Direct carrier billing is having a moment. If this year’s World Telemedia Marbella was anything to go by, DCB is starting to gain some real traction all over the world. And it is easy to see why.
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According to Juniper Research, the total value of digital goods purchased using carrier billing worldwide totalled some $27.7 billion – up 38% on 2017. This is being driven by rapid and mass up-take in developing markets in Africa and Asia, Senior Analyst Elson Sutanto told the conference, with Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines leading the charge, as they have the highest smartphone penetration. Hear what he has to say in this video below.
This was backed up by Telemedia’s own research carried out in conjunction with MobileSquared, who’s chief analyst, Nick Lane, said was set to grow to almost $30 billion by 2023 – but only if MNOs support it.
“It is a massive opportunity and if we apply ourselves as an industry, there are some massive gains to be made,” he told delegates. “Even if DCB only takes up a fraction of the available market for digital spending it can be huge. $1 per month spend on DCB by every smartphone owner in the world would net the industry $7.6 billion a month – that’s just shy of $100 billion a year.”
Here what he has to say in the video below.
And this sums up DCB. It is never going to be the only way to pay, but it can, as part of a pantheon of payment options, be used to generate significant revenues for all in the value chain.
Mobile games companies, such as Reality Clash, who were also at the show, see DCB as an ideal on ramp for some players, offering a way to charge easily in some regions for game add-ons, said Jake Scott, Reality Clash’s community manager.
Likewise, Vikas Goel, from gaming marketplace OnMobile Global also sees DCB as an important tool for getting people on to the site and subscribing. In his view, DCB is there for those that want to play and want to play straight away – he can on board them then look at how to up-grade them to a subscription further down the line.
And this has been the modus operandi from everyone from gambling companies to dating sites. Dating, which is now a mainstream service thanks to the popularity of eHarmony and Match et al, is increasing looking to carrier billing for that one-off payment to sign up for casual encounters.
But it has more potential than that. Increasingly here too it is being used as an on-boarding tool that can be converted in to a subscription down the line.
Drags on DCB
So what is holding it back? In western Europe, the US, Canada and swathes of Europe, DCB is hindered by its really poor reputation. In the UK, there really does need to be a push to educate consumers that it is a viable billing tool and not just a scam.
The success of DCB, however, for mainstream services such as Netflix, Spotify and more in developing markets, could help a whole new generation of users in the UK and Europe embrace it, suggested Ricardo Duarte from Mobipium.
“It has to be associated with really good content,” stressed Julia Dimambro, head of Seriously Fresh Media. “It used to be a case of people having carrier billing deals in place and then just bunging it on any old content. That won’t work anymore – now it has to be about great content and having carrier billing as just one way to charge for it.”
Another issue with carrier billing is that carriers are also wary of it in many developed markets. They get a lot of complaints about fraud, erroneous subscriptions, poor service quality and bad connectivity, points out Jason Bryan, CEO of analysts ROCCO. All but the last of these are not really the carrier’s fault, he suggests, and they shy away from having to handle the complaints they get.
Better content and better services could help clear these issues and could make carrier billing a much more trusted and enjoyed tool. Getting carrier buy-in is vital as they are the ones that need to educate the end users as to what it is, how it works and why it’s great, avers Bryan.
Avoiding subscriptions altogether is perhaps the answer, said Stephen George from Fonix. Much of the problem with carrier billing lies in consumers finding they are subscribed to something that keeps coming up on their bill. Often this is something they have paid for and either not aware that it is a subscription service or, more likely, that now the moment has passed they don’t want.
George believes that there is an easier way: “why not just remind them each month that they need to pay for the next month on a rolling basis – you could even put DCB into the reminder message – that way nothing comes as a surprise?”
This potentially genius move could remove, at a stroke, the main reason why people complain and could go a long way to cleaning up carrier billing’s rep in the UK at least to great effect. Maybe those figures from Juniper and MobileSquared are conservative after all?