Moving money across country lines is rarely easy or cheap, and that’s especially true in countries with large un- and under-banked populations, like Mexico. In a country where 60 percent of people choose not to bank due to a cultural mistrust of financial institutions, how can a payments app gain trust and bring value to those citizens by sending money cross-border for $0.99?
It’s a question that Steve LaBella, CEO of BillMo, can answer, having learned over the past year since launching BillMo as a remittance wallet for receivers and a new remittance business model for funds being sent from the U.S. to Mexico.
With more than 300,000 customers, and 500 new accounts being opened each day, LaBella told Karen Webster that BillMo has evolved to include P2P capabilities, along with the ability for wallet holders to add their own money to the account through a brand-new partnership with Walmart Mexico – a retail and financial services brand that the Mexican consumer knows and trusts.
With 11,000 Google Play store reviews, over 300,000 customers and 500 new accounts being opened each day, no one is accusing BillMo of trying to take their money anymore, LaBella said. Here’s how the platform got from Point A to Point B.
The Trust Factor
From day one, said LaBella, the focus and main customer was the recipient – unlike the majority of remittance platforms, which are most focused on getting the sender to establish an account to initiate the payment.
LaBella, with BillMo, took a different approach, starting with the biggest influencer in the money transmission game: the receiver. Having receivers drive the sender’s choice of remittance platform then became easy, too – $0.99 to send money cross-border is literally the cheapest game in town.
LaBella said that BillMo also offered incentives for first-time users of the platform. Recipients are then able to use those funds to shop online and/or pay bills. Over time, BillMo allowed users to add funds to their wallets, either by linking a debit or credit card or by making a cash deposit at a Walmart location or participating bank. Walmart locations include all chains and brands owned by Walmart, such as Sam’s Club.
Those deposits, LaBella said, are added to the wallet in real time, so the customer can then turn around and spend them at Walmart right away, or save them to spend later – even online, if they so choose.
The deposit function went live in February and is, according to LaBella, just the first of many services that BillMo plans to offer in conjunction with Walmart, including the ability to pay with BillMo in Walmart stores and on the retailer’s website.
All of those things drive BillMo’s business model. While there are, of course, the modest fees collected by senders and FX fees, the bulk of the revenue is from commissions paid by merchants or billers when customers use the wallet to transact.
BillMo IQ is an enterprise data and analytics platform that gives retailers access to information on the services that will drive views, clicks and spend at their stores and online, which LaBella said is a growing piece of the company’s revenue pie.
What’s In It For Walmart?
BillMo’s online component is what made the deal attractive to Walmart, LaBella said. As Mexican eCommerce plays catch-up to its U.S. counterpart, the big-box retailer wants to drive more traffic to its online channel.
LaBella explained that BillMo can help achieve this by allowing Walmart customers to pay online using their BillMo balance and pairing that capability with incentives, such as 20 percent off on Walmart.com today – exclusively available to BillMo customers.
LaBella said that the BillMo IQ product can help retailers and product companies – in addition to Walmart – to drive brand recognition and retail transactions by delivering store traffic for specific products or for shopping in general.
In all cases, LaBella noted that the key to getting a positive response from customers is to add value with opportunities that are shared through the app rather than inundating users with ads. Show them something they can’t get anywhere else, he said, and they will come.