Just about a year ago, MoneyGram’s Chief Revenue Officer, Peter Ohser, told Karen Webster that the company launched its MobilePass pilot program with a pretty simple goal: Make it easier for customers to manage their cash transfers however they want, whenever they want.
As a pilot, it was limited to CVS locations. Today, Ohser told Webster, it’s now time to chart MobilePass a path forward: a full-scale rollout to all 35,000-plus MoneyGram locations nationwide.
“Th[e rollout] is really part of our bigger MoneyGram My Way program and … [taps] into the insights we’ve gained from our consumers,” Ohser recounted. “Over the last year, we’ve expanded and optimized the services and processes for our customers, and now we are ready to turn it on across the entirely of our network.”
The network excludes Walmart’s MoneyGram locations, since they are already integrated into Walmart’s own branded app and conform to Walmart’s own mobile money transfer strategy.
Ohser said that it’s been an informative journey, but with obstacles to overcome. Revving up “activation energy,” as Ohser describes it, is inherently challenging and was, in fact, MoneyGram’s biggest challenge. Helping customers tap into something designed to be the “order-ahead of cash” took a bit of work.
“We asked our associates to actually show how the program worked to our customers,” Ohser explained, adding that it was the only real way for them to see and understand how much it could streamline the relationship to MoneyGram’s money transfer services. But once they saw it — and saw it in action — they loved it and passed it on to friends and family.
The Mobile Order Ahead for Money Transfer
Money transfer, Peter Ohser noted, requires two things: staging — setting up the paperwork and performing various checks to make sure the transaction is valid — and then actually paying and sending the money to the receiver.
Staging behavior, particularly among regular consumers, is rather consistent, he remarked. Customers typically pick the same day to send money (Fridays and Saturdays are popular); they tend to favor a small number of locations (one but no more than five) in which to make their transfers and they send the money to a few of the same places each time they initiate a transfer.
What MobilePass lets those customers do is order their wire transfer before showing up in the store to hand over the money to send, just like one would order a coffee ahead at Dunkin’ Donuts. Those senders use the app to set up the amount, where it needs to go and all the other relevant information from the privacy of their mobile phone and set the payment amount and date: a.k.a. the staging. Then, when they are ready to send, they visit their preferred physical MoneyGram location, complete the transaction by handing over cash — in most cases to the MoneyGram associate — and call it day.
These customers, Ohser said, typically send money to a maximum of two to three people and perhaps pay three to five bills. The “beauty” of having MobilePass do the staging, he said, is that once the data is entered into the app — something he says is “super quick” — they can skip the line and walk up to the window to send the money.
“Time for these folks is money, and we really see [MobilePass] as a way to bring real benefit to the customer on a number of levels,” Ohser said.
Digital — Cash Cooperation
The tendency can be to see mobile transactions and cash as natural antagonists, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Some customers want to interact purely digitally; other don’t, Ohser noted. But in either case, he said, it doesn’t mean that digital tools can’t or shouldn’t be brought to bear to make everyone’s experience more seamless.
“Digital is growing, but so too are our physical channels,” Ohser said, adding that there is a “huge number” of customers who want a personalized digital experience but who prefer paying in cash. He believes MobilePass is a way for cash customers to benefit from mobile transactions without having to give up a payment method they like and trust.
Ohser also emphasized that MoneyGram is truly channel agnostic. The company wants customers to interact with them in stores, online, at Walmart, in their app — wherever they want, however they want. Consumers are following suit, since roughly a third of their customer base “chooses to toggle between the channels at will,” which means their best bet as a business is not to try and pick a single channel as much as it is to make sure that travel between channels is efficient and easy.
Customers need access and choice, he said, because they rely on MoneyGram for their ordinary interactions: sending money to relatives or paying their bills. The importance and power of providing access and choice, however, becomes really obvious when the situation gets extraordinary, as it recently has in Houston.
Making It Work — Even When Everything’s Broken
MoneyGram, Ohser noted, has almost 1,000 locations in greater Houston, but as of Monday morning, Sept. 4, 2017, when business “opened” there, only 10 percent were functional. Even if the locations themselves weren’t affected directly by flooding, in many cases, employees couldn’t get there.
The goods news is that MoneyGram has a lot of experience in crisis situations and a long history of getting cash into markets where cash is needed, and doing so quickly.
“We got our hands on a list of all the evacuation centers and then overlaid that map with our network map so we could prioritize opening locations within proximity of those shelter locations,” Ohser said. “That was priority one; then to use social channels and local partners like Walmart to make … [sure] we could get cash into [those] markets.”
And into the hands of people who really, really needed it, which meant that MoneyGram has spent much of the last ten days doing more than facilitating money transfers; they’ve also been crucial to getting wages and pay into people hands — in cash.
Big employers, he said, have workers who can’t get to work, are losing hours and are living paycheck to paycheck. Working with many of them, MoneyGram has been doing mid-cycle payrolls in cash just so people can get money into the market by getting it into the hands of those employees.
It is big job today, he said, that won’t end anytime soon, since recovery from natural disasters can take place for months after the news coverage stops.
“There will be new construction, new people entering the area to work and lots of funds remitted through the populace. Our question is, how can we help those folks through pricing so it can work as a longer term benefit to everyone?”
It won’t be easy. Houston isn’t just the fourth-largest city in the country, Ohser said, it is also the most diverse by number of different backgrounds contained therein. Creating a long-term benefit for everyone is tough when everyone is heterodox.
MoneyGram is always thinking about how to address the needs of a broader group anyway — that’s why MobilePass is rolling out systemwide. Because whether customers are using cash by choice or necessity, MoneyGram thinks funds should be easy to gain access to — and that one should have a choice about how it is done.