LONDON — XBIZ London’s first full day of seminar sessions, events and business networking drew an enthusiastic crowd of international business leaders in the online adult entertainment space.
This year, the Hilton DoubleTree Tower of London hotel set the scene for XBIZ London attendees, who comprise international website and mobile operators, affiliates and broadcasters, as well as other stake-holding adult entertainment executives in the traffic and billing sectors.
XBIZ London, going on through Friday, officially started on Tuesday with the Epoch-sponsored inaugural “Kick-Off Football Match” in the afternoon and the evening’s “XBIZ London Gathering.”
Today, XBIZ London attendees started the morning with a round of speed networking, a workshop presentation by Adnium and a power lunch before heading over to the NETbilling-sponsored seminars.
Three panels on mobile, billing and traffic preceded the late afternoon’s Epoch Club, happy hour and tonight’s UKAP Awards.
The mobile panel, “Mastering the Handheld Internet,” moderated by Adultmoda’s Sebastian Garel-Jones, discussed the burgeoning world of commerce for mobile adult with Reporo’s John Cardwell and TwistBox’s Lernmond Khodaverdy.
Garel-Jones, who noted that the buzz phrase of last year for mobile was “responsive design” but that adult companies should be well beyond that, steered discussion with the panelists on the bright future of the space and where it is headed tomorrow.
“We’re just at the tip of the iceberg with mobile,” Garel-Jones said. “There’s a huge demand for it out there. It’s where the market is going.”
Khodaverdy agreed, saying: “You are leaving money on the table without a mobile presence. Mobile is no longer secondary; you have to have a strategy for mobile.”
Mobile devices are the preferred method of communication for consumers in today’s world — and that is a bonus for adult site owners who rely on impulse buys, the panelists said.
“The easiest conversion is on the mobile device,” said Khodaverdy, who pointed to mobile’s ease of use to purchase online content or services.”
Cardwell agreed. “We should notice the unique characteristics of mobile. Mobile devices make the user convert as best as they can,” he said, adding that further market growth is on the horizon with mobile.
And, making money from mobile has never been easier for providers because now there are only two main operating systems, Khodaverdy said.
“It has gotten easier to supply content with two main operating systems — Android and iOS. There used to be 40 platforms that needed to be maintained,” he said.
One concern for the mobile market, the panel agreed, is Apple’s iOS9 software update that has the ability to block advertising content when browsing.
A number of third-party browsers have been available with the ability to block ads for iOS, but this time around, Apple has integrated the feature directly into Safari — something that consumers may or may not gravitate to.
“Users are getting smarter; they realize that ads are necessary for content,” Khodaverdy said. “But they usually have a choice: To pay for an experience without ads or accept the ads.”
Garel-Jones, however, said that in the long run ad blocking likely will be ubiquitous.
“If Apple doesn’t push this someone else will,” he said. “I think it will be commonplace and be driven by mainstream because some of these ad companies are quite aggressive. It is a wait-and-see situation.”
XBIZ London’s billing panel included the industry’s top payment processing specialists, including Mobius Payment’s Mia Zhu, CCBill’s Gary Jackson, Epoch’s Frank Gannon and NETbilling’s Wendy Campbell.
The seminar, called “Best Practices and Emerging Trends,” was moderated by XBIZ’s Alec Helmy.
Helmy peppered the panel with a question about what has been the most significant measure in adult payment processing in the past 10 years.
The billing experts drew answers like the institution of PCI, or payment cardholder identification, and the erosion of cross sells.
Jackson added that the high-risk payment processing industry had a big hand in maturing the space.
“Originally it was the credit card companies that were policing the business,” he said. “But as the industry matured, the business started policing itself. And all the while, consumers became willing to pay online.”
Other questions answered by panelists included how should merchants decide going with an IPSP or getting their own merchant accounts and what billing services and tools are valuable to clients.
Zhu said that getting a merchant account works for some companies, but typically not when they start out.
And even sometimes the scale of costs for mature, much larger companies doesn’t pan out operating a merchant account, she said.
“It’s also about the level of control a company wants,” she said. “It’s where that fit is.”
Jackson noted: “We see the lifecycles of the companies and see how [operating a merchant account] works for them. Many times they come back to us.”
As for the bells and whistles, Zhu said that the availability of key technological functions that can help companies make more revenue really helps Mobius Payments’ drive for clients.
“It’s about ease of use and technology and shopping carts,” she said. “We make it easy by having more than 100 different plugins. Getting your money sooner is important, too.”
Nelson counted scrubbing tools and fraud mechanisms as key features for NETbilling.
Gannon noted Epoch’s roll out of its worldwide PayPal service last year as one key feature clients are running to. “It’s going gangbusters,” he said. “It’s taken over MasterCard [for the processor].”
The traffic panel, titled “Building Your Audience in a Post-Google World,” comprised Adnium/Grand Slam Media’s Ian Lester, TrafficHaus’s Walid and Adultmoda’s Garel-Jones.
The seminar was moderated by Epoch’s Harmik Gharapetian, who asked the panelists to discuss each of their companies’ unique offerings.
The panel firmly agreed with Garel-Jones' contention that operators have to test and find out what works best.
“Testing, testing, testing is the most important thing with traffic,” he said. “It is not easy, but you need to put in the time and test which countries work, what devices and channels work.”
The panel also took a look at real-time bidding for ad networks.
“RTB is where it’s going,” Lester said. “It makes buying and selling traffic easier.”
XBIZ London seminars continue Thursday focusing on live cams and age verification, along with a state of the industry address by Affil4you’s Joey Gabra, ICM Registry’s Steven Winyard and NETbilling’s Mitch Farber.
Thursday’s events also include the “JuicyAds Pub Quiz,” an open mic marketing hour, the WIA “High Tea Mixer,” a power lunch and a panel discussion involving UKAP, the U.K. Adult Producers organization.
Thursday XBIZ London events conclude with the Spearmint Rhino Farewell Party.