Post demonetization in November 2016, the Government of India encouraged the people of the country to take up digital payments in lieu of physical cash. Lottery schemes were launched to promote digital payments on the UPI and BHIM apps. This led to a significant increase in the adoption of digital payments, and players like Paytm hugely benefitted from this trend. Local kirana stores, that were known to accept only cash, followed this trend and started displaying QR codes. All this marked the first wave of behavioral shift in regular payments going digital.
Urban and sub-urban population was quick to adapt to the new change. Youth were quick to adapt too. Higher and middle income groups were quick to adapt. But there still was a large segment of population that was not able to embrace the digital payments revolution. For days together, long lines were seen in front of ATMs and banks for physical cash.
The reasons for not embracing the digital payments were many. Couple of them were:
Mistrust on digital payments – Many people had a big mental block against using mobile phones for financial transactions, even though they could afford and had access to mobile devices. People could not contemplate parting physical cash and having to transfer money from their accounts via mobile apps was not seen as being very secure.
Illiteracy – Illiteracy is not an impediment for business but it is definitely an impediment in transacting digitally. This segment of the population gets turned off at the stage where they need to sign in with a username and a password on their mobile apps, which is typically the first step to initiate any transaction.
To make digital payments reach the next billion, the banking community and the new players in the industry need to take significant efforts towards simplicity, localization and security. A step in this direction would be to make user interfaces intuitive and user friendly.
I have listed some ideas here:
App Login with Pattern Lock: Today we have logins based on a username and password or a 4/ 6-digit pin. This does not cater to the people who are not versed with the language. Enabling authentication in a local language might just do the trick, as most of the mobile phones support these languages. So an option of pattern unlock should be given for the app based on preset patterns. For security reasons, this authentication may be complemented with finger print or facial recognition.
Intuitive Icons for Functions: Most of the icons in current mobile apps are not intuitive enough for an illiterate person to operate. A pay button will have ‘Pay’ written over it and some icon which is meant to depict a payment action. Such buttons should be standardized and should be common for all apps.
In today’s age, even a toddler can operate a smartphone. For example, a YouTube button resembles a big Red Play Button. By observing, a toddler learns to not only open the YouTube application but also to swipe, select and play the videos she wants. Swipe and select are standardized actions. Similarly a play icon is standardized. By observing the usage of these actions and buttons, a toddler learns how to operate an application. Similarly, a banking/payment app should have standardized buttons and actions which enables consumers across economic strata to use it intuitively.
Selecting the Payee: With UPI or the many digital wallets present today, anyone should be able to make a payment by just giving the phone number in the payment app or by selecting a contact. It should be like selecting a contact to dial a phone number. The contact list may have a photo of the person along with the phone number and name. Most frequented payees can be provided the additional benefit of faster payments on top for a quick payment.
Denomination management: Not everyone is comfortable reading and understanding the large numbers on the screen. At most, they are comfortable in counting a smaller set of numbers. Today, many hawkers or vegetable sellers are well versed with counting currency notes and doing the basic calculation of number or notes and subsequently the total amount. Recently, the government released new currency notes in distinct colors making it easier to identify and distinguish the value of a note.
Similarly, the amount of money a person has can be displayed in an app either in the image of the currency notes or some color coded icons. For example, if a person has Rs 4850/- in his account, it can be displayed as 2000 currency note with a number 2 (count of the notes) next to it, a 500 currency note with a number 1 (count of the notes) next to it, a 100 currency note with number 3 next to it, and a 50 currency note with 1 next to it. Instead of currency notes, these could be some other colored icons and all these icons or images could be displayed like a thumbnail. This serves two purposes, one is that cash in the account can be easily counted and second is that the imagery serves as a replacement to physical cash in the wallet/batua which is more of a psychological effect of holding the cash.