Last week, Zenith Bank Ghana launched a one year campaign aimed at enhancing awareness of its digital products and services offering. This, the bank explains, aims to both promote its own product and service portfolio in particular, and on a wider level, promote digital financial services in general as a way of supporting government’s cash-light economy agenda.
Interestingly, the Bank of Ghana claims that the general lack of awareness of the digital banking products and services on offer by the various commercial banks in Ghana is the biggest challenge it is facing in transforming the Ghanaian economy from a cash driven one to a digital payments driven one.
To be sure, mobile money is enjoying spectacular success and consequently is growing at a dramatic pace. But none of the over 40 digital banking products approved so far by the BoG is enjoying anywhere near that level of popularity despite the obvious, huge benefits that they offer to the banks themselves, their customers and indeed the economy as a whole.
This can be traced directly to a lack of awareness of those products, their benefits and just how easily they can be accessed and used. Banks tend to launch their new digital products and services with lots of fanfare but for just a short period of time after which they go silent, expecting the patronage of those products and services to grow organically all by themselves.
Unfortunately, this cannot happen. The shift from cash- based banking to digital banking is far more profound than a shift from the use of a cash driven product to an enhanced and upgraded version of the same. It requires a fundamental change in the thinking and consequent behavior of the customer from what he or she has been used to from birth. Thus while the youngest generation can easily embrace digital banking, the older generations find the transformation far more difficult to embrace.
This is why the banks, armed with the financial wherewithal to deploy huge advertising budgets have to do more of it, regarding such expenditure as a lever towards dramatically improved operational efficiency and consequent profitability rather than as an unwanted but unavoidable cost incurred to keep up with the competition. The cost of doubling or tripling the intensity of their publicity campaigns with respect to digital banking is far smaller than the potential profitability increases made possible by the widespread embrace of digital banking by the general public.
An alternative strategy would be to combine forces, perhaps under the umbrella of the Ghana Association of Bankers, to fund an intense and widespread public enlightenment campaign, sustained over a long period of time, until the objective of mainstreaming digital banking is fully achieved. This makes sense because despite the branding of each and every digital banking product, most of them are in actual fact, generic in structure. Thus one public enlightenment campaign would benefit all its participants, the extent of those benefits to each dependent simply on the strength of the bank brand as a whole.
Without either – or preferably both – of the two aforementioned initiatives though, digital banking, for all its benefits would remain largely unfulfilled potential; all stakeholders would lose collectively.