Improving women's access to digital financial services in Nigeria

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Improving women's access to digital financial services in Nigeria

July 2016 - June 2017


Busara partnered with a global non-profit organization, a bank and a mobile network operator in Nigeria to execute a project that would enable them to build an understanding of what it takes to make Digital Financial Services (DFS) work for women and to become a demonstration model for successful DFS initiatives globally. Busara developed a research methodology and a set of interventions to be implemented and tested on engagement strategies through SMS-based messaging with the aim of increasing account funding and usage, particularly among women.

Behavioral Insights

Digital savings was a relatively new concept in Nigeria, leading to a great deal of exploratory work unpacking issues of risk and identity among prospective consumers.  The engagement ultimately focused on addressing three behavioral challenges to adoption and usage:  

Sticky Defaults and Old Habits -- Administrative data analysis revealed that the primary use case of the mobile money account was airtime top-up. However, this was not a compelling use case to many customers who were already used to topping up with cash.

Lack of Salience -- Registering for the account only requires dialing a short code and there is limited support during onboarding. This limits the first impression people have with the product and hence their perception of the product’s relevance and value

Distrust -- Fear of costs, network downtime, failed transactions and the technology itself limited usage and uptake.

Women's World Banking
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Behavioral Diagnosis
Customer Journey Mapping
Intervention Design
Behavioral Analytics
Embedded Testing

James Vancel
Clara Zeller
Gideon Too
Sarah Swanson
Mark Millrine


Busara partnered with Women's World Banking and ideas42 to answer the following questions:

  • What are behavioral barriers and “sticking points” to product adoption, and which use cases are most likely to drive product interest and uptake amongst women?

  • What are best practices, including SMS-based communications, in DFS? How can SMS-based messaging drive uptake and usage of DFS amongst women? What are ideal use cases to promote?

  • How can we leverage big data analytics to inform a behavioral segmentation strategy for the product and monitor overall product performance when it comes to increasing women’s access to DFS?

Busara followed a four stage approach to answering these questions: diagnosing the primary behavioral challenges, design solutions for scale, and then testing and iterating on ideas within the financial provider.

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Individual experiments demonstrated the effect of targeted SMS messaging on savings and mobile money activity (threshold savings driving a 45% increase in deposits), but the primary learning was in how best to deploy and implement rapid testing within big data systems. 

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