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Going beyond the impulse purchase: streamlining subscriptions through carrier billing

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The adoption of direct carrier billing (DCB) is crucial for brands looking to meet the growing demand for subscription-based content – bypassing card payments to open up subscription services to new audiences and markets, while also giving flexibility to increasingly vigilant consumers. Here James Macfarlane, Group CEO of UK-based mobile payment provider PM Connect explains.

Thanks to the ease and speed of adding purchases directly to phone bills, impulse buys will always be a key part of carrier billing’s remit – and have been key in introducing direct to bill payment to the mass market.

However, as the subscriptions market matures, customers are beginning to expect both a suite of payment options, and improved standards when it comes to transparency, communication and accountability.

Big brands are beginning to catch on to the vast potential for DCB to help meet customer expectations when it comes to making recurring payments.

Maximising consumer choice

Ultimately, today’s consumers expect choice and will drive their purchase behaviour around brands that give them this. Whether this relates to choice of content, phone contracts or payment options, the largest and most successful brands in the world recognise this.

While purchase via debit or credit card will continue to be the favoured payment option of many people, optimising customer journeys means catering to a range of payment preferences, especially when it comes to subscriptions. Some consumers will always choose the traditional options, but we are seeing a new breed of buyer emerge, those who wish to take advantage of the accessibility, convenience and security benefits of DCB.

Customers may want to add purchases directly to their phone bill either on an ad hoc basis – when they do not have their card on them, or are paying on the go. But DCB is also proving itself as the go-to hassle-free option – eliminating clunky sign-up processes and avoiding the need to give personal details to the supplier.

Offering a payment method that circumvents credit cards becomes even more important in emerging markets, where consumers are more likely to own a phone than to have a bank account. In the African continent, where an estimated 30% of the adult population are unbanked, the DCB option opens up branded content to customers who might not otherwise have had access.

So when big players like Google Play – which has added 20 more carrier billing partnerships over the past year – adopt carrier billing, customer experience is top priority, with the business is recognising that an ever-expanding, international user base has a wider variety of needs. For Google, DCB sits alongside e-wallets, UPI in India and new options to pay for mobile purchases using cash in-store – designed to meet a vast range of customer requirements.

Trailblazer brands see an expanded range of payment options as an extension to the increasing number of platforms for consuming content. Look no further than PM Connect’s carrier billing solutions for major sporting brands – offering video highlights and commentary, available through direct-to-bill subscription purchase. These aim to complement each brand’s wider content offerings – its websites, apps, and over-the-top (OTT) services. More content options work alongside increasingly diverse ways to pay, catering to the ever-changing ways modern consumers like to receive their entertainment.

Communication and transparency

Alongside wanting more choice, consumers are also wising-up to subscriptions that look to lock them in and are demanding improved communication and opt-out options as a result.

Trusted DCB operators use the ubiquity of SMS – with 90% of texts read within the first three minutes – to their advantage. For example, we send receipts via SMS to subscribers every month, with no fixed-term subscriptions and the option to cancel by texting STOP at any point.

As a result, control of the subscription is handed back to the consumer, incorporating reminders of recurring payments into the day-to-day mobile browsing experience. Strategies like this, alongside working closely with the Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA), means that carrier billing can offer greater levels of customer control than its card-based counterparts. Contrary to reports in the mainstream media, due to weekly or monthly text updates consumers are actually less likely to sign up to a carrier billing subscription and forget about it than its credit-based counterparts.

Thanks to a combination of ease and accessibility, and a direct and transparent subscriber/provider relationship, DCB is experiencing a boom in popularity as a payment method for subscriptions. PM Connect is seeing an increased number of subscribers through its carrier billing enabled solutions, with these subscribers staying loyal for longer periods of time.

At present, brands have been slow to catch on, with relatively few offering the DCB option. However, with the most established names leading the way, this is set to change. Brands listening their consumer base and looking to adapt to new markets realise that the subscription sector is moving into the next stage of its growth. Carrier billing is necessary to meet the demands of both international audiences and a newly savvy breed of subscribers.

 Author

James Macfarlane is Group CEO of UK-based mobile payment provider PM Connect. Find out more about PM Connect at http://pmconnect.co.uk/

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Paul Skeldon

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

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