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EDITORIAL Carrier billing isn’t about millennials, it is about everyone

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Last week SMS aggregator Fonix ran a breakfast event looking at the ‘millennial mindset’ and how it may pertain to carrier billing. And what an interesting insight we got.

For starters, millennials aren’t really a cohesive thing: many of them are now parents themselves, while others are young, free and single and gadding about. As a result, what constitutes the ‘millennial mindset’ is quite a moveable feast. In fact, listening to the presentations and hearing just how diverse ‘millennials’ are, I realise that, while you can sort of demographically group age groups together, basically we all want the same thing from mobile: ease of use.

Whether you are 16 or 60, you want it to work first time, be simple to use and easy to pay for the things you want to buy when doing so. While mobile retail grows apace, using mobile to consume digital content has become such a big deal that everyone from the raft of start-ups based in East London, right through to Microsoft are all at it.

Millennials, Generations X, A, Z and Y, Silver Surfers – they all want to consume and enjoy digital services on mobile like never before. And to do so it has to be simple.

To succeed, the most simple part must be the payments process. Talking to retailers in the commerce space, making payments painless and, as far as possible, invisible is a driving force for revamping in-store and online checkouts. The same is increasingly true for digital entertainment content.

Here is where telemedia comes into it. Carrier billing would seem to be a shoe-in for charging for digital content on mobile, especially for younger people. It is a simple two-click flow, is trusted as it is backed by operators, and it works.

For someone on a bus wanting to download a track, or a book, or do some brain training – all examples given by the speakers at the Fonix event – then carrier billing would seem to be the ideal way forward.

Encouragingly, many of the brands, both old and new, recognise that here in the PSD2 world, carrier billing is suddenly a very attractive way to charge for what is being consumed on the phone and so are talking to the likes of Fonix about how to do it.

But what do consumers think? Interestingly, some sectors are all for it – but there are many who just don’t get it. They want to pay easily and instantly, but they often don’t see their mobile operator as the guy to do it.

Talking to UK consumers and service providers alike, it become obvious that most people don’t think of their MNO as a that kind of brand. What is more confusing, many consumers have been with their mobile network longer than any other organisatison – I for one have been with O2 for 21 years (I started when it was Cellnet and stayed with it through the early mmO2 days for good measure) – yet they still don’t think of it that way. They think that these guys are new to the payments game.

In fact, millennials see Apple and Google – and Apple Pay and GooglePay – along with PayPal and others as the brands they trust and when it comes to buying things that is who they are going to use.

Naturally, they aren’t familiar with carrier billing, because no one has ever really shown them what it means and how it works, but these other brands are now so powerful, they are synonymous with quality, coolness and, now, payments.

So does carrier billing stand a chance? As the Fonix event – and many others – always promote, it is all about education and confidence. Getting carrier billing out there, with a seamless brand experience and showing it off.

While many merchants at the event were keen to be part of that process, one can’t help but feel that operators really need to push more into the mainstream with this much-overlooked payment tool.

The millennial mindset is one of using the things they know and they don’t use carrier billing because they don’t know about it. Without a concerted push to get carrier billing in front of these people – in fact, in front of all the people – then no one will use it.

So, with Global Carrier Billing Summit coming to London next week (and we shall be there!) and with World Telemedia Marbella kicking off on 8-10 October (and we shall be there too!), it is time to tackle head on this lack of consumer knowledge of DCB. The businesses that need to use it are now there and onboard, so the next step is to work out how we are going to tell the punters.

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Editor and content creator for Telemedia – for 18 years and counting

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