Extending the benefits of electronic payments to more people has always been a priority for Visa. This morning we took a major step toward giving unbanked consumers in developing countries access to the security and reliability of electronic payments and financial services.
Visa today announced the launch of a new service that makes it easy and cost-effective for financial institutions and mobile network operators in developing countries to offer unbanked consumers access to financial services by linking a virtual account that is tied to a consumers’ mobile-phone number. Aircel and ICICI in India, as well as Bank of Kigali and Urwego Opportunity Banks in Rwanda are the first to take advantage of this service.
Why is this important? The ability to pay a utility bill, send money to a relative living in another country, or withdraw money at an ATM by simply texting payment instructions to the bank is a game changer for consumers in countries where cash has been the only form of payment, and where paying bills usually means standing in line for hours.
This is just the beginning. More than 2 billion consumers worldwide are unbanked, many of whom own a mobile phone. It is the ubiquity of mobile technology, especially in developing countries, that is finally making it possible for us to extend financial services to the unbanked. Today’s announcement is a great example of Visa’s role in this journey, which is to harness mobile technology to enable financial institutions and mobile operators to drive access to formal financial services and electronic payments.
For more information about Visa Mobile Managed Service, click here.
In advance of releasing research between Visa, GSMA mWomen Programme and Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) that explores the role of mobile financial services for women in developing countries, we sat down with BFA Research Manager Michelle Hasan to discuss her experiences conducting fieldwork for the study in Kenya.
Michelle reported some interesting findings from Kenya, home of one of the most mature mobile financial services markets in the world. With many people already sending and receiving money via mobile phone, Michelle was able to learn first-hand the likes and dislikes about these services.
Michelle shares her experience in Kenya in a guest contribution on Mobile Payments Today. Also watch BFA Director Daryl Collins share similar feedback from her experiences in Kenya in this video interview. This is the third in a series of articles exploring mobile financial services in developing economies.
The widespread adoption of Internet-enabled devices – smart phones, tablets, laptops and PCs – enable consumers to shop online, anywhere, anytime – especially this holiday season. According to IBM, 24% of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site over Thanksgiving & Black Friday, up from 14.3% in 2011.
As we shared earlier this week , while Cyber Monday remained the busiest online shopping day of the year – representing an astounding $2.1 billion in online sales from U.S. Visa account holders – Visa’s network has seen seven days that topped more than $1 billion in online sales in the U.S. this holiday season.
In the following video, Bill Gajda, Head of Global Mobile Products for Visa, shares his view on how innovations in mobile and payment technology, including near-field communications, are changing the landscape of commerce this holiday season and into the future.
Earlier today, we shared a look into the growth of U.S. consumer online shopping behavior during the holiday peak season (Nov. 1st – Dec. 16th). It’s no surprise that with the advent of tablets, mobile devices, the growing number of online merchants, and the widening adoption of new payment technologies, eCommerce remains Visa’s fastest growing commerce channel – and we don’t see that changing for a long time to come.
As eCommerce grows, consumers are looking for services that are designed to make online payments simple and secure, without all the hassles of entering bill-to, ship-to, and account information. Visa understands that, and is helping to usher in this next generation of commerce with a digital wallet service called V.me by Visa.
In the following video, Jim McCarthy, global head of product for Visa, provides his thoughts on how eCommerce has evolved since its inception and the tools Visa is developing to improve the online shopping experience, for everyone.
Today, half the world’s adult population (2.5 billion) lacks access to basic financial services – the majority of which are women. With the rapid spread of cell phones, mobile financial services offer a unique opportunity to help close this gender gap.
At Visa we’re working with banks, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide the financially underserved with secure, reliable and affordable financial services at scale. To that end, Visa has partnered with GSMA’s mWomen Programme (GSMA) and Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) to understand the wants and needs of women for mobile financial services in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania.
Mobile technology in the hands of women can provide access to life-enhancing services, but studies have shown that there is a demonstrated gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage. In Pakistan, for example, only 12 percent of the total population has a bank account, and those who do are primarily men. In contrast, mobile phone usage hovers around 70 percent. This research will identify how to bridge that gap – connecting women to the mobile financial services they desperately need to enter the financial mainstream.
To learn more about women’s banking experiences in Pakistan, watch this video from the field and visit Mobile Payments Today for a guest contribution from Fundamo’s Aletha Ling and GSMA’s Chris Locke.
To read more about Visa’s commitment to financial inclusion and its mission to be the best way to pay and be paid, for everyone, everywhere click here.
