10 Insights about VK and Telegram, or How We Researched Banking in Messengers

A year ago, we began to dive deeply into the topic of instant messengers and explore what and how users do there. As a result, we were the first in Russia to launch banking in VK, communicated a lot with respondents and created a sticky communication design. In the article we will tell you what interesting things we found out about instant messengers and behavior patterns.

Why did the bank go to VK and Telegram

We have been approaching messengers for a long time: with a children’s bank we made functionality so that parents could conveniently monitor finances. This story did not take off, but we have accumulated a knowledge base on Telegram.

At the beginning of 2022, notifications in iOS disappeared, and we again looked towards messengers. Constraints encourage creativity. We went to look for communication channels with the client in order to natively integrate into his lifestyle. Messenger banking, like all of our major releases, went through UX research at the Alfa Research Center.

We were on fire to adjust to the rhythm of the client and fit the bank into a new context. As a bonus, we solved a business problem: to reduce costs, since notifications are cheaper than SMS. We began to study the audience and figure out what attracts people to messengers. The designers have done a great job, choosing a visual language that will sink into the heart.

We conducted in-depth interviews, emotional response testing, quantitative surveys and diary studies. Here are some examples of what we have explored:

  • What notifications customers consider important and unimportant, what they want and don’t want to receive in push notifications and SMS.

  • Whether the client is ready to pay for banking notifications in the messenger.

  • Is there any potential in creating additional value for the user in the messenger.

At first we had an idea to start a subscription to notifications. When we rolled out the draft on Telegram, we realized that it lacked value. Studies have shown that the channel needs to be developed into something worthwhile, and only then add messages from the bank.

Later, Roskomnadzor banned all banks from collaborating with Telegram, so we collected our best practices and switched to VK. Let’s tell you how we looked at this site.

How we conducted Discovery about finance in messengers

Deep interviews about drivers and barriers in instant messengers became a storehouse of insights for us.

We communicated with users:

  • our bot Ding,

  • bots of other banks,

  • vk pay,

  • messengers inside bank applications.

Julia Dzynova

UX researcher

I asked them to remember the stories related to money that the respondents solved in the messenger. The most common response is to borrow money or remind them of a debt. Then I found out what applications they use: for example, the chairman of the parent committee makes lists with checkmarks to raise money. There were funny scenarios. Someone is discussing secrets in the bank’s messenger so that outsiders do not exactly find the correspondence. In the final, I showed the concept of our bank in the messenger and asked to share my impressions.

We learned that the audience is used to receiving personal, work information, brand announcements in the messenger. People are ready to bank in the messenger, as they see the advantages of solving all problems in a single window. They expect new features from the bot, but they don’t want it to become intrusive. The advantage of the bank in the messenger can be flow – faster than in the application.

Respondents would like to manage content and filter the type of notifications that come to the bot’s feed. They reacted positively to the design, reminiscent of a banking application.

The first place in terms of the frequency of expected functions was taken by translations, but the majority of respondents are wary of instant messengers. At the same time, there is a segment of early adopters in which curiosity, trust in the bank and awareness of two-factor protection outweigh the risks.

Our insights about messengers

Now let’s talk more about the findings of our research, benchmarking and experiments with design.

Insight 1. Restrictions are not always a bad thing.

We sawed the service for one platform for a long time, and finished another, but we made a top product, despite all the difficulties. Such a pivot is a completely normal topic for a startup.

Insight 2. The context of interaction changes on the new platform

We thought about reusing the developments from Telegram for VK. We quickly realized that the sites are completely different, and we need to re-invent the concept. The most obvious solution is to simply make a bank, but the messenger patterns are different from what a client is used to in a classic banking application. The audiences of VK and Telegram are very different, as well as the attitude towards the platforms and trust in them.

UX research helped to identify gaps in patterns and smooth them out. We figured out what the audience wants in VK, what they expect and do not expect from the bank in the messenger. We decided to go through a friendly feed and made financial services a nice addition.

