As part of our user research, members of the DingConnect team visited Paris in late 2018 to see the platform in action. DingConnect Product Owner, Frank Whelan, tells us about the experience.
Paris is the perfect place to see DingConnect in action, a city buzzing with life and home to many different immigrant communities. With such diversity within walking distance, Paris is a dream for user research, where a shop specialising in international top-up to West Africa might sit right next to a near identical shop whose main income is from French domestic top-up.
The French market is an interesting one for DingConnect. For starters, it is heavily focused on PIN products, whereas the majority of our users favour direct top-up. Another interesting aspect of the market is the amount of partners that sell a large quantity of domestic top-up, where Ding has always had international top-up at its heart.
Because of the differences mentioned above, 2018 was a year of learning and adaption. We realised we had an industry-leading platform for direct international top-up, but there were areas we could improve when it came to the way we sold PIN products. Likewise, our system made selling international top-up (and all the complexities that come with it) seem simple, but the French domestic market needed some streamlining to our approach.
During the summer, on a previous research trip, members of the team spoke with French partners, heard their complaints and learnt about their problems. A lot of improvements had been made since the summer and this latest trip was intended to see how things had changed (and to look for the next set of improvements.)
As a team, we were armed with a number of questions, but we knew the greatest value would come from just chatting to the shop owners and seeing them at work.
The Ding team in France have worked hard to develop a good relationship with our partners, so Johary Rabesetra, Commercial Manager of France, was greeted warmly in each shop and was able to give our team a good introduction.
The first thing we noticed was the friendliness and willingness to talk. Each shop owner gladly invited us behind their counter to see DingConnect in action. They gave us their attention and shared their thoughts on the platform. Many offered snacks or drinks, which, during a full day of walking around the streets of Paris, were welcomed.
Though the shop keepers were happy to talk to us, they weren’t without criticism of DingConnect. Our PIN purchase flow was longer than some competitors and our receipts weren’t well optimised for PINs. Both criticisms we took on board and we are now in the process of improving both (we might even have the solutions released by the time this is published!)
Other criticisms were about old problems that we had actually already solved… but the partners didn’t realise. This was another big learning from our trip to Paris, we were fixing our partners’ problems, but we weren’t doing a good job when it came to letting them know. Thankfully, we were able to show improvements to shop owners and solve most of their problems there and then. We made a note that better communications was a priority (and this blog is part of that, as well as some cool new communication features coming to DingConnect soon.)
One thing we regularly noticed was the difference between what the partners viewed as their biggest markets and what markets were actually their biggest sellers. For example, a partner may have considered top-up to Ghana to be his biggest seller, but the truth was he made more money selling top-up to Bangladesh. This hinted that we had the opportunity to help our partners by doing a better job at providing insights into their business (again, we’re in the process of working on new features to tackle this.)
As we walked from shop to shop, it became clear that DingConnect was used in many different situations. There were the dedicated top-up and remittance shops, whose main business was money transfer and international top-up. Then there were phone and tech shops, which could fix a customer’s phone as well as selling them top-up for it. Similar to the tech shops, we found DingConnect was a popular add-on in internet cafes or printing shops, where customers could come to print forms, surf the web and top-up in the one visit. Finally, we visited many shops that were truly multipurpose, with a small top-up stand established in the corner of a hairdressing shop or food store. It paid testament to the ease and flexibility of DingConnect that all it really took to operate was a laptop and an internet connection.
The overall impression we got from the partners we met in Paris was one of progress being made. They were happy that we had improved the platform since the summer and though there were a number of recommendations, there was no single issue that burned brightest. As a team, it was satisfying to see the change that only a few months could make, while also knowing that the trip had armed us with a list of changes to make DingConnect even better.
And so, after two full days of walking around the streets of Paris, talking to as many partners as we could, we were left with a good sense of progress. To finish our trip, and to sample some of the postcard Paris, we took a stroll up to Sacré-Cœur Basilica for a view and an ice-cream before flying back to Dublin.