Designing a seamless payment experience that builds trust.

Case study

Adil Siddiqui
Jan 7 · 13 min read

OVERVIEW

Simpl offers a seamless payment experience that enables merchants build trust with their customers by allowing them to place multiple orders over a period of time and pay one consolidated bill. Just like your neighbourhood kirana store. Thereby making credit more accessible and useful.

ROLE

  1. Product design lead.
  2. Conceptualising and designing the product from scratch.
  3. Research, User testing, UI Design, Prototyping.

RESULT

New user transaction flow
  1. Launched the product in 8 months.
  2. A new experience of making online payment was introduced in India.
  3. Simpl made credit easily accessible.
  4. Grew from processing 0 to 1 million daily transactions on 40+ merchants in 3 years.

RESEARCH

At Simpl we didn’t want to build something that will just be an improvement to the current payment experience. We wanted to reimagine the whole experience.

For that I did tons of market research and interviewed users from different background. These included people who were tech savvy and who were not.

There are 800 Million bank accounts in India. Only 30% of them pay online. The rest of the 70% prefer paying via cash on delivery. From the 30% who do pay online, face 40–45% of payment failures.

The payment infrastructure in India lacks user’s trust because of which complexities are added to a user’s experience to make a payment. Resulting in a overall bad experience.

Current payment options

Debit Cards
To pay online using a debit card, the user has to enter the card details and then do a second layer of authentication via a unique pin or an OTP(One time password).

Credit Cards
Paying with credit card is exactly similar to debit card. The only difference here is that the user is using his credit balance to pay.

Net banking
To pay using net banking, the user has to login to the bank website and then do a second layer of authentication incase of higher amounts.

Wallets
To transact using wallet, the user has to first add money to their wallet by using their debit/credit card or net banking. Once money is added to the wallet, payment can be done instantly.

UPI — Unified Payment Interface
To transact using UPI, the user has to do a one time linking of their bank account to their UPI app. Once the bank is linked, the user just needs to enter their unique pin to make payments.

Cash on Delivery
The user choosing to pay via COD(Cash on delivery) pays the amount in cash to the delivery agent.

Merchant’s payment problems

High failure rates
Between 40–45% of online transactions fails.

Complicated refunds and cancelations
Processing refunds and cancelations takes around a week. Customer’s hardly have any transparency.

COD is a added logistics cost
Cash on delivery is a logistics cost which get’s higher than the already increasing MDR.

User’s payment problems

Time consuming
Paying with Debit/Credit cards is time consuming because of the 2 factor authentication. Net banking is the same. Wallet’s need recharging. UPI is the fastest of them all but still not fast enough.

Security
People are afraid to give any of their bank/card details because of potential fraud. Adding to the complexities that they have to go every time they have to make a payment.

Monotonous
Entering the same card details or the same authentication details is monotonous. User’s desire a seamless and smarter experience.

Payment failures
User’s are also at the receiving end of the 40–45% of payment failure rates.

Refunds and cancelations
User’s have limited transparency on how refunds and cancelations are handled. It takes 7 days on average for users to get their refunds.

GOAL

Design a payment experience that is smart, delightful and seamless. Frictionless with no failures. Transparent enough to make user’s feel safe. Convenient as cash on delivery.

A customer is not looking to make a payment. Paying is just a means to complete his primary objective

SOLUTION

It’s an illusion to think that you can get something right the first time.
That’s why we targeted to build an MVP as quickly as possible.

“Ship early and ship often”

Our primary goal was to design an experience that is super easy to use, quick and smart. Since that is what the market was lacking.

We took the neighbourhood kirana store analogy.

A user visits a store gets whatever he wants and tells the store manager to add the total amount to his bill (khata). The user does this every time he wants something and simply pays the total bill once a month.

See how seamless this is? We wanted to bring this offline experience into digital world.

Imagine you can do that at any online store. Go to any store buy whatever you need and the order amount gets added to your bill which you’ve to pay once a month.


To deliver that experience we had to first underwrite users to determine their credit eligibility. This made Simpl fundamentally a credit lending product.

In any credit product, there are 3 major aspects.

First — when the user gives his personal and/or financial details to determine his credit eligibility.

Second — when a user uses the credit for his purchases.

Third — when the user pays back the credit.

For determining the credit eligibility, we didn’t want to ask users for their information like how every other credit lending company does. Instead, we worked closely with merchants and relied on merchants data to help us identify which users we should approve and how much credit should be given to them. We even wanted to make the process of using the credit and paying back the credit also simple.

To envision how everything will work in practice, we listed down questions and then worked on designing solutions for it.

