It is a sad fact that not everyone comes out of the school system sufficiently literate. Some children are undiagnosed dyslexics, others can’t safely open a schoolbook at home in sight of peers or parents. Whatever the reason, the under-literate population is growing, and it’s not just a problem for the school systems. Banks looking to reach out to under-banked populations also have to deal with the literacy problem because people who don’t read confidently also can’t read contracts, loan terms, or credit-card policies confidently either.
Many people who are not confidently literate are also not comfortable with banks, which ‘require’ a great deal of reading to bank smartly. So what is the answer? How can a bank reach out to under-literate adults and help them build a more financially sound life for the next generation? The answer is surprisingly obvious: Gamified mobile apps.
Gamification is the Key to Low-Literacy Banking
Video games are one of the proofs that low-literacy populations are not unintelligent. The way that seemingly illiterate teens and young adults play games proves that they can understand complex number systems and strategise to get the ‘most points’ in almost any game the developers can make. Puzzle games and counting games are pure math strategy. RPGs (role-playing games) even teach basic banking by leading players to save up their money for virtual potions and equipment.
So why can’t banks use similar tactics via web and mobile apps to help engage and even explain banking to under-literate and under-banked populations? Gamification done right is the key to helping low-literacy populations bank both successfully and confidently.
Represent Banking Visually
The first step in your banking apps is to make sure that all or most data is represented visually. But try to deviate from traditional financial graphs that look like ‘test questions’. Instead, design your banking app visuals like a game. You may consider working with a game graphics designer who has made successfully ‘clicky’ mobile apps in the past.
Let customers set a savings goal, then show a vertical bar ‘filling up’. Possibly even filling up with a satisfying visual of virtual dollars and change as they might pile in a tall jar at home. This will not only make the information easier to grasp, it will also make it more rewarding to interact with for people who are used to saving small amounts somewhere in their closet.
For transactions, use representative symbols for the type of spending, like gas vs groceries, instead of relying on your customers reading the list of transactions item by item. You might even consider representing dollar amounts with ‘coin stacks’ next to them representing relative amounts. This can turn your entire banking app into a visual ‘game-like’ experience where users won’t feel like they’re dealing with a lot of reading and numbers. A visually rewarding way to ‘tap-tap’ manage their money. The same way the would in a game.
Give Points for Smart Banking
But don’t stop at simply rounding the buttons and adding infographic-style pictograms of banking concepts. Remember that the true key to gamification is rewarding your users for doing what is good and discouraging them from making mistakes. Always start with rewards. We suggest creating some kind of arbitrary internal ‘points’ system that relates to account rewards you want your customers to earn. Like points for making deposits, deposit regularity, and for paying bills out of the bank account. Points for adding to savings, points for paying related credit card balance, and so on.
Decide what you’ll reward your customers for through the app, then what the rewards will be. Then create a very pleasing visual of those points stacking up toward a reward. Possibly even a treasure-chest of rewards to choose from when the time comes. This will make your customers feel great about making good financial decisions, thus encouraging them to make more in the future.
Give Negative Points for Unwise Banking
Finally, you may want to tackle the idea of giving negative points for unwise banking. In fact, negative points might be a good replacement for fees when it comes to small but telling mistakes in low-income accounts. For example, a customer’s first late fee might result in the loss of ‘good banking points’ which serves as a warning before any fine is levelled.
You may also want to separate your good and bad points entirely, allowing customers to rack up their good points while merely earning a ‘bad sticker’ for minor negative things. stickers that fade over time and disappear entirely if the customer solves the problem. In fact, making negative points solvable turns them into a game ‘quest’ instead of a punishment.
Have you been dealing with a literacy and financial trust resistance with underbanked populations? If so, gamifying banking into a fun mobile app is the key to breaking through that resistance. When young people realise that they can ‘play a banking game’ to increase their savings and credit scores, it will become nearly impossible to keep them from flipping open their phones to ‘check their balance’ and the number of bonus points they’ve earned for paying their bills on time.
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