All Works / RedeemSG

RedeemSG

Open Government Products, GovTech

Singapore's digital vouchers system designed to create, manage and track voucher redemptions easily.

About The Team

My Contribution

Role

Platform

Year

Cover Image of RedeemSG

Project Overview

Paper vouchers are manual to distribute, track, collect and reconcile. It is labour intensive and error prone and it runs the risk of theft and fraud.

Based on a 2018 study by Ministry of Finance (MOF), the government has tried crediting money into the bank accounts. Many beneficiaries don’t realised the money is credited. The whole experience feels forgettable. And it is hard to track if there is direct effect on the economy.

In addition, many digital vouchers are also poorly implemented - hard to sign up for, redeem, track and use.

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Paper vouchers are difficult to distribute and track

Vouchers are essentially a form of money, hence, it is important that it is properly accounted for in its entire journey, from printing, distribution and issuance, usage, merchant reimbursement and disposal.

Traditional Paper Voucher Flow

Here is a high level view of a journey of the paper voucher corresponding to the steps numbered in the image above -

  1. The government agency operations officer is in charge of planning, distributing, issuing the voucher booklets to recipients. Multiple people are involved in this phase as there are many distribution points and a campaign usually lasts for a few months.
  2. The recipients will spend the voucher at a shop (e.g. a food stall)
  3. The hawker at the food stall will collect all these vouchers. Regularly, an agency ops officer will go around the shops to collect and count the amount of paper vouchers collected and reimburse the hawker.
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Traditional paper voucher flow

More problems with Paper Vouchers

Each day, the ops officer carries around a large bag to collect paper vouchers and brings around a money counter to accurately count the number of vouchers collected at each stall. He manually updates his paper form after he confirms the amount collected at each stall. He does this twice a week for each stall so that the hawkers can receive their earnings more regularly. It takes him a few days to go through all the shops in the estate each week.

After returning to his office, someone has to manually enter these records into the finance system so that the money is reimburse to the hawkers' account directly. All these labour-intensive steps are prone to human errors and causes delay for the merchants to receive their earnings.

This also means it will be hard for any paper voucher scheme to scale to more shops and more denomination types for the voucher itself (e.g. $2, $5, $10).

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Day in life of a Ops Officer who goes around collecting used vouchers from hawkers.

Opportunities

  • How might we improve the voucher distribution and redemption experience to make it easy to use for admins, beneficiaries and merchants?
  • How might we reduce the operation overheads and make it easy to reconcile and reimburse the money back to merchants in a timely manner?
  • How might we provide good audit trials and statistics to track the progress of a campaign?
  • How might we allow government agencies to quickly set up campaigns?

Contributions

I am the lead designer for this project. I worked on the service design, user research, prototyping, ux flows, user testing, user interface design, design system design and frontend development (CSS styling).

I work with a product manager, 3 software engineers and a product support officer for this project. We worked together with various agencies who wants to distribute vouchers to the community.

Design Approach

We designed a series of experiments to find out what is the best approach. These are prototypes ran at physical locations with intended users. I work with the product manager to design the test and work with the engineers to build them.

Experiment 1

Is there even a need for a voucher, can we use other proof of claims to reduce overhead on issuing of vouchers?

One of our early ideas to prototype was the idea that people could use their identity card (NRICs) to redeem what they need. MUIS, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, wanted to distribute meals and came to us for help and we use the campaign as a opportunity to ask that question.

For the experiment, we build an web app that could scan NRICs to avoid the need for app downloads. The web app allows volunteers to scan the NRIC and allocate the number of meals the person is entitled to. We also need to onboard volunteers easily for the campaigns across many locations.

The biggest learning from that trial was that web app might not be the best technology vs native apps if we want to use hardware functions like the camera. Users are unfamilar with controlling camera permissions via the browser settings. It will cause the use to think that the app os not working when it is the hardware controls causing issues.

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What if there was no paper vouchers to distribute and people could just use their NRICs to redeem meals

Experiment 2

What if recipients receive their digital vouchers via SMS and they can use it by scanning a shop code?

Users need a way to be informed of the amount they are entited to. We also hypothesized that people will not want to download an app to use a voucher. What if we issue a digital voucher via SMS showed how much there is via SMS and people can claim it by scanning a shop QR code?

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User receives digital voucher via SMS and they will use it by scanning the QR code at the shop

Based on the findings of the previous experiment, we also needed an alternative way to input the stall info if the camera feature of scanning the stall QR did not work properly in the web app. In this prototype, we trial the idea of a 6 digit shop code.

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User receives digital voucher via SMS and they will use it by entering the 6 digit shop code printed at the shop

We ran user tests at food stalls and turns out, both experiments fared terribly as the current interfaces does not fall within the mental modals of what people have for digital vouchers. The 2 prototypes behaved too differently from normal paper vouchers and require the user to learn something new.

Experiment 3

What if we fall back to the most basic form of a voucher - the paper voucher, but we improve the tracking and paysments to merchants

The paper voucher with fixed values remains the most tactile and familar form of a currency especially for our target group - low income families and the non-tech savvy elderly group. In this prototype, each paper voucher is printed with a unique QR that the hawker will scan using an app.

