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    Covid-19 pandemic accelerates adoption of carrier billing, with half of merchants looking to use it in 2021

    The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to carrier billing across global markets, with the majority of mobile operators surveyed identifying significant market opportunities to expand into new areas – some of which are not served by traditional payment methods.

    So finds a study commissioned by DOCOMO Digital, which also suggests that approximately half of the respondents have or plan to implement the Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) payment method in 2021.

    The research, ‘Making the case for carrier billing’, is based on a survey of leading mobile carriers conducted by the GSMA’s Mobile World Live. The 115 respondents included business leaders from leading carriers and merchants in the digital health, education, and SaaS verticals.

    A significant 58% of merchants will consider working with direct carrier billing specialists in 2021. Key drivers for this move are that merchants are embracing new forms of digital content along with the proliferation of new platforms in the market, resulting in a surge in the usage of DCB. By partnering with a DCB specialist, merchants can better manage their payment settlements at scale while providing a seamless and native user experience.

    The study highlights that merchants believe there are several market opportunities for wallets or carrier billing for new offerings such as scooters, bike rentals, food delivery and parking services. The key benefits of introducing DCB services includes enhanced revenue, providing subscribers with payment flexibility, simplifying the onboarding of new merchants and a cost- effective mobile payment integration with App stores.

    The report also finds that 40% of merchants experienced a positive outcome on their billing business due to the Covid-19 crisis, with 58% of merchants consider working with a Direct Carrier Billing Specialist in 2021. Half of them have launched DCB or plan to in 2021.

    Of these, 62% indicated they are willing to invest in co-marketing efforts and bundles with an operator partner, depending on the campaign, while 37.5% expect merchants to invest in co-marketing efforts and bundles for all or most campaigns.

    Two-thirds of merchants are considering web-based payment APIs or direct DCB connections with multiple merchants beyond app stores.

    The top-three worries holding merchants back from moving to DCB are security, the perception of a low-margin opportunity and bad debt.

    Jonathan Kriegel, Chief Executive Officer at DOCOMO Digital explains: “The pandemic accelerated carrier billing transaction volumes beyond even the aggressive prediction made by Omdia (previously Ovum) earlier in the year, forecasting 10 per cent annual growth from $49 billion in 2019 to $79 billion in 2024. Consumers all over the world increased their engagement with, and purchase of, digital goods online using Direct Carrier Billing as a payment method. The speed and convenience of being able to collect payment through DCB is a major attraction for operators’ merchant partners, as it reduces friction in the customer journey that may lead to transaction abandonment. With DOCOMO Digital’s offering, merchants can access business intelligence, bad debt management, subscription analytics, CRM capabilities, and various alternative payment methods such as carrier billing and e-wallets, by seamlessly integrating our payments’ platform with their infrastructure.”

    Raising awareness of Direct Carrier Billing is still a work in progress. Kriegel is surprised by the number of global merchants that are not yet aware of the benefits of DCB, “so there is plenty still to be done there.” Educating consumers on how DCB works and the benefits it provides compared with alternative payment methods is also crucial to expanding the entire ecosystem.

    Joseph Waring, Asia Editor at Mobile World Live and the author of the report said: “The survey found as merchants embrace new forms of digital content and new platforms emerge, operators are keen to establish their role as payments providers. They understand the digital ecosystem is going to evolve with or without them, and DCB ensures they have a strong partnership role in that ecosystem.”

    Waring noted a third of those surveyed want a full partnership with a DCB specialist, with 27 per cent considering payments coupled with co-marketing efforts. “Many are certainly looking for support: more than a third expect merchants to invest in co-marketing efforts and bundles for all or most campaigns.”

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