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November 2015

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    Who had anticipated that the mobile payment sector will become so prominent in the year 2015? Once a small, quiet corner of the financial world is now initiating to take a roller-coaster ride. Despite the data breaches taking place now and then; there have been unexpected innovative development resulting in the wide acceptance of mobile payments. The recent changes have made mobile money appear more promising than ever before.

    A simple fact that has come forward in 2015, following the many failures and success of mobile payments is that one common mobile financial solution won’t cater to all the markets. How can it? After all, the mobile financial space is so vast within itself- we have payments, payment-related services along with commerce. The various classifications would obviously demand their respective solutions which would of course be required to be customized for each market.

    Mobile payments in India

    Be it the availability of multiple mobile payment options or just their acceptability by the merchants, 2015 has witnessed an exponential rise in the graph. The mobile wallets are still at a nascent stage but their acceptability has become wider today and above all, they are growing at a phenomenal pace.

    The mobile phone usage patterns are changing inevitably and finally, we can anticipate the users getting acquainted and comfortable completing payments via mobile devices. Backed by the set in comfort level, a mobile phone transforming into a payment means is just natural and will be a gradual process. Over all the number of people transacting using mobile phones can be seen only growing by the day.

    Reports earlier this year suggested that mobile payments worldwide will account for 1 trillion USD by the year 2017- which sums to 124% growth from 500 billion USD by the end of 2015. The Asia-Pacific markets are being anticipated to contribute significantly to this growth as m-commerce transaction featuring remote payments are taking off across the region.

    The MasterCard Online Survey revealed in March 2015 that India has got a rising number of smartphone shoppers. The purchases made over mobile have nearly doubled over the last 2 years. Prominently, the mobile wallets have got themselves listed among the contributed in the enrichment of Indian shopping experience.

    In terms of number of users, the mobile wallets have already surpassed credit cards. The drastic shift in the consumer behavior fosters the belief that mobile wallets will not only transform payments by also commerce.

    2015 the year of mobile payments

    What made things change for mobile payments?

    There are a number of factors that can be attributed for the gradual change in mobile payment scenario. The most obvious yet the most important factor among them is the massive penetration of mobile and internet. It is quite a surprising fact that the country has 240 million bank accounts but 500 million mobile phone users. To add to the surprise, around 90% of these mobile phone users are capable of handling online financial transactions.

    Prepaid mobile recharges and easy bill payments stay at forefront when it arrives to driving the number of digital wallet accounts. During 2014-15, the major driving factors for the mobile wallet market included money transfer, utility application and bill payments among others. These applications are being predominantly used in the Tier-I cities of the country.

    The growth can be attributed majorly to the provided convenience and security. The mobile wallets simplify the online payment process with one-click transfers. Arriving to security, it can be said that the independence of deciding the amount one needs to have in his wallet makes mobile money safer that the online payments made through cards. Yes, it can be said so owing to the fact that even if someone manages to hack into one’s mobile wallet account, only the deposited amount will be at risk rather than his complete savings lying in his bank account.

    Framework for mobile wallets

    Following decades taken to shift from paper to plastic money, the Reserve Bank of India has been rather faster in extending support to mobile money by making amendments. Resultantly, almost all the major banks have put forward their mobile wallets such as SBI Buddy from State bank of India and Pockets from ICICI.

    Putting frameworks in place RBI’s latest announcement will facilitate money transfer between online wallets by the next year. India’s central banking institution seems to be all set for driving digital transactions. RBI’s regulatory frameworks are protective in order to support the adoption of mobile wallet payments as the users need to be confident that appropriate steps are taken to maintain confidentiality for their account details and protect their funds.

    November 20, 2015 0 comment
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    It would be a bit of an understatement to say that marketers are still grappling with the age old question, “What do customers want?” let me say, at the outset, it isn’t for lack of trying!

    Permit me to cite an example. You’re browsing your favourite e-commerce website and a new product catches your eye. Intrigued, you click on it and peruse all its details. However, you decide not to purchase it immediately and return to browsing. Later that same day or a few days hence, you notice that an advertisement for the same product is visible on any website you may visit. Be it a YouTube, a blog site or a forum, that advertisement is always present. As a customer, would you say you’re annoyed or intrigued?