The experiment went well. Users knew how to use the vouchers immediately when they see it. However, we need to train the hawkers to use the scanning app. The hawkers tend to set aside these paper vouchers and only scan them at the end of the day when they are not busy. Scanning should ideally be hands free, quick and seamless. We also need to encourage on the spot scanning to prevent reuse of vouchers.

The biggest issue with this solution is the possibility of someone presenting a used voucher and the hawker does not scans it immediately. It will be difficult to resolve such a issue administratively. The merchant will lose trust of the system.

Paper voucher with unique QR code that merchants will scan
Paper voucher with unique QR code that merchants will scan

Experiment 4

What if we leverage on the success of the previous experiment but make it a digital voucher?

As the previous experiment worked really well, we wanted to test if a QR code on a digital voucher will be easy to understand.

We send the digital voucher via SMS to the patrons at the stalls and gave the merchants the app to scan and redeem these vouchers. Most people who are savvy with the phones understood the digital vouchers. The elderly did not understand and required explanation.

The hawkers need to stop their food preparation and fidget with the phone. That was not a good experience. If they are the ones scanning multiple vouchers, we also need to improve that experience.tem.

Digital Voucher with unique QR code that merchants will scan
Digital Voucher with unique QR code that merchants will scan

Experiment 5

Testing this solution with a different target group.

We tested the digital voucher solution with the young families for a campaign that encourages people to switch to energy saving appliances and water saving fittings using vouchers to subsidy purchase. We integrated with major supermarket and retail shops such as NTUC, Sheng Siong and Gain City. The campaign went extremely well. Recipients were impressed that they receive the vouchers via SMS upon application and can use the digital vouchers by scanning it at the checkout.

Digital Voucher with unique QR code that merchants will scan
Testing the digital voucher at a supermarket

Key Design Decision

Deciding who is the "scanner" - merchant or voucher recipient?

After all the experiments, we realise the ultimate decision depends on whether the merchant scans the digitial voucher or the user scans a digital QR at the stall to use the voucher. Both solution can work and both solutions have trade offs.

No matter which solution we choose, there will always be a small group of user who are not technically savvy who will not be able to adapt to the digital solution, be it the merchant or the voucher user. And in order to achieve better accountability, faster reimbursement of money to the merchants, digitisation is necessary.

The merchants are a smaller group of users compared to voucher recipients and training them to use the merchant app to scan the digital vouchers will be easier. They are also more receptive as they stand to gain from accepting these vouchers as a mode of payment. As for the voucher recipients, making them take out their app to scan a stall code will be harder to "teach" due to the access and scale required for support. With the merchant doing the scan, we can fall back on printed paper vouchers for the voucher recipients if it is really not possible for them to adopt the digital vouchers. The transition to digital vouchers, will be more gradual compared to having voucher recipients scanning the stall code.

And so for our solution, we decided that the merchant should scan.

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Different sketches of how a voucher might work.

Other Design Explorations

test
Mock of campaign creation in the early admin view
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Mock of campaign creation in the early admin view
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Merchant App Flow
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Testing colors, Redeem's Logo is designed to look like a letter R and a voucher!

Final Solution

The final solution encompasses 3 main parts.

  1. Merchant App - what the merchant will use to scan the digital vouchers
  2. Digital Voucher - What the users will receive as a link that contains either a QR or Barcode for the app to scan to redeem.
  3. Admin Web - Allows the campaign admin to manage and track merchants, beneficiaries and the redemptions.

Merchant App

Key Features

  • Scan vouchers. Show outcome of redemption.
  • Collate redemption amounts
  • Add and manage multiple staff at a shop so that
    they can perform redemption
  • Notify the owner of the payout to the bank
test
test
Merchant App Screens
test

Digital Voucher

Key Features

  • Able to display barcode or QR
  • Show state of redemption and update in real time
  • Comes in different denomination
  • Multiple vouchers in a single link

Admin View

Key Features

  • Create and manage campaigns
  • Add and manage merchants
  • Track redemptions, do reporting and perform admin functions
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Admin to manage and track redemptions
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Admin View Information Architecture
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Admin View

Impact

With this platform in its various iterations, we ran 8 national campaigns including the Buka Puasa Campaign (MUIS) and the Climate Friendly Households Programme (NEA and PUB) . We integrated with 10 merchants (NTUC, Sheng Siong, Courts etc). We also issued 180k vouchers and $13mil worth of vouchers. It is also be used 2022 CDC voucher campaign.

Learnings

To date, this is one of the most rewarding and challenging experience because the ultimate beneficiaries of such voucher programmes are people who are in need, and often they are the people who might not be tech savvy.

And in my heart, there is no doubt that the paper voucher is still the most accessible, tactile and familiar form of the voucher experience for both merchants and voucher recipients. However, in order to implement voucher campaigns at scale, repeatedly across different scenarios to help people quickly, digitisation provides the necessary guard rails and pathways to realise such efforts in the long run.

This project also spun off another platform called Distribute.gov.sg, which is a system that helps make distributing items (e.g. masks and meals) easy. Well, that is a story for another day.

Update

On 13 December 2021, the Community Development Council (CDC) launched its CDC voucher scheme worth $130 million. And I am glad to be able to support the team as the sole designer on the project from Feb 2020 to Jun 2021 during my tenure at Open Goverment Products (OGP).

Special thanks to fellow designers at OGP who helped tie it together after I left OGP.

News about the launch
A write up by the team on Medium