Lourdes is a hardworking and passionate costume designer based in La Paz, Bolivia. She loves her country’s rich culture and has dedicated her time to designing and sewing traditional folk dance dresses to sell in local markets. She started her business with her father at the age of 21 and took out her first loan with BancoSol that year. They started with $500, which was just enough to purchase one sewing machine and some fabric. Seven years later, that one sewing machine has multiplied into several sewing machines, and beautiful glittering dresses and fabrics hang from all corners of her shop. Her dream is to expand her business beyond La Paz, weaving in design inspiration from Bolivia’s multitude of diverse cultures. “I would love to travel to indigenous communities, learn their local languages and customs, and adopt their ways of life into the designs of my dresses – I want their voices to be heard too,” says Lourdes.
Despite the moderate growth her business has experienced over the years, Lourdes feels far from pursuing her dreams because of financial constraints that keep her from building her savings. She immediately spends any income she earns on her business or her family. When asked about whether she’d consider opening a savings account, she explained: “It’s hard to part with your hard-earned money and watch it sit idly in an account collecting dust. I want my money to work hard the way I do.”
Lourdes isn’t unique in her mindset. This sentiment – making money “work for me” – is shared by many people who prioritize the value of small investment opportunities where their money grows over time. Savings is usually a harder sell, and according to the Global Findex, only 21 percent of adults in developing countries save with formal financial institutions.
Saving is integral to building financial resilience
Successfully encouraging positive savings behavior is an uphill battle for financial service providers around the globe. Many microbusiness owners like Lourdes have a clear vision of what they would like to save for and exactly how much it would cost, but most struggle with the discipline and commitment to deposit regularly into formal savings accounts. Those who do manage to save often prefer to save informally, either by saving cash at home or using informal savings schemes that frequently charge a premium for their services. Not only are these options more costly and less secure, having the funds close by makes it easier to spend the money quickly rather than allow it to grow.
Building the financial health and resilience of MSMEs is at the forefront of Accion and BancoSol’s mission. People need savings and other stable assets to overcome moments of crisis, endure shocks, and support their businesses and families. The COVID-19 pandemic and its social distancing measures have exacerbated the financial hurdles many small businesses face and has forced microfinance organizations to take a digital-first approach to serving their customers.
Making saving fun through gamification
BancoSol knew that they needed to find a way to make savings attractive and get people to see the tangible benefits of every deposit they make. But how?
They designed GanaSol, a digital gamification platform that allows customers to earn prizes and rewards whenever they perform key tasks such as using digital channels to manage their bank accounts, depositing cash regularly, and retaining a certain monthly balance. GanaSol, adapted from the Spanish verb ganar or “to win”, utilizes chance-based games like “spin-the-wheel” because these games foster a feeling of productivity as users earn prizes every time they play. Customers can access GanaSol directly from the institution’s mobile banking application, AppSol 3.0, further encouraging the use of BancoSol’s digital channels. This app will bring Bolivia’s microentrepreneurs an attractive solution to invest in their savings.
Customers can access GanaSol directly from the institution’s mobile banking application, AppSol 3.0, further encouraging the use of BancoSol’s digital channels. This app will bring Bolivia’s microentrepreneurs an attractive solution to invest in their savings.
This new platform was launched through BancoSol’s innovation hub, a space for the bank to develop innovative digital financial products and services that better serve microentrepreneurs. The conception and design of the product was guided by in-depth customer interviews, rounds of ideation, and prototype testing. To develop the platform, BancoSol partnered with Flourish Savings, a US-based digital gamification vendor that provides engagement solutions to boost savings and loyalty. BancoSol also conducted a virtual “datathon” in conjunction with Accion and Mastercard, to leverage the bank’s wealth of data to gain tremendous insight into encouraging digital behaviors, improving engagement with financial products, and creating long-lasting relationships with their customers.
Over 10 percent of BancoSol’s mobile banking customers have already started using GanaSol since its launch at the end of March. The new app received more than 3,400 active users in the first week alone.
“GanaSol not only allows the customer to win cash prizes, but also to build healthy financial habits in their daily transactions and interactions with the bank. The application was designed with the customer in mind, taking into account their preference for digital touchpoints with the bank to be more interactive, convenient, and rewarding.” – Alejandro Camargo, Head of Innovation and Transformation, BancoSol
While the initial iteration of GanaSol focuses solely on developing savings habits, BancoSol can easily adapt the app in the future according to it’s strategic needs. For example, the gamification concept could be used to engage customers in a more cost-effective and convenient way, incentivize the use of new or improved products and services, and optimize portfolio health. For customers, partaking in GanaSol’s activities rewards them prizes while also building positive habits and financial resilience. GanaSol and BancoSol’s innovation hub were developed with advisory services provided by Accion through a global partnership between Accion and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.
Micro-merchants are the driving force behind the Bolivian economy, powering its labor force and stimulating the country’s productivity. By continuing to serve merchants through a customer-centric lens, BancoSol’s relationship with its customers transcends beyond financial service provider. BancoSol is their trusted partner and a key contributor to their growth and success. With GanaSol, microentrepreneurs like Lourdes can use digital financial services in a convenient, secure, and rewarding way that enables them to build financial resilience for the future.