Applied Product Innovation

"Don't assume you know what customers want. You need to genuinely ask them."

Many branchless banking services struggle with low activity rates. 172 branchless banking implementations have launched since 2007, but CGAP estimates that less than 20 of those have reached 200,000 active users. CGAP's work in applied product innovation aims to understand how customer-centric design methodologies can be tailored to branchless banking in order to create better financial service offerings for the poor.  

In customer-centric design, insights are first gleaned through careful listening and observation of users in their own environment. Rapid prototyping and real world tests with users are then used to quickly (in)validate early designs and iteratively improve the final solution. 

Speaking "people speak" instead of "finance speak" is essential when talking to customers, just as communicating an offering or product in a "foreign" language would be counterproductive. This is just of one of many lessons CGAP learned from three Applied Product Innovation (API) projects in Brazil, Mexico, and Uganda after collaborating with large commercial banks - Bradesco and Bancomer - design firms - IDEO, and Grameen Foundation AppLab - and a mobile provider - MTN Uganda. Each of these projects is detailed below.

Some product concepts and features developed during these projects were not chosen by providers or design partners for commercial launch. Even though they were not selected in the initial geographies for varied reasons, we think they may work, or serve as inspiration, elsewhere. For this reason, the full inventory of alternative concepts developed in MexicoBrazil and Uganda is now available to everyone.

API - Better Insights for Better Products


CGAP’s first Applied Product Innovation project in Uganda was a product incubation lab developed by Grameen Foundation called AppLab Money that was housed in MTN Uganda. Grameen Foundation’s AppLab used a wide range of in-depth research techniques as well as rapid product testing to develop products that extended beyond MTN’s basic mobile wallet.

Read more about the Uganda project
See the full list of product concepts for Uganda


A box of Mexican money

In Mexico, CGAP partnered with Bancomer, the largest commercial bank in the country. Bancomer was interested in learning about new approaches to product development in the hope that an innovative branchless banking product could help activate the low-income population in Mexico.

Read more about the Mexico project
See the full list of product concepts for Mexico


In Brazil, CGAP partnered with Bradesco, the second largest commercial bank in Brazil. Bradesco was well into the design of a prepaid mobile wallet product, but sought the assistance of IDEO and CGAP to build upon and improve it in order to introduce the first truly innovative mobile wallet in the country.

Read more about the Brazil project
See the full list of product concepts for Brazil