    That, in a nutshell, is behavioural targeting, just one of the many attempts to get into the customer’s skin. The idea is simple-by analyzing a consumer’s past behaviour and current interests, it obviously becomes much easier to generate marketing material that is tailored to that particular individual. In fact, here’s a fun fact, did you know that data companies such as Google can track an individual’s online behaviour and thereby provide them with advertisements that are more relevant? This is, of course, as opposed to simply bombarding the individual with random advertisements in the hope that one will somehow offer the product or service that they need.

    Wait, there’s more. Cookies are (pardon the pun), the bread-and-butter of the concept itself. It works like so-cookies are essentially markers that are placed into the consumer’s web browser that tell data companies what the consumer was looking for and which pages they browsed. Moreover, it also categorizes that content, so that online marketing companies can, in an instant, sum up what the consumer wants and which advertisements they’re most likely to respond to. Marketers listen up; remember that customers expect sites they visit repeatedly to remember who they are and their preferences. Behavioural targeting comes up tops in this context, as it permits the marketer to understand the visitor’s personas and the segments they belong to. This basically implies that the marketer is well-equipped to make snap judgments and interactions, understand the customer’s behaviour across channels, and provide the customer with what they require. This all leads to increased insights and ultimately improved customer engagement.

    Now, here’s the catch-the fact that a customer browsed or purchased a product off a website before doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they will do the same again. This is where behavioural targeting stumbles a bit. On a side-note, I feel it is pertinent to point out that I am not dismissing the concept altogether. The idea is to point out that though behavioural targeting was, no doubt, considered an effective (and an adequate enough) marketing tool in the past, it does have certain inherent limitations. First and foremost, it targets individuals who have carried out a particular transaction, which may just serve to reveal their interests. This will not provide a holistic picture of the customer. Next, the data itself may by very fragmented, which immediately diminishes the real value the advertising may have. Finally, it’s all about context! Typically, little or no correlation is made between the data collected and the other existing conditions, such as location, the time of the day, the weather, etc. All in all, not an optimal situation, this!

    Just to further drive home the point, marketing professionals, please sit up and take notice. Just think of the staggering numbers of wasted impressions, missed opportunities and the millions of untapped mobile customers who haven’t yet visited your site or displayed a behaviour that matched your business profile! Have you ever considered the fact that these very subscribers may just prove to be the key to your marketing campaign?

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    So, while I quite agree that this is a rather bleak situation, let’s focus on the bigger picture-what can be done? In my opinion, there are quite a few alternatives one can consider and I’d think that content personalization tops the list. So, in a nutshell, content personalization permits the user to target different content to different types or groups of visitors based on their behaviour or other factors. Say, for instance, people visiting a company’s website have various things in mind. Some are there to purchase something, others are simply conducting some kind of research, while others, still, may be trying to land a job at your firm! Then, of course, are the first-time visitors, and the returning ones. Now, for all intents and purposes, the website in question offers a static view to all these visitors, irrespective of their intent. This means that all the landing pages contain identical content for all the visitors in question. Not too exciting, I would think!

    Now, picture this-think of the possibilities of having a website that offered different content and call-to-actions for different types of visitors. Wouldn’t you like your customer to feel that you speak their language?

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    Moreover, several alternative innovative technologies have emerged, which can “predict” which user is most likely to respond to an advertisement, based on a wide range of targeting parameters instead of just one set of specific behavioural data. Predictive targeting essentially deploys data mining techniques to calculate the probability of an impression resulting in a conversion. One starts off by gathering first party data received from the initial advertisement request. This data is then enhanced with third party data, historical conversions, ambient data. The final step is to match the fully enriched impression to a brand and creative. All this takes place in real-time.

    Net, net, perhaps it’s too premature to state that behavioural targeting has had its moment in the sun. I think the idea is to learn how to take advantage of the opportunities this space offers. Dear marketers, please remember, though-history usually does not repeat itself!

    November 16, 2015 0 comment
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    Today’s television channels are quite surf-friendly and precisely opposite to them are the online and mobile videos that present more of a foraging experience when considering content discovery. Online or mobile videos always require the viewer to know what kind of content they want to watch and where to find it. In contrast, new user interfaces and content personalization are helping the transition of videos from a lean forward experience to a traditional TV feel in turn, increasing the viewer engagement exponentially leading to new a new arena of video monetization opportunities.