Insight 3. Financial messengers are widespread not only in Asia

We have collected a trend-report on finances in messengers. The most famous example is China’s WeChat, but we’ve found that African banks on instant messengers are popular for some reason. While we “traveled” around the world in search of insight, we learned about different services. If you’re as interested in this topic as we are, take a look at Absa from South Africa, Zenith Intelligent Virtual Assistant from Nigeria, and Virtual Assistant from Equity Bank from Kenya.

Insight 4. Not everyone is ready for something serious with the bank in social networks

Some people are afraid to manage money in the messenger. We did not insist and offered to start with something simple – drawings, quizzes. They gently hinted that there are features right there nearby: for example, you can send money and pay for mobile communications.

Insight 5. It is possible and necessary to talk about security in the language of design

Some of the respondents experienced hacks in messengers, so they did not trust security. From the point of view of flow, we thought over where and what to highlight in the interface so that customers do not worry and understand that everything is under control.

Insight 6. It’s easier to communicate from a character than from a brand.

At first, we took the main logo and sent notifications from Alfa-Bank – we didn’t get easy communication, which is familiar in instant messengers. In addition, we had bank channels that are called the same as the bot – and this is an extra cognitive load. In the second iteration, the bot got a face, or rather, the muzzle of the cat Ding. The image is pleasant, memorable, and it retains the identity of Alpha, inspiring confidence. We came up with a cat before, and it was logical to transfer this image to messengers.

Ekaterina Khoshabova

Head of UX Editorial

When developing Tone of Voice for the cat Tink, we had to find a balance between the bright character of the character and understandable service. The cat does not “meow” in important functions: in translations and settings, but becomes brighter on game screens, for example, in the referral program. The ring is already recognizable, it binds the user to itself, creates a wow effect that distinguishes us from other bots.

Insight 7. Stickers are still on the wave

At the start, we gave users stickers to give them an incentive to do something and delve into the product.

The process of creating stickers looked like this

The process of creating stickers looked like this

We are more used to 3D models, and we wanted to make “voluminous” figurines, like on other bank layouts. As a result, they nevertheless released flat ones, but super-beautiful ones, for which you can sell your soul. A couple of times technical support was covered with a wave of requests if stickers suddenly did not come to users.

Insight 8. Giving money in the messenger is not so popular

We peeped Hao Bam’s digital envelopes from AliPay and WeChat. We thought sending money as a gift would be a killer feature. Interviews with users showed that we have professional deformation, and this is not a trend. We still launched the “Red Envelope” from Alpha. We will draw attention to him by playing money from the bank with a bonus to the amount of the sender.

Insight 9. Notification texts in push notifications should be different from SMS

We made fine adjustments to texts and styles. As a result, we added emojis and catchy features to VK notifications, rewrote the texts from Latin to Cyrillic, and it turned out even shorter than in SMS. They left the most important thing: the user still understands which card the money was debited from, how much and for what.

Insight 10. A big project will not take place without a collaboration

We realized how important it is to bring together research, marketing packaging, text, design, and interact with the developers of a new platform for us. Every detail is reflected in the final product – you take something away, and everything falls apart.

Vladimir Yastrebkov

Customer Journey Owner

1.9 million customers have joined our bot Ding in VK, 260 thousand receive transaction notifications. 100 thousand unique users log into the bot every day. Every day, 60% of users check their balance. Banking transactions make 20%. The most popular functions are spending cashback, transferring by phone number and requesting details.

Conclusion

We now know how many researchers it takes to explore a new customer touchpoint and turn on the light bulb. Our answer is five, although there used to be one UX researcher working on the same product at Alpha.

Messengers have become Alfa Research Center’s largest project in terms of budget and number of studies in 2022. This is a big team, large-scale Discovery research and a cool result. If you are an Alpha client, try VK banking, you will like it.

Share in the comments which insight seemed the most interesting and what else you would like to know about the launch in messengers.

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