Women’s journey from access to the usage of bank accounts and digital payment platforms
Blog one of this series contains insights on banking habits, digital payments and household expense tracking practices among the respondents.
In the past, D91 labs in association with Mahila Money & Sheroes, collected and shared insights about the professional journey, financial habits and investment behaviours of 20 women from different economic and demographic tiers. We called it the Banking on Women series.
This time around, we will delve into the insights to understand how women navigate through various financial products and make decisions in terms of Banking, Credit, Investment and Insurance. We will then leverage these insights to build a framework on how to design better financial products for them.
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In this series:
Women’s journey from access to the usage of bank accounts, digital payment platforms and household expense tracking
Women’s tenuous relationship with credit and factors that affect their borrowing decisions
Women’s choice between Investments and Insurance to gain risk resilience
Socio-economic snapshot of the 20 respondents:
Income classification of our respondents:
Age of the respondents at the time of the interviews:
Access to banking services
As these interviews were facilitated by Sheroes and Mahila Money, there was a universal presence of Bank accounts and mobile phones among all the respondents. But, does access to a bank account guarantee financial inclusion?
Bank account ownership
Owning a bank account acts as a gateway to women's empowerment within a household. Government direct benefit transfer schemes, demonetisation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and various other factors have led to the opening of bank accounts among 77.6%of Indian women in 2021.
Snapshot of the banking preferences of the respondents:
Most of the women we spoke to own an account in more than one bank, some even have up to 6 accounts. Multiple factors such as proximity, corporate tie-up with banks, better interest rates, and other factors come into play when choosing a bank account.
Though nearly 81% of women in urban India and 77.4% in the country's rural areas own a bank account that they operate themselves, the Global Findex Database, 2021 shows that only 28% of them have made or received digital payments. There was universal awareness and adoption of UPI-based payments among the respondents yet, the usage remains low.
Payment Apps used:
Another observation from the interviews is that since the pandemic, more women are preferring digital payments over cash transactions. 8 out of the 10 respondents who previously used cash have moved to digital banking for larger transactions post-lockdown. They also visit their bank branches lesser and prefer net banking instead. However, some women still prefer cash for petty transactions and are not confident to use UPI or net banking on their own.
Financial Planning and their role in decision-making
Most households in our sample, run within a budget that is collectively set by its earning members. Though aspired by many, only half the respondents are able to plan and contain their expenses within the allotted budget month on month while another 25% try to stay within the budget most months. The rest either don’t set a budget or are unable to stick to them due to various reasons like irregular streams of income or unforeseen expenses.
Snapshot of budget and expense tracking
One common trait among households that collectively pool their income and make decisions is planning their larger spending in advance. They either set money aside for the purchase or carry it forward to the next month, based on the priority and need.
The monthly budgets are not equal throughout the year. Most respondents also have a mental calendar of the months where the spending is higher. Expenses for festive seasons like Diwali, the beginning of the academic year for the children and due dates for premiums for insurance and investments are earmarked in advance.
Apprehensions about banking and digital payments:
An apparent deterrent to the adoption of digital finance in India is the rampant phishing scams. These invoke fear among digitally non-native as well as tech-savvy individuals alike.
I am fully dependent on my husband for making digital payments. The main reason why I am skeptical to use these apps is that I once received a fake call saying it’s from Google Pay and after sharing a few details with them I ended up losing money. That incident has instilled fear in me and I am scared to make payments online
- Farah, 31 year old cloud kitchen owner from Bangalore
Around 25% of the women we interviewed have been victims of phishing scams in the past. Once scammed, they either seek their husband’s help in making payments or prefer to use traditional methods such as cheques and bank transfers over mobile-based UPI.
Designing better banking products for women
First-time users of technology struggle to complete the onboarding process on apps that lack an intuitive user experience and fail to provide a sense of security. Hence the onus is on the platforms and the regulators to assure the users by creating a safe and secure environment for financial transactions.
With great power comes great responsibility:
In most scenarios, the first financial product app the woman uses might play a pivotal role in forming the mental model for all the future fintech apps she might use. Thus making the design of the apps is critical.
In this section, we look at how we can design the interfaces of these products for better adoption of banking services among women. We will take a deeper look at the insights and propose gender-intelligent solutions at each stage of the consumer funnel.
Where does she hear about the product?
In our village, interactions with banks are very minimal, especially when it comes to women. Also, most people don’t know how to use PhonePe, PayTM, etc. so we mostly deal with cash.
- Arundathi, 42-year-old social worker from Rajasthan
Awareness of any product is driven by marketing. Modern banking companies employ a one size fits all gender-neutral approach to marketing. Campaigns with tailor-made messaging that resonates with women’s goals and household aspirations help in gaining trust among the cohort.