    The evolving discovery and recommendation technologies for videos have allowed the service providers to introduce a higher level of passive experience across all devices. The provided navigation ease, sums up for a stickier viewer experience and prolonging viewer engagement, in turn increasing revenue opportunities for the providers. As reports suggest, the content offering by a discovery engine that on a personalized basis recommends video, as often as 50 per cent of the time the consumers view the new content.  Personalization not only shells more video views, increasing the potential ad impressions but also it helps retaining the consumers for more time in the site- increasing loyalty and engagement.

    Support extension- Facebook LiveRail

    Recently, Facebook put a keynote on its video ad monetization scheme at its F8 developer conference. It announced that its ad tech platform for the publisher videos, LiveRail, will soon offer support to display ads along with video in the mobile apps. LiveRail is anticipated to power the native ad formats along with standard display placements. The audience network alongside highly performing ad formats and access to two million advertisers is efficiently integrated to this platform. The LiveRail ad exchange offers extra ad space, but until now it had dealt with videos only. With the implementation of the new scheme, it will also allow the publishers to mix in mobile display ads.

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    The mobile-first strategy

    The screen-size of the video-viewing device has democratized as the viewers are no longer considering the TV as the only medium for viewing long-form content. Screen size has become another non-issue for the viewers, along the non-issues including scheduling and location.

    Around 60 per cent of the time, people spend watching videos on tablets for approximately 10 minutes or above. In comparison, connected televisions have identified this as 43 per cent, which is slightly higher than mobiles (37 per cent).

    In terms of the kind of content a customer demands, access to premium fare from TV content broadcasters appears to be of significant interest to the mobile users. This depicts the potential of building content strategies around mobile for the programmers as the mobiles continue to grow faster than any other option of video viewing.

    Rising digital video spends

    The market conditions have pushed the advertisers towards shifting their money to online ad units and certainly, it’s paying off. Mobiles are anticipated to be the highest driver of digital video ads spent over the coming years.The ad revenue for mobile videos is expected to grow thrice faster than the desktops by 2020.

    Advertisers are heading towards video ad spots, owing to the fact that video viewership have increased on the mobile devices. Also, some of the operators have initiated tactical steps in order to address the broad consumer trends resulting in the growth of mobile videos such as creating better user interface, pushing contents over the top and thereby improving mobile monetization. However, the industry still lags in the execution of mobile initiatives in a large part of the world.

    November 16, 2015 0 comment
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    What is CDR Mediation?

    CDR mediation is the intermediary process to CDR billing, which follows CDR Collection. It is the process of conversion of call detail records into a data format, usable by the mobile service providers for billing purpose along with some other downstream applications.

    It becomes quite important to make sure that calls are billed to the right entity, on the basis of right tariffs. CDR Mediation consists of multiple steps for processing.

    Uses of CDR Mediation

    Basically, a CDR mediation platform possesses the following functionalities:

    • Collection and validation of call detail records
    • Filtering out the non-billing relevant CDRs
    • Collating
    • Integration of CDRs from different input sources
    • Aggregation of partial CDRs linked to same call
    • CDR normalization through format change
    • Business transformation of data

    In a telecommunication billing scenario, CDR mediation is among the very first steps that follow the receipt of a CDR. The mediated CDR is sent to a rating engine for calculating the CDR’s associated charges. Now-a-days, the rating engines have become more necessary for the telecom billing systems in order to meet the growing variation in the consumer requirements for the different service offerings.

    At core, CDR mediation involves data transfer between different systems with or without modification of data initiating from network elements to OSS/BSS systems. The efficient billing mediation systems serve end-to-end functionality for the mobile operators. CDR mediation software perform various operations ranging from data collection to downstream distribution to different modules such as retail billing, business intelligence, interconnect settlement, fraud detection and revenue assurance.

    CDR Mediation Process

    Below is a list illustrating some necessary steps preparing VoIP Call Details Record for billing:

    Normalization

    It is a process that cleans up the CRDs generated by switching equipment of inconsistent or unnecessary information or formats the destinations on the basis of a consistent numbering plan.

    The normalization process includes:

    • Caller ID normalization
    • Destination Normalization
    • Disconnection Code normalization

    Rating

    Rating is the process through which each call is assigned a price on the basis of a rating table. The ratings may apply differently for NCN related traffic than for PSTN related traffic.

    Export

    Communication with the external systems can be realized in commonly understandable formats like XML and CSV.

