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Deconstructing DBS PayLah!

DBS PayLah! app

Product thinking:

DBS is Singapore’s leading consumer bank since 1968. As part of its mission to “Make Banking Joyful”, DBS introduced the mobile wallet PayLah! in 2014.

DBS serves a diverse customer base, including individuals, families, and businesses, attracting users of any age group, occupation, or income level depending on their banking needs. A typical user values trust, security, and the convenience offered by the bank’s services.

Having this foothold in consumer banking services was an atomic piece for DBS. Seamlessly integrating its existing customer base into the bank’s ecosystem and facilitating a smooth transition from traditional banking to mobile wallet services demonstrated strategic foresight. The trust in DBS’s banking services minimised user reluctance to link bank accounts, a major challenge faced by today’s super apps. Its rapid adoption by 100,000 users within 2 months of launch is proof enough to distinguish it from its competitors like GrabPay, SingTel Dash, Google Pay, and FavePay.

The integration resulted in a semi-closed e-wallet app offering peer-to-peer payments and lifestyle-oriented e-wallet features. It also enhanced user benefits with benefits like cash back, special promotions, and individually tailored rewards. Additionally, in terms of business value, it provides a one-stop solution to make all types of everyday transactions more convenient and rewarding.

My personal experience:

I’ve been using this app since 2017 and as my preferences evolved with time, I’ve gone beyond transferring funds. I’ve registered my children via SingPass, so they can make food payments at their school cafeteria, while I can keep track. It helps me book movie tickets, pay for my Gojek rides providing a seamless yet dynamic experience between 2 linked apps.

The name: The app identity

PayLah! cleverly incorporates the Singlish expression “Can lah,” infusing a local touch while communicating the simplicity of daily transactions.

The UI:

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DBS PayLah! Homescreen

The app opens up to a minimalistic, clean, and clutter-free interface. The home screen utilises its white space well and visually balances all of the different colour. The many shades of red are all well balanced, making the peach red dashboard the focus to draw users’ attention to the primary actions such as Pay, Scan, Request, and My QR.


While the current layout is functional, there seems to be an opportunity to enhance the hierarchy and priority of information. For example, if we consider relabelling “Quick Access” to “Merchants you love”, it will let users know that these are the merchants they typically use for PayLah! Additionally, replacing the “Insights” tab with “Deals you’ll enjoy” could provide users with a more intuitive navigation based on their spending habits.

Icons:

Positioned at the top left, the notification icon notifies users about cash back offers, promotions, discounts, and transaction alerts. Meanwhile, the DBS icon on the top right enables users to effortlessly switch between the Digibank and PayLah! app in just 3 simple steps.

DBS PayLah! Notifications

Visual and interaction design:

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DBS PayLah! merchant icons

An observation that straddles the visual design and the interaction design is in how it showcases its frequently visited merchant icons. These are adorned with clear indicators for discounts, deals, rewards, and new additions. This integration simplifies user choice, ensuring quick access to the most pertinent merchants for their needs.

Use cases:

The needs and preferences of users are constantly evolving, which is why lifestyle apps need to integrate seamlessly with popular apps/platforms such as ChopeiGV, and Air Asia.

Bringing all these different use cases to one platform is a crazy design problem to have. The basic framework for all its partners to be able to connect and plug in their services comes with a lot of challenges.

These challenges include ensuring data privacy, maintaining a consistent user experience, and structuring content for clarity and engagement, including icon relevance based on ML algorithms, and content organisation. As the app expands, considerations span opt-in/opt-out features, interoperability across devices and systems, customer support, and scalability because these impact user preferences and business goals. This impacts how much money and time users are going to spend on the app.

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Secondary dashboard on DBS PayLah!

PayLah! effortlessly overcomes these integration challenges and elevates rewards through an innovative approach. PayLah! created an omni-channel journey by personalising card deals and campaigns to enhance user engagement. This shows that PayLah! aims for ubiquity, introducing a dashboard for personalised card deals akin to strategies employed by leading online shopping apps.

Improvements:

With a myriad of diverse deals and promotions, the app’s current information architecture may pose scalability challenges.

So, there’s an opportunity for improvement to enhance navigation and make it more intuitive.

1. Incorporating the Hick’s Law, which asserts that decision time grows with the intricacy of choices, and considering user information search patterns within the app, categories could opt either a function-driven content model (e.g., Travel, Shop, Order Food), followed by search-driven merchant discovery, or a benefits-centric content model (Discounts, Vouchers, Coupons, Miles, Offers, Promotions).

Here’s an example of how content could be structured as per a function-driven model:

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2. PayLah! excels in ensuring a seamless funds transfer process, a well-established design pattern found in most payment apps. The user experience is finely synchronised, where initiating a payment prompts the wallet to auto-top-up simultaneously, and as the payment concludes the account balance quickly adjusts. This fluidity stands out as a prominent feature.

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The Request feature opens up to this screen.

However, the same level of prominence is not observed with the “Request” feature. Despite research and online articles indicating that Pay and Scan are the most utilised features on PayLah!, the “Request” feature remains underutilised. This might be attributed to the fact that its icon name does not effectively communicate its functionality until clicked, potentially impacting its discoverability and user engagement.

 

To address this issue, one solution could be to rename this feature with clearer alternatives such as “Bill Splitting,” “Shared Billing,” or “Group Payments”. While the feature adeptly facilitates equal bill-splitting, it falls short in terms of splitting expenses based on individual orders, uploading receipts, or automatically retrieving bill details.

Here are some examples of how competitor apps that do the same:

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With OCBC Pay Anyone, users can upload bill receipts and request money from others.

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Google Pay’s “Split Bill” feature lets a user select or deselect bill contributors individually, making room for customisation.

3. Impersonation scams are on the rise with perpetrators adopting sophisticated methods, including the misuse of AI, to deceive users. It is also commonly referred to as a bank transfer scam or authorised push payment fraud, where the perpetrator uses deceptive tactics to encourage the victim to authorise the transfer of funds.

To nip this in the bud, DBS PayLah! is sending alerts to its users to ensure such instances can be stopped.

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While these alerts are meant to notify users, they end up creating the Zeignarik effect, making people remember incomplete tasks more than the completed ones. The experience becomes even more disruptive as day and night mode alerts show at the exact same time and with the exact same message, possibly due to a system glitch, leading to information overload! Lastly, the lengthy messages and the “BACK TO PAYLAH” button in all capital letters may come across as forceful or loud to users. So, using mixed-case and title case formats could be a good idea for a more neutral, user-friendly appearance.

A way to counter this would be craft the language of these alerts to convey only the most important message in accordance with DBS’ content style guide, consistent terminology, compliance guardrails, the user’s phone settings, and preferences.

I tried to give some examples as follows:

- "Keep your SMS OTP confidential. We’ll never request your OTP or send SMS links to you.”
- “Your OTP should remain private. Always check your transaction history and alerts through the DBS app for increased safety.”

An alternative approach would be to learn from Monzo, a UK-based digital mobile banking app. Monzo’s call status feature lets users verify incoming calls from Monzo within the app. They offer real-time advice when they think users might be at risk of a scam, hopefully stopping it before it even happens. Their industry-first call status tool fights phone scammers and lets users confirm if a team member is not on the line and promptly hang up. This innovative feature reduces user anxiety, prioritises customer well-being, and builds trust — something many banks should consider adopting.

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Monzo’s call status feature in the Privacy and Security settings of the app.

Additionally, collecting user feedback and data on consumer behavior at popular merchants would allow PayLah! to improve app language for user comprehension, personalise experiences, and boost user acquisition.

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