Monday, January 30, 2012

Buying online mobile implies some payment challenges

 Internet on a big screen (meaning a PC) is still the most popular for on-line purchases. One would think that the limitation of input devices, size of screen and usage of mobile phones would limit their use as a means to purchase on-line goods. But this seems to be not the case.

A case in point is the ShopSavvy application that allows users to shop for the best on-line price while scanning products in a physical shop. ShopSavvy allows subscribers to perform a purchase on the mobile in real-time. (Read here). According to research done by Coremetrics, almost 10% of on-line purchases now comes from mobile devices in the US. In the same article Amazon reports that mobile on-line purchases have tripled since last year. (Read here).

Of course paying for goods using a mobile device is a bit more tricky. It is not as easy to enter card and CVV numbers standing in an aisle in a shop. Just not practical. So what most on-line app providers do, is allow subscribers to store their payment instrument with them. Payment is then just a "one-tap" instance. With the proliferation of mobile on-line purchasing, this may lead to a situation where you may have registered your credit card details with many different suppliers - some potentially less responsible than others. The complexity when wanting to charge something to an alternative card and the management of payment information sored all over the cloud are just some of the problems that I see.

The challenge is to find a mobile-friendly, easier to use and secure payment solution that can be used across many different applications.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

NFC gathers momentum with strong endorsement by a large nyumber of carriers

 I have been quite critical of the potential and the likelihood of NFC payments becoming a mainstream solution soon. (Read here and here). I did however say that it is going to require a large eco-system to get established. Many players should agree on standards and start executing on it at the same time.

This seems to have happened in November when the GSMA announced that 45 carriers (and a few handset-manufacturers) have accepted and endorsed the single-wire protocol for NFC phones. (Read here). This is extremely relevant for the NFC industry for the following reasons:
  • The common commitment will provide the basis for developers of payment systems to start focussing their efforts around an agreed architecture.
  • The fact that phones, processes and systems can now be deployed that will be interoperable and inter-changable, will support a more viable business case.
  • Lots of the energy that was spent on alternative solutions will loose momentum.
With these building blocks in place, the grading of NFC as becoming a viable payment technology must be increased with a few notches. While it is unlikely that many of the predictions made by analysts will materialise, we can now safely say that NFC payments will become a reality in the not too distant future.

Great mobile payments and branchless banking Videos - a limited collection

It is often said that a picture paints a thousand words - well if that is the case, I suppose a good video can write a book. In the early days of mobile banking some crude mobile banking video's were made - a clear indication that the product specialists could not describe what they wanted to build to the video producers. But since a few years ago, some brilliant little video-clips were produced - either to advertise a new service or to inform or educate stakeholders. Below are some of the best clips that I know of:
  • The first mPesa advert (according to rumour produced on a very small budget). (Watch here)
  • One of my favourite adverts, ever, is the one used for the launch of the product (Watch here). Telenor has subsequently produced a few more masterpieces (Watch here and here).
  • The documentary produced in collaboration with the Worldbank for Wizzit in 2007 was also one of the great videos (Watch here)
  • A delightful little ad (that I really enjoy) was produced for MTN in West Africa in 2010 (Watch here)
  • Great Airtel Money ad (Watch here)
  • Using local comedians in a series of adverts for mKesh in Mozambique was very successful (Watch here and here)
  • A simple, but very cute advert for BSP bank in PNG, was produced recently (Watch here)
  • The energy and pace of the Gemalto advert for their NFC product is a lot of fun (Watch here)
  • And many others (Watch here, here, here and here)

I am sure that there are many more and look forward to readers of this blog post posting links to others.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The new Visa card for emerging markets - applicable rules for a different market

Digital payments are difficult to deploy in emerging markets where cash-transactions accounts for the majority of payments. Furthermore, it is even more difficult to connect digital payment solutions to global payment networks, like Visa. This is because the rules and regulations controlling global payment systems have evolved with the realities of first world markets in mind.

Deploying these rules in emerging markets are difficult because of major differences in laws, subscriber behaviour and availability of infrastructure. What is needed is a fresh look at the rules that dictate global payment products. To re-think the rules and re-define them in the context of emerging markets.

The new Visa product (mobile pre-paid) (Read here) recently announced attempts to do just that. It is a fully fledged Visa product, but with a re-worked hand-book where the rules have been re-defined to cater for emerging markets. I would not like to comment on how well this has been done, as I am directly involved, but believe that it should be reported on in this blog.

Monday, January 23, 2012

CGAP's rich heritage of mobile banking articles

Few organisations have contributed so consistently towards the establishment of mobile payments than the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). I have written about their efforts previously (Read here and here), but felt that some of the recent articles, as well as their other efforts necessitates a seperate and new blog.

The contributors to the CGAP blogspace have consistenly produced well-researched, insightful articles. The collection of information on this space is probably one of the most comprehensive and best quality in the industry. The fact that the posts now span five years plus and that the editorial intention is to provide accurate information (rather than commercial gain), have made this such a valuable resource. Authors like Mark Pickens, Toru Mino, Sarah Fathallah, Claudia McKay, Prakash Lal and many more, should be complimented on their excellent work. 

Some recent articles that caught my eye were:

  • What can we learn from selling soap (Read here)
  • The case for more innovation in mobile money and branchless banking (Read here)
  • The lurking challende of barnchless banking: Activating the inactive customer (Read here)
  • Can mobile be "free" (Read here)
  • Boosting the business case for Agents (Read here)
  • Interoperability and related issues in branchless banking and mobile money (Read here)
In addition to the blog-space, CGAP also organises the CGAP Microfinance Photography Contest, provides advisory services and are sometimes instrumental in the sourcing of donors and funding. The research publications produced on a regular basis are also of emmense value. I salute everyone working and making a difference at CGAP.