    High-performance CDR Processing

    The CDR Mediation server gathers the raw CDRs that are recorded, parses the CDRs and then forwards them to the external billing system. The mediation server can record the raw CDRs from multiple CDR sources. Additionally, the server can parse, store as well as format the CDRs as per the requirement of some external applications.

    Enhanced system management with CDR Mediation

    The CRD Mediation server also includes browser-based management system. This can be used for configuration as well as alarm management. Additionally, the management system can also generate call statistics, reports, graphs etc. to help the mobile service providers balance the network traffic. These statistics, graphs, reports etc. also indicate the service quality delivered by the mobile service carrier.

    November 6, 2015 0 comment
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    The last few years have witnessed an upswing in the number of mobile application downloads. To illustrate, as per data released by Statista, in 2009, the number of mobile applications downloaded globally stood at approximately 2.52 billion. This number is expected to reach 268.69 billion in 2017.

    Nevertheless, this uptake has given rise to a number of challenges-security being the most crucial. According to DataTheorem, the security threats landscape facing mobile applications vastly differs from that of web or client/server applications. This difference is owing to the multi-dimensional nature of mobile applications and the fact that these applications can access certain types of data, which web applications cannot. Broadly, these include call history, SMS logs, contact lists, geo-location, etc.

    Categories of mobile application threats

    DataTheorem has segregated mobile application threats into five categories:

    • Data loss from security vulnerabilities
    • Unauthorized/private data collection
    • Data exposure to other applications
    • Data exposures at-rest (on the device)
    • Data exposures in-transit (over the network)

    Threats to mobile apps

    Security vulnerabilities

    Security vulnerabilities largely arise from code level issues and/or run-time flaws in the application. Security issues at the code-level in operating platforms such as Objective-C (iOS), Java (Android), and C# (Windows Phone) can harm the application, the customer, and the data itself. In addition, application logic attacks are equally vulnerable. This refers to where attackers abuse the application using existing (or the lack thereof) security controls. Common runtime attacks include, but are not limited to, escalation of privilege, authentication bypass, and session manipulation.

    Examples of this kind of threat include Objective-C/Java (Code level) security issues, local or remote injection and application logic issues.

    Unauthorized/private data collection

    Mobile applications often gather data from a device or a customer without explicit permission. This often includes sensitive data as well, which ideally ought never to be used by a third-party entity. Examples include retrieval of UDID or IMEI, bundled geo-location, IDFA, and UserID and collection of contact list/pictures/SMS logs.

    Data exposure to other applications

    Mobile applications are at risk of data exposure to any other application running on the system. The iOS, Android, and the Windows Phone operating systems have deployed a sandbox model to prevent data sharing between one application and another. In a nutshell, this is designed to not only keep the customer’s data safe but to ensure each application functions independently of one another as well. While the implementation of the respective sandboxes differs on each operating system, all of them are designed to create silos for each application. The threat arises when the sandboxes do not isolate one application from another, either by design or an implementation flaw.

    Examples include passwords shared via UIPasteboard, data stored in SD cards or temporary directories and data caching to public locations.

    Data exposures-at rest

    According to DataTheorem, as online activity continues to migrate from traditional web applications to mobile-based ones, the possibility of a user’s data being exposed increases multi-fold. Therefore, a customer must be aware of the kind of data they can store on a device that will eventually be in the control of unauthorized parties. Examples of this kind of threat include password on file systems, browsing history stored in temporary directories and PII or financial data stored on the device.

    Data exposures-in transit

    Due to the high likelihood of mobile devices joining non-trusted networks, third-party malicious entities can target the communication layer much faster than before (as compared to desktops or laptops). Examples of this kind of threat include a customer’s geo-location being leaked to a third party source, an invalidated SSL and credit card numbers transferred in the clear.

    November 5, 2015 0 comment
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    It will not be an understatement to say that we live in a multi-screen, multi-function and multi-device world. Digital has permeated every aspect of our lives and, mind you, this isn’t just a fad. Every customer in today’s time and era is hyper-connected, keeping in mind the vast array of products, services and platforms at their fingertips. On a small side-note (and I’m playing the Devil’s advocate here), this has both a positive and a less positive implication. The positive result is that every consumer has a myriad of choices before them. Simply put; multiple choices imply that organizing one’s life is far easier than before.

