SMS Billing Basics

Bjorn Andersen
Editor's Note: SMS billing is gaining in popularity throughout the world, and while largely seen as an "alternative" billing method by US-based webmasters, for consumers – particularly in Europe – it has become one of the most popular options for paying for online content. Here's a brief introduction to familiarize you with the process, and possibilities:

What Is SMS Billing?
Simply put, SMS billing is an increasingly popular billing method where your members and potential members can buy the services you offer by using their mobile phone as an Internet "wallet" and sending an SMS message to a premium telephone number. This innovative billing process can be used in several ways, and works with many different countries. For example, you can use it to charge a one-time fee; selling one-time access to a video file, a downloadable game, or a screensaver, etc., so that your members can get a taste of what you have to offer, thereby increasing your odds of selling a recurring subscription.

Recurring subscriptions are easy, too. All your potential member needs to do is enter the code found on your website into his phone, and send it to a specific telephone number. The surfer then receives a password allowing entry to your site, and then views and downloads your content until they let the SMS provider know they are no longer interested in receiving the product. Now, the product doesn't need to be porn, it can be racing updates, or football stats – even news. You are only limited by your imagination.

A European Solution
In order to accept SMS billing as a payment option, you should first take a long look at geo-targeting. Since you'll be targeting surfers from many different countries, you'll want to have a program in place to filter your traffic and get them to the appropriate payment page.

The mobile phone trend in the strongest in Europe, but America is slowly following. Since the SMS billing method is comparable to dialers and other 'web to phone' billing methods, surfers throughout Europe are finding SMS billing to be the easiest and most convenient "no credit card required" payment option.

Anonymous And Secure
Another plus for the SMS billing method is the fact that the payments are sent in anonymously, with a unique identification number labeling each phone. Your surfer isn't required to fill out their private information over the Internet, or fill out lines and lines of info on forms. Privacy is also enhanced by the anonymity of the numbers the customer is calling.

No Charge Backs
Wow, can you ever imagine hearing that while dealing with a credit card company? For many domestic publishers struggling with the problems of credit card charge backs and so-called "friendly fraud," the SMS "no charge backs" system holds a lot of appeal. It's a webmaster's wet dream really: With SMS billing, the customer cannot charge back the amount after viewing the product, leaving you feeling a bit more at ease with your sales.

SMS billing is making its way through the world and will be as popular a billing method as credit cards, due to its simple yet secure design, the ability to customize the method to fit your needs, and the sheer popularity already making a difference in Europe. Look for SMS billing options to pop up more and more in the near future.

Cell phones, mobile phones, whatever you want to call them are on the rise. The manufacturers are constantly upgrading and adding more useful amenities such as color screens, PDAs, built in cameras... you see where it's going. Since our cell phones are much like mini-computers, and of course, the price fits in that scale too, more and more people are buying the latest and greatest cell phones faster than they are purchasing the latest 'top of the line' computers. Add SMS billing options to your sites, and you can profit from this growing trend!