When it comes to women, social proof also plays a pivotal role. Word-of-mouth marketing from a trusted friend, family member or community leader leads to faster conversion. Business correspondents from the bank might help drive more women to adopt the servicesacting as an ambassador for the product.
What are her first impressions of the product?
I use my husband’s account for business-related transactions. He has an account at Kotak Mahindra Bank. I don’t know how to do things online so my husband manages these things in terms of running the business.
- Farah, 31 year old cloud kitchen owner from Bangalore
Banking apps are designed with a gender-neutral approach. Usually, the apps double up as a catalogue of all the features the bank offers. For a digitally non-native user, all these features, all at once might seem overwhelming. Designing the onboarding screens with a deeper understanding of their apprehensions such as the security features, best practices, assisted modules etc., will create a smooth transition into the app.
One of the ways to reduce the cognitive load for a new-to-technology user is by using contextual and progressive sharing of features. This means that the information will be shared with the user gradually as and when they explore those sections of the apps.
Don’t keep the visuals minimal. To communicate complex ideas, use relatable and realistic illustrations, supporting them with a short text in the vernacular language. Using extremely minimalistic icons and cartoonish illustrations might fail to connect with her. For educating about features or safety protocols, a storytelling approach might work better than a long list of dos and don’ts.
To include more women from tier 3 and below, the availability of the content in vernacular languages is a must. The banking infrastructure should also be free of charge. Additional charges such as transaction fees or the penalty for not maintaining a minimum balance could be deterrents to adoption in such cohorts.
How does she onboard onto the app?
I downloaded the app on my own but when I had to link my bank account and to move forward with KYC, I took my husband's help because I fear that some problems might occur while going about these steps while using these new modes.
- Pavitra, a 39-year-old reseller based out of Indore
A lot of women are apprehensive about experimenting with apps due to a lack of confidence in technology and financial literacy. One of the primary concerns for women when it comes to financial services is the safety of their money and the privacy of their data.
For a smooth onboarding process, the app interface should lead with transparency. Most women might already be apprehensive about the application, hence it is prudent to minimise upfront data collection and quicken the onboarding. Allow her a sneak peek of access to parts of the app with minimum KYC to gain her confidence.
Making of a transparent onboarding module:
Devise a learning plan for unprimed users
Allow the user to choose how they would like to onboard - agent-assisted, self, voice-assisted etc., and establish the user’s financial literacy level. This will form the foundation for future interactions on the platform
Using the Endowed Progress Effect, with a progress bar to allow the user to know where they are in the process. Giving the women a sense of progress from the start, it is more likely that they will be motivated to complete the onboarding.
Jargon-free legal documents that do not hide crucial information
Terms of usage and privacy documents are wordy and overwhelming for a new user. Using simple and day-to-day parlance to convey complex information would gain confidence with the user. At the same time, the user should be able to get a comprehensive overview of all the things they are agreeing to. Using design elements and illustrations could help in making the documents easy to consume.
Request user data in the context
Asking for consent as and when the context arises, and providing clarification for the reasons will further improve women’s confidence. Also, allowing them to revoke when the task is completed will establish trust with the product. Once the user has onboarded and completed a couple of transactions, the app might ask for more information for additional services as and when needed.
Once she is ready to commit fully, introduce a simplified e-KYC that employs a video call or agent-assisted model to verify her documents rather than manually filling the data on forms. The ease of KYC might help onboard more women registrants to the app. As much as possible avoid making her type her details in as it might cause frustration, leading to drop-off.
Additionally employing SHGs or Business Correspondents (BC) at a community level can help in agent-assisted onboarding. This will help train the women to adopt new technology and gradually build their confidence in using the services over time.
Straight-forward registration forms: An onboarding form might have far too many fields to fit in one frame making it difficult to navigate. Therefore, a chat-based format using one data entry per page allows her to focus on one piece of information at a time. One could also make things easier by employing smart suggestions and prompts to simplify her decision-making.
Validate crucial information such as numbers and account details, by asking her to re-verify the relevant data to avoid any mishaps due to typos or oversights. As much as possible, prioritise validating information as and when the user types it rather than an error message after they submit the data.
How does the app find a space in her day-to-day life?
The first time I had to make an online payment, a friend suggested that I could use Paytm. That’s when I downloaded the app and attempted to make the payment. I was unable to link my bank account and eventually had to ask my nephew to make the payment on the app and I paid him back in cash.
- Ritika, 46 year old small business owner from Kolkata.
Once the women are onboarded, they might want to explore the app to understand how it can fit into their life. The UX of the app plays a pivotal role in helping her navigate through the app, learn its features and at the same time feel safe to use it often.
