Differentiating a banking and mobile payments platform from its competitors can seem like an impossible task. When two services provide only basic functionality it’s easy to see why consumers and even business clients might see both as interchangeable – but there’s a new frontier in money transfer, and taming it means finding new ways to engage consumers and businesses alike.
Social integration offers businesses the opportunity to set themselves apart through a variety of features that bring users to the platform in greater numbers and keep them around for longer – and this means end users might soon see money transfer as a source of pleasure just as much as they see it as a means for business.
For this week’s Commander in Chief series, PYMNTS talked with Rob Balahura, founder of Vouchr and advocate for the integration of social engagement with mobile money transfer. In addition to explaining how adding a social layer to money transfer platforms can enable consumers to have fun with their funds, he also stressed that there are billion-dollar markets open to firms that are willing and able to master the new tools available to spur user engagement with money transfer.
What is the most difficult part of your job and why?
We are powering the evolution of mobile money transfer for the world’s largest financial institutions. Today, money transfer is limited to just sending and requesting money, but there are hundreds of new uses on mobile that can open up billion-dollar markets, such as cash gifting. When you’re an innovator and building out a vision for a new category like we are, there aren’t existing companies or products to model after. As a result, it’s a full-time job to keep painting the picture of the future for investors, potential partners and teammates.
What tools do you use to understand what consumers want and need?
Our team’s backgrounds are [in] Facebook, EA Mobile, Ubisoft and Snapchat, so that has given us a lot of insight [into] how to engage people on mobile. We’re seeing a big demand for this domain from financial institutions who want to offer engaging experiences for their customers in their mobile banking wallets and apps.
What product has had the most impact on payments in the last five years and why?
In the e-transfer world, it’s WeChat. They are a big inspiration to us, because they proved that mobile engagement can drive massive amounts of signups and transactions.
WeChat became a payments world leader by allowing people to embed social interactions into money transfer, making transfers social, contextual and fun. As a result, they drove hundreds of millions of signups and over half a trillion in new transactions.
Actually, a new player, one of our Canadian bank partners, may take that title in 2018. They are using our technology to do the same for e-transfer, and the initial results have already exceeded our expectations.
What’s been the biggest impact of mobile on payments and commerce?
Emerging mobile payment technologies can disrupt multi-billion dollar industries. For example, we are working with a virtual prepaid Visa card which, coupled with a user experience layer and Apple Pay, can create an alternative to a gift card for any near-field, communication-enabled merchant. That has potential to replace the entire gift card business as we know it.
What is the biggest unfulfilled potential of mobile, and how are you helping your organization realize it?
I would have to say engagement: the ability to engage one-to-one with customers through your service is a game-changer.
Actually, it’s also the founding principle of our company: to build engaging mobile experiences around money transfer. We’ve all rallied around this mission.
What is your vision for the “communication platform” idea of differentiation? What features will it contain to get users to be active and stay active instead of turning to competitors or just using it exclusively for basic transfers?
All industry players today provide basic money transfer that allows you to move money. We don’t compete with that. In fact, we are in harmony with it.
All of our clients already have a basic money transfer service, and by integrating with them, we add a new user experience layer on top. So, both their basic money transfer service and our user experience exist together in the same mobile banking wallet or app. Today, we are currently the only proven technology solution in the world that helps industry players take their money transfer service to the next level.
The guiding principle of our product development is simple: We consider money transfer between two people as another form of communication. This opens up a big vision to deliver new social experiences alongside basic money transfer.
Our product’s stickiness is driven by a few key concepts.
The first is personalization. For example, paying your friend back for a big night out could include a pic of the epic burger you had, a YouTube video of the song that played at the end of the night and even a calendar invite to do it all again next weekend.
“Context” also uncovers another big opportunity to motivate people to transact: birthdays, graduations, congratulations, thank-yous, Mother’s Day, even fun occasions like National Ice Cream Day. In Asia, for example, contextualizing digital money transfers during the Lunar New Year drove billions of transactions, dwarfing in just a few days what PayPal does in a year.
We actually have proven out a new category for cash gifts, driving incremental transfers that weren’t possible before. The demand is definitely there, and our mobile cash gift experience is spectacular.
Using money transfer to interact with friends makes the service almost impossible to leave for a competitor. For example, you can invite several members of your family to contribute to fund a trip for a sibling, or to give them a group gift. Once your friends are connected to a service, it is very difficult for users to switch to anything else.
There is also a lot of room to innovate. We believe that creating new experiences for customers is one of the biggest growth opportunities in the money transfer space. In fact, we have recently proven the power of innovation with a major bank in Canada through their mobile banking wallet. For example, we created an experience where users can attach a merchant location anywhere in Canada to their money transfer, and the recipient must physically go to that location to unlock the money.
This has already created a ton of new and exciting use cases for people. We’re seeing people send their children money and geo-lock it at Grandma’s house to spark a visit – or geo-locking it at a store you know they love as an alternative to a gift card, or paying someone back and geo-locking it at a restaurant to meet up again. We’ve even seen people use it just for fun, too, sending their friend on a treasure hunt in the city to find the cash. That one innovative feature delivers a lot of engaging new use cases that people love.
By integrating our platform with this Canadian bank, we were able to deliver new installs of their mobile wallet app, drive incremental transactions, and engage and delight their user base, all inside their money transfer service. We also brought them something that is almost impossible to achieve today: a huge competitive advantage over the four competing banks who also provide standard money transfer.
We are changing the way people send money in Canada, and we’re looking forward to bringing this to our U.S. and international partners.
For more thoughts on this topic, visit me on Medium.
How do you plan on tying in all of these different money “experiences” to one singular platform?
We built a platform that can bolt onto any existing money transfer service, so we are a B2B2C.
Our system is already bank-grade, takes a short time to integrate and our partners can pick and choose the engagement features they want from a menu. We have successfully integrated with partner systems that use Interac eTransfer, digital gift cards, PayPal P2P and even a virtual Visa card [that allows you to use] tap-to-pay at any online or local merchant.
So far, there’s been partnerships between you guys and (some banks?) that are heavily involved in P2P money transfers. Do you foresee any potential partnerships with the mobile gaming side of things to incorporate your initiatives?
That’s a great question. Most of our team is from the mobile games world.
We already provide a feature where the sender of the money transfer can choose a game that the recipient must play to unlock it.
We are also working on new game concepts using augmented reality, similar to Pokemon Go, where the recipient must go to a local spot and search for a message from the sender to unlock funds. We also use the same technology to build out new social “challenges” – for example, sending me a photo of you at the gym to unlock your money.
Our platform also allows third-party game developers to submit their games into our system, so we have an endless supply of creative content to keep people coming back.
In order to “win” this battle for P2P money transfers, how do you plan on using these initiatives to achieve loyalty with both millennials and mainstream consumers?
We help our partners ‘win.’ Our offering is diverse enough to engage and delight both millennials and the mainstream. For example, we have a new type of eCard that mainstreamers love to attach to their money transfers, and we even remind them of upcoming occasions from their calendar, so they never miss a birthday or special event. We also have edgier features for millennials, like ‘Dare,’ which lets the sender ask for a video or photo of the recipient to unlock the transfer. There is definitely something for everyone.
Will there still be a standard basic money transfer option, or will it always have to go through some sort of elaborate social interaction?
As I said above, we bolt onto bank and other app partners’ existing money transfer service, so both exist together.