Mobile Billing Matures

Stewart Tongue

“In the adult space, billing of mobile devices is a combination that is as attractive as it is intimidating for many content providers” said Alex LeComte, marketing manager of StarEdition.com “It’s very tempting to be able to pay directly from your cellphone and I understand that some people are still a bit stressed about connecting personal payment information to their device, but still, most of the time those devices are locked with a password denying access to strangers. For e-commerce, the potential of mobile billing is amazing and being able to bill a video, dating, live cam or any kind of client in just two clicks is the most efficient way to monetize traffic.”

The more we discussed billing trends in mobile the clearer it became that the billing side of adult mobile market is essentially complete. Unlike a few years ago when companies were scrambling to find compliant billers in new markets for mobile traffic processing, today there are several terrific choices available in virtually every postal code or area code around the globe.

Finding trends in the mobile billing market is also becoming increasingly difficult as processors seek to better integrate their systems into products their clients already use.

“In the adult industry, mobile devices have increasingly become a preferred or perhaps a more convenient way to view porn and utilize dating sites,” said Lane Farinacci, operations director of ProcessingPartners.com. “As mobile markets have become fully matured, we recognize now is the time to capitalize for many of our clients, which is why ProcessingPartners recently announced that we have added mobile billing to our suite of services, allowing merchants to utilize our rock solid banking relationships in ever more profitable ways.”

Many conversations with billing companies tend to circle back to a discussion of fine-tuning traffic rather than unique or innovative new billing techniques. Yes, some providers offer better rates or more entrenched connections in certain regions, but overall it has now become much the same as choosing a processor for non-mobile sales.

The newness has definitely worn off and the key points come back to banking relationships, fraud scrubbing, merchant accounts, fees and other traditional elements of successful billing practices.

Finding trends in the mobile billing market is also becoming increasingly difficult as processors seek to better integrate their systems into products their clients already use.

While a stand-alone mobile billing platform used to be interesting, now clients expect any serious contender for your sales to be integrated into their choice of CMS, affiliate statistical software, design parameters and more. Simplifying the portal and keeping clicks to the absolute bare minimum are essential aspects of mobile billing.

“Mobile ad inventory continues to increase over time as desktop computer use is replaced with internet consumption on mobile phones and tablets. Google estimates their display inventory to currently be 55 percent “mobile phone” visitors, with an additional 13 percent “tablet” visitors” said JSiN, media buyer and CEO for Executive Systems.

“Unfortunately data entry is more cumbersome on a mobile device (vs. a PC keyboard) so conversion rates are usually worse for offers which require a longer form to take action on an offer. CPS/CPL offers generally don’t pay as much for these customers either, so I must assume advertisers (sponsors) don’t expect these customers to be as productive either.”

Also as Julia Dimambro of CherrySauce.com explained, mobile billing is a very different ballgame from desktop options. “Credit card billing over mobile and tablets is cumbersome for the user and as a consequence, conversion rates are way lower for Credit card billing than they are for one click (wap billing). There’s just no comparison between the two! Many operators don’t allow billing through their networks for anything from topless to hardcore content. Some don’t even allow bikini/lifestyle content if the theme of the video is about a sexy girl. It has to be about something else with a sexy girl in it! Many of the emerging, but highly potent mobile entertainment markets (India, Latin America, Africa), have huge volumes of potential sales. Many don’t have credit cards, but do have mobile phones.

Operators within the same country will even vary in their specifications relating to how explicit content can be and also have differences in allowing billing for PPD/V and Subscriptions.

So bottom line is that it’s definitely more complicated to set up a really high converting, global billing strategy, but keep in mind we’ve been billing for mobile adult content for more than 12 years now, so there are obviously tried and test ways to develop great new mobile revenue streams to compliment and expand existing fixed line businesses.”

One new innovation of particular note is the recent announcement by Amazon that their new phone is soon to be released to the mass market and includes some interesting new camera based technology. Using four front mounted cameras and infrared the device is able to provide a 3D visual experience for users.

The device also introduces a new technology named Firefly that allows a user to take a picture of any item with the mobile camera and have the device recognize it by its visual image, UPC code or other factors — along with a native “shazam-like” functionality to recognize songs and movies based on audio content. These new features have been noticed by some in the billing space as potential tools for enhanced evaluation of sales.

Where mobile devices really move payment processing forward has always be in the data they collect in the background during a transaction. GPS location, time of day, potentially voice authentication, possibly camera-based facial recognition, simple screen signature input and so on may soon become industry standard methods of using handheld devices to create air-tight transaction evidence that is easier to utilize in the fight against fraudulent consumer chargebacks.

Finally, the over-arching regulation of mobile transactions which has long been an area of rapid evolution seems to be slowing into a period of stasis as well.

While Google continues to create waves affecting adult search, piracy continues to disrupt the content market and consolidation impacts many decisions made by company owners, the headache of navigating so many regional regulations is finally giving way to clearer standards, easier to understand best practices, and a qualified field of billing companies ready to assist you with any questions that remain.

Mobile billing is now all grown up and those looking to maximize all potential revenue streams are already making mobile part of their business plan or have left big money on the table.

As one site owner who asked to remain anonymous pointed out: “Everything in digital commerce starts off shaky and tries to grow stable. I like the shaky period because there is more room to make things happen ... but there is an upside to the stability we see now too.”