Therefore the UX of the app needs to be intuitive. Use gamification and storyboards to educate the women on the features during the initial use.
Human beings tend to remember very few things in their short and long-term memories. Make space for tutorials, as users tend to forget the flow if they don’t use an app every day.
Employ anchoring, smart suggestions and prompts.
Based on the user’s literacy levels, highlighting anchor use cases that are common with the cohort such as balance, transfers, transaction history and other commonly used banking features might help set a starting point to start engaging with the app. When used in the best interest of the user, anchoring can help in simplifying decision-making and help the user gain confidence in the app.
A little friction is okay.
Reassure her about the security of the transaction by asking her to confirm her choices and allowing her to edit in case of any typos. Validating the entry using voice is also a good idea for women who are not comfortable with technology.
Reconfirm and validate her actions.
Verify inputs like phone numbers or UPI IDs immediately by confirming the name of the recipient against it. Validate form entries by confirming the relevant details before submitting. Keep transaction pages clutter-free to help users focus on the data entry.
Women crave cues, to indicate that their transaction is complete.
Use visual cues like a green check mark for a successful transaction or a red cross for failure paired with audio cues that indicate a transaction has been completed or failed.
Use clear, concise and simple text to communicate the actions and error states.
In case of an error/ failure, the message should describe the kind of error so that they may avoid it in the next attempt. Wherever possible, suggest possible solutions for the errors.
In case of grievances after a transaction, guide the user to the next step and allow them to call customer support or the bank directly from the app’s interface.
Knowing how far is too far:
Anchoring can have a negative impact when done with malicious intent. Cross-selling products that are only favourable to the business might have short-term profits but will cause long-term harm hampering trust among the cohort.
Avoid pre-checked checkboxes, a little friction is good for gaining trust.
Refrain from using gamification to manipulate the user into engaging with the app more.
How might she solve the problems that she faces while using the app?
Before the pandemic, I used to visit the bank to resolve any problems that arise, but now I prefer not to visit the bank. Even if I face any problem, I try to solve it on my own by Googling it or I call my branch and ask them how to resolve the particular issue that I am facing.
- Zainab, 27 year old aspiring writer living in Coimbatore
Every time the users open the app, highlight and review the basic features. Allow advance users to skip the step with a dismiss button but communicate where the feature is if they need it in the future.
Using local influencers or partnering with local help groups:
As with any new habit, learning a new technology takes time. It is prudent to set a system in place to clarify any questions that arise with the users or address any grievances using trusted local influencers or businesswomen.
What are the features that would encourage her to spread the word about the app among her community?
In order to be able to move forward with things, especially finances, it is important to be able to trust the system or the person who is willing to guide you.
- Deeksha, 32 year old Teacher from Rajasthan
Trust is an important quotient when it comes to financial decision-making. Many of the women we interviewed spoke about how they opened an account or adopted a product as it was recommended by someone or an institution they trust. Building customer trust and loyalty help retain existing customers as well as attract new ones.
By employing gender-intelligent solutions in marketing, experience and customer service, brands can help create positive experiences. Women who are new to technology are already apprehensive about the product, therefore offering great customer service and cultivating relationships make them feel heard and understood.
According to global research by Financial Alliance for Women, when they feel satisfied with a service, women tend to refer friends and colleagues more frequently than men. Therefore, encouraging referrals and testimonials from satisfied women customers would help grow the customer base by leveraging social proof and word-of-mouth marketing.
Next up, in this series:
Banking is the gateway to the financial independence of women. In the upcoming blogs in this series, we uncover the access, attitude and usage patterns of other financial products like credit and investments and insurance. We will look into the circumstances under which the women see merit in adopting these products and the factors that affect their decision-making when they choose them, either for themselves or their businesses or households.
There is similar work around women and finances done by Financial Alliance For Women and Ideo - Last Mile Money and Women and Money
Financial Inclusion for Rural Transformation program at CIIE analysed the Socio-Economic Profile of Rural India (SEPRI 2016) and found that 85% of previously unbanked women from 2016 now own a bank account in 2022. https://globalfintechfest.com/theme/default/doc/GFF-financial-inclusion.pdf
In a cross-sectional analysis of SEPRI data, it is observed that having a bank branch in close proximity and the availability of business correspondents (BC) increased the probability of women willing to open a bank account
All artworks are designed by Himanshi Parmar and Rahi Deroy from NOCT.
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An in depth analysis where there is a perfect union between research and design.
Loved it, and will refer it in future too.
Excellent article you have covered in depth the evolution in Banking industry particularly in India. I have been a witness to the rapid changes and growth the Banking Industry has undergone from 1970's till date. Keep on the good work🙌 👍