial Inclusion Week 2016. How do we ensure that an increasingly diverse array of products and services are demand-driven, fulfilling clients’ needs?

As many of the obstacles hindering the usage of MFS stem from feature phone use, much of the conversation regarding user interface centers upon this platform. However, increasing usage of smartphones worldwide may soon mitigate many of these concerns. The number of smartphone subscriptions globally is anticipated to grow by 2.6 billion by 2020, resulting 5.8 billion unique mobile subscriptions. As smartphones sell for as little as USD 28 in some countries, they are becoming increasingly accessible to low-income consumers. Service is not limited either; a minimum of 2G service will be ubiquitous within the next five years.

The proliferation of smartphones will provide the opportunity to develop MFS solutions that overcome many of the challenges reducing uptake and usage. They allow providers to simplify menus, increasing efficiency and minimizing written text. To further enhance reach to those with low literacy levels, providers can also utilize videos and graphics on smartphones. For those with limited mobility, smartphones can even facilitate self-registration, allowing individuals to enroll within their home provided access to mobile service. Smartphone technology could further allow MFS to expand to new markets by providing new models for product and services better meeting clients’ needs.

Although there are many opportunities posed by this new channel, many MFS providers utilizing smartphones have simply transplanted complex USSD interface onto a new platform. They have failed to develop new interface to reach new customers, which would increase uptake and usage. Recognizing the problem, CGAP recently partnered with various providers worldwide to determine how to best serve low-income consumers. Ultimately, they unveiled 21 fundamental principles requisite to expand MFS use via smartphones:

  1. Allow users to explore before using
  2. Help users find agents
  3. Simplify application registration
  4. Flatten menu hierarchy
  5. Focus menu choices on actions
  6. Reduce text and use visual cues
  7. Design icons relevant to local users
  8. Use simple and familiar menu terms
  9. Build on users’ familiarity with smartphones
  10. Customize transaction choices
  11. Auto-fill from the address book and transaction history
  12. Auto-check to minimize human error
  13. Display information in digestible chunks
  14. Reassure with transaction confirmations
  15. Leave a clear trail of transaction histories
  16. Provide instructions when needed
  17. Handle errors by providing next-step solutions
  18. Customize and simplify keyboards
  19. Auto-calculate fees during transactions
  20. Provide full transaction details on one screen to finalize transactions
  21. Make account balance easy to see and hide

Although the list contains ample recommendations, the underlying message behind the principles is much simpler: consider the needs of end-user when designing new products. As technology continues to evolve, new challenges to MFS uptake will emerge that are not currently addressed. Yet, adherence to the core principle of human-centered design will facilitate continued development of viable products capable of catalyzing usage in untapped markets previously outside the reach of MFS.

Read the Article Here: The Power of Smartphone Interfaces for Mobile Money

Other News:

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Global: The Powerful Link between Digital Finance and Economic Development

Global: How Digital Finance Could Boost Growth in Emerging Economies

Financial Inclusion

Global: Cash Call

Sustainable Development+

Global: Fintech should be Eco-Friendly

Kenya: How Mobile Banking Brought Water Back to Nairobi’s Slums


India, Kenya, and Mexico: A Buck Short Report



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