THE rapid increase in the ranks of smartphone users in Myanmar is providing opportunities for the marketing of mobile money services in the country, a forum has heard.
Stephen Swan, head of product and digital at Wave Money Myanmar, which provides the nation’s leading mobile wallet, said mobile penetration rates in Myanmar had exceeded all expectations.
Speaking at the 9th Mobile Money and Agent Banking Summit held on Wednesday and Thursday, Swan said the firm’s human-centric design approach had allowed Wave Money to “deliver a seamless and enjoyable user experience” while launching relevant services to the market. “This success has been highlighted with our wallet-to-wallet transfers enjoying high double-digit month-on-month growth,” he said.
Swan stressed the importance of e-commerce in the growth of mobile financial services. The company’s e-commerce partners have been growing at the rate of five companies a month, and e-commerce services now account for 20 per cent of the firm’s mobile wallet transactions, he said.
He speaks with pride on the company’s collaborative and customer-centred design, which brings customers’ voices into the boardroom.
“Through design ideation, stakeholder workshops, iterative rapid photocopying, technical assessments and over 60 hours of consumer interviews we arrived at a design that we believe will succeed in Myanmar,” Swan said.
He considers the design as “transformative”. The service has been widely used in major cities including Yangon, Mandalay, Mawlamyaing, Pathein and Taunggyi. “Small details can create the biggest stumbling blocks. Design needs to be closely coupled with business strategy, technology and operations,” Swan said.
He said the firm was able to deliver relevant solutions to the market for consumers, businesses and developers by creating an application that was designed by the customer insights it had gained and its human centric approach.
In recognition of the fast-growing e-commerce sector in Myanmar, the firm launched the first open application programming interface (API) and developer portal, providing easy access to businesses and developers.
In a bid to provide access to multiple services, the firm has been working with local start-ups and established e-commerce businesses to provide a digital payment channel to their customers. The executive committed to deliver value-added services over the next few months.
“In Southeast Asia, mobile money is moving at an amazing pace with fintech companies WeChat and AliPay in China leading the way,” he said. “It is no longer just about mobile money and more about the fintech companies in the region creating better value propositions and relevant services around messaging tools and social engagement.
“Grab is another example. It first started out as a cab-hailing service and now provides a digital wallet in some countries that allows users to make instant purchases with their Grab credits while earning reward points for every transaction.”
Allen Gilstrap, chief executive of Ongo Myanmar, another digital payment network, gave his views at the forum on the challenges to digitalising payments in the nation. He said digital payments would require application users to go to an agent location to deposit money into their wallet.
“The consumer experience of going repeatedly to an agent to make deposits can outweigh the benefits. Limited experience in using an app’s geo-location feature increases the difficulty for consumers to find agent locations.”
Gilstrap said consumers in Myanmar had very limited experience in registration for digital services. He expects customers may encounter confusion in navigating through the initial app registration process. He stressed the need for a compelling reward for consumers to complete app registration and activation.
Another challenge is creating a compelling reason for consumers to engage with the payment app daily, Gilstrap said. “The primary utility of mobile money apps is to buy airtime, pay bills and transfer money which are not daily events. We need to create more compelling value propositions for consumers to make digital payments more often.”
According to Gilstrap, the firm has launched its digital service in Yangon and Mandalay. It has more than 350 agents, and plans rapid expansion of its services across the nation.
Justin Ho, vice president of Amdocs Mobile Financial Services, said critical agent banking and open banking initiatives would play a pivotal role in financial inclusion in the years to come.
Ouk Sarat, director at the National Bank of Cambodia’s Payment System Department, considers market structure and competition, regulatory structure, risk management and market integrity as regulatory issues for mobile payment.
He said the growth of mobile financial services should be encouraged by enabling policies, payment sector development, stability and integrity.
Tim Scheffmann, CEO of Scheffman Ltd, expects mobile money to become digital in 2020.