Where can a user discover Simpl?

A: When a user is about to make a payment on merchants app, that’s where a user would discover Simpl.

For example, this is the payment page of BookMyShow. This is where Simpl will come as one of the option to pay.

BookMyShow payment screen

How are we going to onboard users?

A: When a user chooses Simpl while paying for their order, that’s where we have to onboard users. That’s when a user enters into our ‘Onboarding flow’.

Since we will be Onboarding our users on merchants platform, we have to make sure that the Onboarding flow is short and doesn’t add to the user’s complexity of placing an order.

To Onboard users we designed 3 screens.

1. Intro Screen — Educate
Intro screen explains what Simpl offers.

2. Verification Screen — Authenticate
Verification screen verifies the user’s device by sending an OTP to user’s mobile number which is registered with the merchant.

3. Confirmation Screen — Confirm
The confirmation screen shows the amount which he is about to transact for.

The very first version of Onboarding flow

How will a repeat user’s flow look like?

Once a user completes his first transaction using Simpl, from next time onwards when he uses Simpl he’ll only see a confirmation screen.

When are we going to collect back from users?

A: For MVP we decided to have predefined 15 days billing cycle. Which means Simpl bill will get generated on 1st and 16th of every month.

Once the bill is generated, an SMS & email is sent to the users reminding them to pay their Simpl bill. Users get 10 days from the date of bill generation to settle their Simpl bill.

Obviously, we wanted to give users flexible and longer billing cycles, but that added a lot of complication in the product which was not viable for the launch.

How are we going to convince merchants to integrate Simpl?

A: For the Simpl payment option to be present on merchants app, firstly, the merchants have to agree to integrate Simpl on their platform.

Obviously, we had no users and therefore no numbers that we can rely on to sell it to merchants. Simpl being different from regular payment methods it was even difficult explaining to merchants how Simpl functions and what benefits that they can get from it.

To aid the selling process, we created prototypes(using Marvel) of how a user flow will look like on merchant’s app when a user chooses to pay using Simpl.

This helped merchants to envision how Simpl can work on their platform and ways it can benefit their users.

For example, below is a marvel prototype that we created for Grofers to showcase how Simpl can let their users place an order from the order details page itself instead of going to the payment page.

We all know COD (Cash on Delivery) is a problem in India. A couple of reasons why a user prefers COD is because it’s convenient, quick and also users want to pay for goods only after they’ve received them.

Simpl covers these aspects. With Simpl placing an order is super quick and convenient. And since the user has to pay for their order at a later date, more often than not that means paying after he has received it.

So we also created a flow where when a user goes on to choose COD as their payment mode we prompt them to use Simpl.

This way the merchants can convert COD customers into online paying customers, thereby reducing their operating costs. And customers get the benefits of COD.

We created these prototypes for every merchant to help convince them and move things faster.

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Tweet to merchants
(Although we built this feature after the launch, I’m mentioning it here.)

To further convince merchants, we built a feature inside our Simpl app where users can tweet to their favorite merchant asking them to integrate Simpl. Utilising the power of social media. ;)

Tweet to merchant GIF

To our surprise, this feature has become a big success, as we see many of our users regularly tweeting to merchants.

LAUNCH

Faasos was the first merchant that agreed to integrate Simpl into their system. At that time, although our product was decently functional we hadn’t covered all aspects of the entire product experience.

Knowing that, we also didn’t want to miss the opportunity to go live on our first merchant as soon as possible.
And what’s better than testing your product with real users?

So we buried our illusion of making everything perfect and went live with Faasos.

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”- Reid Hoffman

Faasos + Simpl flow GIF

Faasos positioned Simpl as a service which is exclusive to their loyal users. They called it ‘Faasos Elite’. This way Faasos created a loyalty program powered by Simpl and offered special service to their Elite users, resulting in customers stickiness and retention.

This was a perfect start for Simpl and time for celebrations 🎉

Simpl team. After launch.

MAKING SIMPL EVEN SIMPLER

In the next few months, we went live on 10+ merchants and got 10,000+ active users. Having these many active users was ideal for us to test how the product is performing and how we can make it better.

Below are some of the many problems that we faced after the launch. And -what we did to rectify it.

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Problem:
Only 55% of users are completing the Onboarding. 45% users are dropping off.

Our Onboarding flow had 3 screens(showed earlier). Intro, Validate and Confirm. There was approximately 45% drop off on the Intro screen. 20% drop off on the Validate screen. 12% drop off on the Confirm screen.

So clearly we had to do something on the Intro screen first, which had the maximum drop off.

