As mobile network operators work to bolster their revenue opportunities outside core products such as data plans, a new partnership between CardMobili and Bango could provide carriers with an uptick in returns from direct carrier billing while providing their subscribers with a digital wallet that offers retail discounts.
CardMobili, a Portugal-based digital wallet provider, is integrating Bango’s direct carrier billing capabilities with its own technology to create a product thatMNOs (and merchants) can brand as their own to enable consumers to buy physical items and charge them to their monthly mobile bill.
The partnership, which the companies announced earlier this week, is another recent example of how direct carrier billing is becoming a payment method for physical goods and services, and not just for digital content.
Boku, a San Francisco-based direct carrier billing company, signed a deal in October with the U.K.’s three major MNOs to enable subscribers to charge items such as bus tickets and magazine subscriptions to their phone bill. Boku at the time said it wanted to expand its merchant reach with businesses that sell food items, and vending machines.
The CardMobili-Bango partnership is poised to take their initiative a step further and provide MNOs with a digital-mobile wallet that consumers can use to purchase retailer discounts and offers, gift cards and other physical items.
CardMobili and Bango frame the new product as a way for MNOs to connect brands and merchants to a new customer base while giving participating retailers a chance to use customized campaigns to develop repeat buyers.
“We’re two players coming from complementary spaces targeting a common player in this field in MNOs and providing them with the ability to expand their reach beyond digital goods,” Helena Leite, CEO of CardMobili, told Mobile Payments Today in an interview about the partnership.
CardMobili is in discussions with two European MNOs to pilot the wallet sometime during the first quarter of 2015, according to Leite. She declined to disclose details about those companies, but did talk about merchant sectors that could benefit from their involvement in an MNO-branded digital wallet.
“We’ll target small-and-medium businesses because they are the ones who struggle more in reaching out to new audiences,” Leite said. “But we also see large brands in the hospitality and food business being interested as well.”
The MNOs’ ability to enter the physical retail space with direct carrier billing through partnerships with CardMobili, Bango, Boku and others comes at a time when the industry is facing declining margins.
A recent Juniper Research report found that several leading mobile operators face the possibility of costs exceeding revenues by 2020 if they do not take action. The good news for MNOs is that direct carrier billing can provide some relief. The payment method is expected to provide telecoms worldwide with more than $12 billion in revenue in 2022, according to research firm Analysys Mason. This figure stands to increase as direct carrier billing crosses into the physical world and consumers purchase more smartphones.