Graciana Méndez
Graciana is a Senior Regional Consumer Insights Analyst for Latin America at Mintel. She is responsible for developing research plans, analyzing consumer and market data, writing research reports on how consumer trends are evolving in the region and presenting insights to clients.

In Colombia, telecom Tigo/UNE, in partnership with Grey Colombia agency, has turned around 13,000 old, unused payphones into a new micro-savings system. Accessible via users’ cell phones, the system allows those who earn less than $3.50 a day to save and protect their funds.

To operate the system, users need to visit a Tigo store to activate an account. This will allow them to deposit their earnings—which are mostly coins—into a savings account, doing so using the payphones. This account can be accessed from their mobile devices to pay utility bills and purchase public transportation tickets, or even for attaining microloans from stores to buy household appliances.

Look after your pennies

The Colombian market is slowly embracing cashless alternatives, with financial inclusion programs giving many citizens the opportunity to obtain at least one financial product. This is certainly a field that Colombians need to be educated in: according to a 2017 report published by the Republican Bank of Colombia, 97% of daily payments in the country are still made in cash.

As well as providing an inclusive tool for under-served groups, the rise of new payment alternatives has also been used as a means of strengthening local communities. This is the case with Payphone Bank in Colombia, as well as a new local cryptocurrency that is designed to support east London’s small businesses.

Furthermore, alternative digital payment methods are being developed to satisfy consumers’ needs for simpler and handier alternatives. Pharmacies across India are working to incorporate Paytm’s digital wallet to ensure faster and more convenient payments; the German government is due to release a single app that will allow smartphone payments aboard all public transportation; similarly, public transportation in Singapore can now be paid for with a wearable device; meanwhile, Finnair has become the first airline to offer Alipay on board for in-flight retail.

As communities learn to navigate the financial system via their own digital payment alternatives, businesses would do well to embrace this trend by adapting to these seamless times. By developing new technology which can accept payments from smart bracelets or smartphones, consumers will feel reassured in adopting digital payments as the most safe, secure and convenient system in the current market.

Graciana Méndez is Mintel’s Trends Analyst for the Latin America region. She has worked as a trendspotter and content writer for over 10 years, in companies like The Futures Company and JWT Intelligence. Having lived in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil, Graciana has a multicultural approach to consumer insights, as well as consumer and social trends.