What we did:
Initially, we changed the copy of the intro screen and did A/B testing. The idea was to try few different approach on how we communicate about Simpl and see which performs better. Below are some of the different screens that we tested, with different copy and subtle design tweaks.

All these screens had similar conversion rate with marginal differences. This made us realise that the first transaction screen is not adding much value.

So we decided to remove the first screen altogether and merge the content of first (Intro) and second (Validate) screen into one.

Intro+Validate

This reduced the number of steps of Onboarding from 3 steps to 2 steps. Which resulted in improved conversions.

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Problem:
Users are not knowing or forgetting when they have to pay their Simpl bill.

Even though we send SMS and Email to notify our users to pay their Simpl bill, many of our users were not paying their bill on time.

What we did:
We didn’t want to simply levy a late fee before understanding why aren’t they paying their bill on time.

We spoke to some of our users to understand the reason. Majority of them said they simply don’t know when they’ve to pay their Simpl bill.
We realised, SMS & Email have limited impact. Also in the age of WhatsApp, iMessage, Messenger, etc,. very few people check their SMS and Email.

So we decided to communicate the repayment date to a user while he is transacting using Simpl. To do this, we added the repayment date on the Confirm screen. Now every-time a user is transacting using Simpl he will see the date by which he has to pay his Simpl bill on Confirm screen.

This improved our repayments numbers. But not considerably. People were still missing that information and simply placing their orders without noticing the date on the Confirm screen.

To make sure that the users don’t miss seeing the date by which they’ve to pay their Simpl bill, we added an ‘I Agree’ button next to the date. Now the user has to explicitly tap on ‘I Agree’ and then only he can complete the transaction.

By doing this, we stopped facing issues of users not knowing when they have to pay their Simpl bill.

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Problem:
Users are dropping off when trying to pay their Simpl bill.
40% of our users were dropping off from the repayment flow.

What we did:
After analysing why this is happening, we discovered that most of the users are dropping off because to pay their Simpl bill, First, a user has to login to Simpl dashboard.

Since we don’t ask users to signup while Onboarding, we asked them to sign-up when they log-in to Simpl dashboard. So the first time, a user has to sign-up and a returning user has to sign-in to the dashboard before he can pay his Simpl bill.

This resulted in a lot of drop off. Many users were simply not willing to make the effort of signing into Simpl dashboard to pay their bill.

To solve this particular problem we decided that we’ll not ask users to sign in to pay their bill.

What we did is, when the bills get generated, we also generate a unique link for each user which the user can access without needing to sign-in. When a user opens this unique link (which we call ‘Quick pay link’) he can see all the details of his Simpl bill and make the payment.

Doing this resulted in improved repayment numbers.

CONCLUDING

It’s been a crazy experience working at Simpl, being part of an amazing team where every individual is passionate about what they do and have fun while doing it.

I’ve learned immensely throughout this journey. Not only from a design perspective but also other aspects such as product building, team building, business understanding, collaborating, growth, etc.

I can go on and talk about what is it to be like a designer at an early stage startup. But that will make this post very long.

I’ve written a separate article for that.

User’s love Simpl.


I’ve listed some of my learnings below, as notes for self-reminder :)

  1. Envisioning a product from scratch is fun, but extremely hard.
  2. Define before design.
  3. Ask ‘Why’ before ‘How’
  4. Avoid working alone on a project if possible. Work with a team. But keep the team small.
  5. Everyone’s ideas are best according to them. Listen. Be empathic.
  6. There are no good or bad ideas. There are ideas that make more sense to do than the other at that given point in time.
  7. Every company has a bigger goal, to reach there you’ll have to take small steps which at times might not align with the bigger picture.
  8. Come up with questions/problems first, before designing solutions.
  9. As a designer, especially at an early stage startup be open to doing all kinds of design work and not just designing pretty looking apps.
  10. At times you’ve to purposely make a user’s journey longer to get the desired behaviour.
  11. Understand the business side of the product and make design decisions based on that.
  12. Good Design = Good Business.
  13. Clear > Clean.
  14. Copy is a critical part of users experience.

Thanks for reading

I’m Adil Siddiqui, a Digital Product Designer. Also, a hand lettering enthusiast.

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UX in India

Thoughts and writings by Indian UXers/Design Thinkers. Occasional reviews, journeys and analysis about using Indian websites, apps and services.

Adil Siddiqui

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¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Digital Product Designer

UX in India

Thoughts and writings by Indian UXers/Design Thinkers. Occasional reviews, journeys and analysis about using Indian websites, apps and services.