What people really want from mobile money services in emerging markets

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mobile money

No bank account? That’s becoming less of a problem thanks to the proliferation of mobile money services which let you send cash and pay your bills right from your phone. But how are people using the services, and what are the potential benefits they think they can take advantage of?

A new study by Visa and its mobile money platform Fundamo surveyed almost 2 500 consumers, mobile money agents and merchants in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan. It found that more than half knew about mobile money services and almost 90% wanted to use them in the future… but it might not be for the reasons mcommerce companies would think.

While a number of mobile services market themselves as savings platforms, it seems many customers are actually more interested in safe guarding their money — and it’s what will drive them to use the services. Some 80% of respondents said that the “safety of not having to carry around a lot of cash” was the top perceived benefit of mobile money, while second priority (63% of participants) was the “speed of getting money to family members living far away”. Most of the consumers involved in the study intended to use mobile services to send money to family members (81%), pay utility bills (56%) and save money for their families (52%).

While the ability to safely and quickly transfer your money sounds good, there are also a number of factors that could stop people rushing out to try the next best mobile money service. Sixty four percent of people said that they wouldn’t use the services if they weren’t easy to operate, 55% said they didn’t trust mobile money providers and agents with their cash, and 28% said that lack of interoperability with other mobile money services would negatively influence their chances of adopting the tool.

Other findings include:

  • There are a number of reasons why people don’t activate and use mobile money accounts. These include a lack of access to mobile money agents, mobile network reliability problems, and communication and education barriers between users and mobile companies.
  • While an overall 56% of those surveyed knew about mobile money services, the number varied quite drastically from country to country. In Ghana, awareness hit 93%, in Pakistan it was 89%, but only 53% of those living in Bangladesh were aware of them, with MTN, easyPaisa and bKash taking the top spot for the most recognised brand respectively.
  • Mobile money providers probably need to re-evaluate their marketing strategy and make sure they understand their customers’ needs comprehensively. They should adapt their information, education and marketing efforts to the needs of consumers and mobile money agents, and adopt local terminology.
  • Price is still a huge factor — a service’s price list needs to be easily accessible, as customers compare prices meticulously before making a decision. The study found that the cost of calls was the main reason why participants chose their mobile network.

“Our potential for driving far-reaching social and economic change, while at the same time growing transaction volumes in developing countries, is significant. But we’ll limit that potential if we don’t learn to stop and really listen to our customers,” said Fundamo CEO and Visa’s sub-Saharan Africa group manager Hannes van Rensburg.

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