Effectively Communicating with the Unbanked

Feb 3, 2016
Tags :
  • Customer Research,
  • Digital Financial Services,

    Nasir is a 29 year old mechanic working and living in Karachi’s informal sector. His elderly parents, whom he supports, live in a village several hundred miles away in South Punjab. Nasir needs a way to safely store his money and easily send a portion to his parents regularly. Nasir recognizes at least one of the mobile money providers from TV advertisements and he owns a phone with a biometrically verified SIM. He completed his primary schooling and has basic literacy and numeracy skills. In these ways he represents the ideal mobile wallet user. Yet he does not have a registered account. Delving further, it becomes apparent that Nasir lacks awareness about how this service can meet his daily financial needs – an awareness that is critical to him taking the first step towards opening and operating a mobile wallet.


    Along with the low skills and limited product mix issues we highlighted in previous blogs, lack of awareness is a fundamental and significant obstacle to mobile wallet registration and use in Pakistan. Like Nasir, 77% of Pakistani households still operate in the informal sector. While registered mobile wallets have risen at a dramatic pace in the last year to almost 11 million accounts in June 2015, this still represents less than 10% of the country’s total adult population. In addition, the number of active mobile wallets are lower still at less than 4 million. Notably, in 2015 when non-users who have never tried this channel were asked why they have never tried to register, 60% said that it’s due to a lack of information. This shows the extent of the mobile wallet awareness gap.

    It is important to understand what we mean by the term “awareness”: within this context, we are referring to multiple and progressively more sophisticated layers of knowledge. An individual who is aware about mobile wallets is someone who understands the concept of this service, what it is and how it works. In addition they understand what skills they need to operate this service, and how it can be used to fulfill their needs. They know and understand how they can open and transact on an account, are knowledgeable about the full range of services that are open to them, and understand the cost of each service in comparison to costs of similar services in the market. Finally, they know and can vocalize their rights as a customer.


    Tellingly in 2014 only two-thirds of Pakistani adults understood the concept of mobile money. Of those who were aware, most people, including OTC (over the counter) users who have used mobile money before, associated this channel with convenience (i.e. bill payments) rather than financial deepening (i.e. savings).


    The process of graduating from an unaware potential customer to a fully aware and regular user of mobile wallets is not necessarily a simple and linear one. It is important that targeted, customer segment specific, communication takes place at every stage of awareness to help individuals advance from one stage to the next. Inappropriate and inaccurate communication could easily result in a regression of awareness levels and a loss of potential customers. We have highlighted some strategies that could help close the awareness gap and potentially facilitate mobile wallet uptake and use.

    1)Develop holistic and synergistic campaigns

    Campaigns allow for widespread targeting of potential customers. There are three types of campaigns that could be particularly useful for providers to employ within the Pakistani context. First, knowledge campaigns that explain what mobile wallets are, use cases for mobile wallets, and how one can register. Second, product campaigns that focus on building awareness about one mobile money product, for example savings. Third, targeted use case campaigns that focus on a single socio-economic segment such as rural farmers, or migrant unskilled workers. All these have been used in different ways and to varying degrees of success by mobile money providers around the world.

    2)Improve information sharing at key touch-points

    Enhanced customer service and information about mobile money at key touch points like mobile phone customer service centers would help introduce an ideal market segment to the concept of mobile money in a safe and familiar environment. As we have discussed previously, this is currently lacking but could be easily remedied with some basic training,

    While enhanced customer service would target new mobile money customers, there is also a need to provide the same information to current customers. Agent training to achieve better communication about the mobile wallet channel and its associated service suite at agent counters could help people migrate from the OTC model, and access deeper, more financially inclusive services. Notably, agents could be trained with provider agnostic information to avoid duplication of effort.

    3)Leverage social network effects

    Social network effects apply when “the users of a given network care about how many other users are in the same network”. As the network grows, its sphere of influence is magnified. These effects play a critical role in encouraging the kinds of social learnings and information exchange that can drive technology adoption. Results from a social network experiment in Uganda suggest that the information exchange that is generated can encourage mobile money adoption. Notably, almost half the people who reported opening a mobile wallet in 2015 in Pakistan did so upon receiving recommendations from family or friends. Given this, providers should leverage the social network effects phenomenon and test ways to incentivize current mobile wallet users to encourage their friends and family to open mobile wallets.

    4)Implement adaptive two-way messaging technology

    Even after customers open a mobile wallet account, they need to remain engaged to unlock the potential of this financial service delivery channel. This is particularly true for newly banked customers, who have recently entered the formal financial services sector. By using adaptive two-way messaging, providers can use information on the inherent behavioral patterns of customers, and their behavioral triggers, to develop dynamic conversations with their customers. More importantly they can tailor content to individual customer’s needs and talk to them in a language they understand. An experiment with Tigo Pesa users in Tanzania revealed that In the long run, such conversations can facilitate substantially increased usage of the target product.


    While it may not be the only barrier to mobile wallet uptake in Pakistan, the awareness gap is a persistent and significant issue. At this point in time, for people like Nasir, the use of informal financial services is the status quo and overcoming this inertia requires providers to convince potential customers of both the benefits of formal financial services, and the value of using the mobile wallet delivery channel. Providers – perhaps in partnership with donors – need to engage in the same type of market engagement to promote mobile wallet products that they would for any other product line. By breaking up the potential market into various segments, they can decide which ones are the most immediately viable and then create targeted messages for them. The impact of these messages should be actively measured and tweaked on an iterative basis based on the results.

    For more information about opportunities to increase mobile wallet uptake, please refer to Using Mobile Money to Promote Financial Inclusion in Pakistan, by Karandaaz Pakistan.



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