 Half the World is Unbanked, Financial Access Initiative
It’s the time of year when retailers hope that you’ve made Santa’s “Nice” list, so there are lots of presents under the tree and all stockings are stuffed! So far, early indications suggest that the season will be jolly, keeping Santa and his reindeers’ travel schedules fully booked.
The National Retail Federation predicts holiday shopping will increase 4.1 percent to $586 billion this year. Additionally, this week Adobe predicted online sales on Cyber Monday would top $2 billion this year, representing an 18 percent increase over 2011. Also of note: a prediction that mobile commerce would represent more than one-fifth (21 percent) of all online sales this holiday season.
While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are typically thought of as two of the busiest holiday shopping days of the year, a closer look at our United States-driven eCommerce data may suggest otherwise. We tasked some of our holiday number-crunching elves at Visa to look at debit and credit card purchases over the past 10 holiday seasons and found some interesting trends:
Weekend warriors: With a few notable exceptions (Black Friday, Cyber Monday), shopping volumes tend to climb significantly on Saturday and Sunday and drop off during the weekdays. [No matter which day you shop, if you are doing it online, V.me by Visa can help simplify the process.]
eCommerce excellence: According to Forrester, shoppers are expected to spend $226 million online this year alone.
Shopping strongholds: The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are BUSY shopping days—but not the busiest of the year.
Procrastination purchasing: Waiting until the last minute to buy gifts means a rush before Christmas. Over the last 10 years, December 22, 23 and 24th have been the busiest shopping days of the holiday season.
Whether past trends hold true this holiday season, or other days emerge as shopping surprises remains to be seen. One thing is for certain: checkout registers – whether online, mobile or in stores – will be busy ringing with the holiday sounds of spending.
Historically, we’ve all been unpaid data entry clerks when it comes to online shopping, typing in account, bill-to and ship-to information nearly everywhere we shop online. Beginning today, that’s all about to change. Today’s consumer types in an average of 44 fields when shopping online, and V.me gets you down to 5 or 6 (depending on if you’re sending to yourself or a loved one).
Signing up for V.me through our bank partners and enrolling your Visa (or other U.S. issued payment cards) is simple. Before you can say “SALE!” you can start shopping online from any PC, tablet or mobile device.
Don’t see your bank on the list of partners Fear not! Visit www.V.me to enroll online, and start your holiday shopping immediately at any of the 23 participating merchants. PacSun and Blue Nile are just a few of the leading eCommerce sites using V.me, where you’ll enjoy a more simple, secure and personalized checkout experience.
You want to shop—and we want to make it easy for you to pay how you want (although we prefer Visa), when you want (no judging if you’re shopping in your pajamas at midnight) and with the safety and security that comes with the Visa brand.
Stay tuned for even more banks and merchants coming soon, and in the meantime, happy shopping.
This week, luminaries from the mobile industry met in San Francisco for the annual Open Mobile Summit. From 4G to mCommerce to the future of mobile devices and mobile advertising, a broad range of topics were debated by some of the leading representatives in the mobile space.
One topic that was covered in great detail was the future of mobile payments. Continuing a conversation that held recently at Money2020 Visa’s Michele Janes joined panelists from PayPal, American Express, Google and Home Depot to provide perspective and strategies for addressing this important subject. Moderated by analyst Greg Sterling, the panel titled “Wallet Wars: Mobile Payments From Theory to Practice” discussed a wide variety of issues including important elements for mobile payments adoption and how companies like Visa are working with mobile operators to offer solutions to reach the world’s unbanked.
We caught up with Michele following the conference to get her insights into Visa’s efforts to bring mobile payments to consumers in emerging markets.
The GSMA mWomen Programme, a partnership between USAID, AusAID the GSMA and Visa, has recently launched the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge http://designchallenge.mwomen.org/, sponsored by Qtel Group. This is a competition seeking creative solutions for making the smartphone user experience more intuitive for technically illiterate users, particularly women, in developing countries. Julia Burchell, GSMA mWomen Knowledge Manager, discusses the context for the challenge and the impacts it could have for the mobile industry and for resource poor women around the world.
Mobile as a testament to human ingenuity
Mobile phone use in the developing world is exploding, yet women risk being left behind. 21% fewer women than men own a mobile phone in low- to middle-income countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the gap is estimated to be 23%; in the Middle East, 24% and in South Asia it rises to 37%.
