Design Research Best Practices for Financial Products

Created February 29, 2020 The Business Value of Design

Today’s financial institution has arguably seen more change than any other industry. 

The evolution and entry of sophisticated technology has made this century old industry to tighten up ship, step up and innovate or die. 

In Africa, this fact rings so true as it seems new FinTechs emerge every other week. 

The market makes their entry even more exciting, as companies that are customer-centric in their approach and delivery of services threaten more established Financial companies and engage more of the masses. A lot of whom are millennials, the demographic seeking somewhat ‘untraditional’ products that serve their aspirations and lifestyles. 

How then do companies compete, in these treacherous times and contexts? How does a behemoth company that has been around for a 100 years stoop down to the streets, villages, homes, schools and markets to truly hear what the masses are saying and satisfy them?

Enter Design Research.

The Financial industry understands research incredibly well, Market research that is. Understanding the market’s needs by way of numbers, data, statistics. Surveys, focus groups, interviews and more. With these valuable tools, companies have been able to release products into markets. As the age of digital dawned, they followed suit, entering the market with their mobile apps, USSD and more. 

So then why are onboarding rates low? And why haven’t all the huge banks and financial organizations been able to tap into the 50 million plus market?

I heard someone say, in Financial services, it's not about the money, it's about humans, the people, their lives, aspirations, goals. It’s about their relationship with money, their mindset towards it, how they spend it,  how they manage it. 

... in Financial services, it's not about the money, it's about humans, the people, their lives, aspirations, goals. It’s about their relationship with money, their mindset towards it, how they spend it,  how they manage it.

 

Perhaps it’s time the Financial Industry looks at things from this perspective? Perhaps it's time to build financial products from the angle of the humans who actually use it, than the business goals of the entity. Don’t get me wrong, business goals are incredibly important, however, as the saying goes, ‘if it ain't broke, why fix it?’, in the same vein, if something’s not working, it wouldn’t hurt to try to solve it from another angle would it?

Design Research is a celebrated and proven method of discovering customer needs leading to ‘aha moments,’ or what we call insights. These insights lead to the creation of great and profitable end solutions. 

Design Research drives the creation of innovative products in whatever context it is used, and will do no less when it comes to creating and introducing Financial products to the market.

It’s commonly known that when Banks work to introduce new products into the market, they tend to ignore the voice of the actual people who buy those solutions. Though this is changing, many of current financial products on the market clearly show the voice of the most important entity was not heard in the building of these products.

When an organization is planning on introducing a new product to market, or trying to improve on existing products or even if there’s just an idea that a potential product might be successful, the next step to take is to actually hear what the market has to say.

Design Research helps find out customers’ behaviours, their deep-seated needs, goals, aspirations, emotional drivers and lifestyle patterns. It seeks to answer why people do the things they do, what influences them. It studies the environment people live, work and relate in, the culture they exist in and how those factors influence their decisions. In doing this, you’re not only putting the customer at the center of your financial solution, you’re building a solution that fits them like a glove. You’re building a financial solution that serves them, one that they understand and buy into, because in a way, you got information and insights right from them, and they helped build it.

Beyond even building with users, Design Research helps you discover their latent needs, that is, needs they might not have even discovered yet.

Someone said what made Steve Jobs such a huge success is that he saw people’s needs before they even discovered they needed it themselves. This is one of the ways Design Research can serve digital, product teams at financial institutions who are seeking to build successful financial products.

Someone said what made Steve Jobs such a huge success is that he saw people’s needs before they even discovered they needed it themselves.

Perhaps it’s time the Financial Industry looks at things from this perspective? Perhaps it's time to build financial products from the angle of the humans who actually use it, who's needs are met through those solutions.

So how do you get started, especially if you’ve never done Design Research before:

Have a plan:

Just as market researchers, or even researchers in academia will tell you, before you engage in research, you must determine a scope, a goal, essentially what you expect to achieve at the end of the activity. This then helps you map out a plan, the plan should include all the questions you need validated, all the activities you need to engage in, and the people you need to test with, that will lead you to accomplishing the goal you set at the onset. 

Put people at the center:

Never forget, you’re building for people. You’re trying to solve a problem they’re facing, trying to create value for them. During the course of the study, you may feel overwhelmed, between the tasks at hand, difficulty in logistics, or what we researchers like to call the ' fuzzy front-end’ of the research process, where so much data is coming your way, it's chaotic. However, through it all, remember your goal, and the center of your work-the user. 

Collaborate as much as possible:

Once, we were carrying out Design Research for a financial organisation. It didn't take us long to figure out that we needed to take the team along the process as we carried it out, step-by-step educating them as we went through it. Collaboration is one of design’s ammunitions, and when working with entities who don’t know the design process so much, it is important to walk them along the process as you go through, that way, when you bring the final recommendation or results to them, there are no surprises. Also, collborating brings people who know the most about the industry and the service to the table, they can inform you with expert information as you go.

 

Actually use the data you get

With Design Research, the amount of information you get will almost certainly overwhelm you, the beauty of the process is that it will help you unearth loads of information, designers put these information up on what we call 'war walls'. Information may be post-its loaded with things we observed, photos, quotes that stood out, processes we noticed and the list goes on. Translating this data to actionable steps is probably the most important part of the Design Research process. For the sake of this article, the research is to help build better products. So if building or improving on a product you and your team are building, it's important to translate the insights gotten during research into elements, features, call-to-actions (CTAs) and other necessary features within the product. This is to ensure your product speaks to (and meets) the needs of the people you researched and are designing for. A great example of this is Duolingo, the world's number one language app, this company rose to the number 1 spot mainly due to the success of the product they built. Duolingo is known to constantly test their products and use their learnings to iterate on the product. It didn't take long to rise to the top of their industry, beating out long time topper Rosetta Stone. 

Is your product team preparing to launch a product into the market? Ask yourself, how well do we know this target customer, how well do we know the needs that are a thorn in their flesh? If you answer 'not very well' to these. Get to Design Researching fast. Do not enter the market without doing due diligence in the area of knowing who you're designing for and selling to.

  • DODO admin

    Susan

    CEO DODO DESIGN AGENCY

    Susan is an avid lover of design. When she’s not working, you can find her reading, eating or admiring anything that’s a combination of aesthetics and functionality done right.

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