Seventy percent of Pakistan’s population uses a smartphone and as of 2018, 22.2% of them use the internet on their mobile devices (source: Internet World Stats, 2018). The percentage of internet users on mobile devices has risen by almost 10% in one year to 31% in February 2019 (source: PTA, 2019). To take advantage of this trend, most major Pakistani banks have been rolling out digital banking apps in the last two years. However, a major bank that was late in catching up with this wave of digitisation was National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), which finally launched their full-fledged digital banking services in August last year, but only recently released an advertising campaign to promote their app and debit card.
The reason why NBP has been late to the table in terms of digital products is due to the fact that their customer base is so widespread and therefore, aligning and updating all their data was no small task. NBP’s customer base ranges between three and four million and reaches out to the remotest areas of the country, and for any digital product, it is essential to have a verified mobile number, an email ID and an ATM card. NBP customer records date back to the 70s and many of those did not have a verified mobile number or email ID. In fact, for many people living in remote areas, the internet and smartphones are still luxuries. Therefore, trying to collect this data was a massive undertaking, which involved reorganising their call centres, training staff and hiring digitally-skilled resources. Furthermore, support teams had to be organised in terms of product development, operations and complaint resolution to provide effective customer service and support for digital operations.
Speaking about the challenges of going digital, Ali Ahmed Zaib, Assistant VP, Strategic Marketing Division, NBP, says that “we also had to test all our products to avoid customers facing hassles in the form of security concerns, hidden charges, downtime in app performance or any other inconvenience.”
The objective was to provide convenience from pricing to delivery; all the product features and accompanying charges were explicitly stated and the process made straightforward in order to accommodate all customers, regardless of their digital literacy level.
Zaib adds that “although our digital app was ready a year and a half ago, the backend support systems had to be brought up to par. Please bear in mind that our app does not target a small, elite or literate segment of the market; it is a mass-level product.”
Given that all banks have a mobile banking app with the same features, the focus was not to highlight the features but to focus on our infrastructure and resource capacity in terms of providing the same level of service from Khunjrab to Gwadar. Furthermore, since digital is about convenience, we wanted to further the idea of inclusion. The goal is to attract marginalised customers into the mainstream by communicating the idea that with the NBP app, a housewife in Gujranwala has access to digital solutions in terms of paying her bills and receiving money transfers, all from the comfort of her home.
The campaign features a woman travelling in a rickshaw in Faisalabad using her NBP digital app to make her payment – and this is the level of access NBP hopes to guarantee their customers. Zaib believes that “if a digital app offers convenience and solutions, then it should be available to every single one of our customers. We are a bank that caters to all our customers. We don’t serve a particular type of customer; we are the nation’s bank.” He adds that NBP has branches in areas that may not be commercially viable, but will remain in operation so long as there are people living there who have banking needs.
According to Asif Manzoor, Account Director, Spectrum VMLY&R (NBP’s creative agency), “the objective of the campaign was to capitalise on the perception that NBP is a bank that serves everyone and the ad targets people across the spectrum; the working class, business class, youngsters and the housewives.”
Discussing the campaign, Zaib says that given that all banks have a mobile banking app with the same features, the focus was not to highlight the features but to focus on our infrastructure and resource capacity in terms of providing the same level of service from Khunjrab to Gwadar. Furthermore, since digital is about convenience, we wanted to further the idea of inclusion. The goal is to attract marginalised customers into the mainstream by communicating the idea that with the NBP app, a housewife in Gujranwala has access to digital solutions in terms of paying her bills and receiving money transfers, all from the comfort of her home.
A major challenge was breaking the stereotype that a government organisation such as NBP has a laid-back, conservative and lethargic approach. The campaign puts the emphasis on the progressive, modern aspect of the bank, communicating that we are an efficiently-run, commercial organisation.”
Since August 2018, more than 100,000 customers have downloaded the app and activated their cards and according to Zaib, every month has brought an increment of 25,000 to 30,000 customers activating the card, which he says went beyond their expectations.