The result is a mobile phone gender gap estimated to be 300 million women in the developing world without access to this potentially life-enhancing tool. And this tool is a powerful one. GSMA research, conducted in partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, has shown there is a range of benefits associated with women’s mobile ownership: 93% of women surveyed felt more connected to family and friends, 85% felt more independent and 41% said owning a phone had improved their ability to make money. Mobile phones also can be used to help manage money, and for many unbanked people in emerging markets, mobile money services offer the first step to financial inclusion.
However, a range of barriers stand in women’s way of realising these benefits, including cultural barriers, a high total cost of mobile ownership (which includes device cost, airtime top-up and charging) and a lack of basic and technical literacy.
These barriers are not insurmountable. For example, it is possible to use a mobile phone, despite the inability to read or write; millions across the world do every day, including some resource-poor women. As our recent study, “Striving & Surviving” demonstrated, women take advantage of the “proximate literacy” of their family and friends, and many teach themselves through trial and error. The ability of people under such constraints to use a tool designed for users with greater resources at their disposal is testimony to both human ingenuity and the great value the tool adds to their daily lives.
The GSMA mWomen Programme aims to promote improved mobile ownership and usage by resource-poor women in emerging markets by 2014. We aim to help bring precisely those kinds of life-enhancing mobile services that many women currently lack, such as health information, mobile money and better connection to family and friends, into the hands of women across the developing world.
Phones getting smarter
The phones discussed in our study were feature phones, the most common in developing markets, with basic voice and SMS capabilities. These feature phones were originally designed to meet the needs of those that could afford them: urban, literate males with incomes that could support the costs of the device and its continued use, including airtime top-up and battery charging.
Over time, however, the standard feature phone will face competition from the richer experience available on smartphones. The price of smartphone devices is dropping, and usage of smartphones is increasing across the world. Smartphones are now available for as little as US$80 in Kenya and other countries, and these prices continue to drop. Strategy Analytics projects that smartphones will gain in share at a rapid pace in emerging markets. In India, the organization projects that the pace will increase by 856% between 2011 and 2016, and by 239% in Indonesia over the same period.
People across the developing world will find ways to use smartphones to meet their needs, whatever their resource and skill levels. Given that women make up the majority of the world’s poor, illiterate and unempowered population, they are unlikely to be the first adopters of these technologies. While the devices eventually will become the standard, particularly given the upswell of second-hand mobile devices entering these markets, the women currently underserved by mobile risk falling further behind.
Here at the GSMA mWomen Programme we’re asking, what if smartphones were designed to meet the needs of low-literacy women? What if the tools were geared towards serving the needs of those with limited disposable incomes and access to power? What if we could improve the smartphone user experience now to prevent resource-poor women from continuing to miss out in the future?
Women & mobile: the smart choice
To help answer these questions, we were very excited to launch the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge at the recent Social Good Summit in New York. The competition seeks to engage the global digital design community to create solutions to make the smartphone user experience more intuitive, particularly for women in developing countries who struggle with technical literacy. Entries can be submitted until 14 December, 2012, and the winners, who will be announced in February in Barcelona at GSMA’s Mobile World Congress, will receive prizes up to US$20,000. The winners also will have the opportunity to speak with potential investors interested in commercializing strong innovations.
So, we are calling on you and your networks, be they programmers and product designers or entrepreneurs and innovators, to help redefine the smartphone user experience for resource poor women. Check out the challenge at http://designchallenge.mwomen.org/ today!
As we continue to push forward with innovating the ways we pay and are paid, today we’re launching a new video series called #ConnectingCommerce. The series will be hosted on Visa’s YouTube page and showcases the progress and benefits of going cashless, especially when it comes to eCommerce and mCommerce in today’s hyper-connected world. This first episode features author David Wolman – interviewed by journalist Mark Veverka – and his views on becoming a cashless economy.
According to Wolman, the benefits of a society without cash are staggering: “Reduced cash-management costs are really just the beginning. One must consider the broad spectrum of socio-economic gains — things like reduced criminal activity of nearly every stripe and the promotion of financial inclusion. Whether we will ever do away with it completely remains uncertain, and in many ways is less critical than the developments that are pushing it toward obsolescence, because those are what really change the way we live. That is true for consumers, merchants, and especially those who for too long have been denied the benefits of money in electronic form.”
Follow along as we post more candid interviews with thought leaders, consumers and payment luminaries. Will killer apps pave the way for a cashless society? What other tools will we need to rid ourselves of cash? Is this cashless society just around the corner?