    At this point, I think it will be interesting to look at the scale of connectivity in the world we live in. According to a global survey carried out by Accenture, 37 per cent of customers now own a combination of smartphones, laptops, desktops and tablets. Social networks influence 74 per cent of consumers’ purchasing decisions (source: Simply Measured). 71 per cent of internet users are more likely to purchase from a brand that they are following on a social networking site, such as Twitter or Facebook (source: CMO Council). Now, do remember that with the world and its neighbour going digital, these new technologies and platforms have changed the way consumers interact with brands and vice versa. Let’s take a quick look at the motive behind consumers going digital, as elaborated by AT Kearney:

    digital-blog-chart1

    So, what’s next for the hyper-connected customer? Well, a number of things, now that you mention it. First up is augmented reality. While this may sound straight out of a science fiction movie, it is fast becoming a reality (excuse the pun) today. No longer considered a gimmicky tool, the who’s who of the branding world is jumping onto this bandwagon.

    Why? Well, simply put, because it offers the power to literally reshape how brands talk to each other and, of course, their customers. As an added bonus, it enables these brands to monitor and track customer engagement.

    So, why is this suddenly in the spotlight? Well, the concept itself isn’t new-it dates back to the 1960s in fact-but the phenomenal success of the mobile handset has changed its fortunes, so to speak. Simply put, the mobile phone has changed our world-right from how we socialise with our peers to the way we play games and shop. Imagine an application developer introducing augmented reality into the mix (i.e. on the smartphone, tablet or wearable device). The result is customers being able to scan and identify a product and transform it into a marketing touch-point such as a game, cartoon, recipe book or even song list.

    Now, this next bit is for the brands themselves. While all this sounds like the market is bursting at the seams with lucrative opportunities, let’s not paint an overly rosy picture. The truth of the matter is that the customer is fickle-they will not hesitate to switch operators or brands if they aren’t fully satisfied by the product or service. In short, the norm is simple-every brand gets just one shot at capturing the customer’s attention. They simply will not get a second chance to make a good impression.

    So, what is a brand to do? Well, for starters, keep their ear to the ground, with regard to the ongoing and possible future market trends. For example, Idea for Leaders and Marketo believe that brands ought to provide a participative experience for customers. The logic is simple-today’s customers enjoy and, in fact, seek exciting, created, curated, connected and a community-like feeling. The idea, therefore, is not just selling one’s products but engaging with the customer as well.

    To sum up, technology has changed every aspect of everyday life-from the way we shop to the food we eat. On an interesting note, industry experts are of the firm belief that while today’s customers are almost always connected, the customer of the future will always be connected, as digital technologies become wearable and may even be implanted in the customer’s body! Too far fetched? Well, at the rate technology is progressing at, maybe not. Time will tell.

    November 3, 2015 0 comment
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    What are open APIs?

    An open API- generally referred to as public API- is an application program interface, providing a developer with programmatic access to proprietary applications. APIs are software intermediary allowing the application programs to interact with one another and share data. It is generally an implementation of Representational State transfer (REST) that exposes the functionality of specific software while protecting the rest of application. Open APIs are published and shared freely on the internet.

    APIs – the next evolution in mobile money innovation

    There are millions of people using mobile money to send money or make payments but they hardly bother to think how their mobile device connects to the network, then to the financial service provider and then to their cash recipient. But, for the software developers, the data transmission pipeline is crucial – in case the information does not smoothly flow from point A to point B, then the mobile users lose out their access to basic financial services. This is the reason behind the excitement about the opportunities created by open APIs. They have the potential to offer a chance to the developers worldwide to share their respective mobile financial service ideas, cost-effectively and quickly connect to the pipeline and come out with effective mobile money services on a massive scale.

    The potential for an open API to drive innovation in the mobile payments space exceeds the expectations, but the concept being new to the sector, needs the basics to be right before the launch of API platforms on a large scale.

    From the developers’ perspective, a number of factors are important for the success of any open API ecosystem. Below we have provided some from shortlist:

    Open APIs should be well-defined, well-documented and stable– They must have clear guidelines for the developers and they should not change without prior warning. Democratizing the mobile money sector to ensure that the new developers can launch their micro-payment platforms or remittance apps, it needs to be ensured that the instructions for building the pipelines between the services and mobile networks are easy to follow and consistent.

    Open API access processes should be clear and widely available online– Efficient mobile money services are result of an easy linkage of point-of-sale payment service with the mobile money platform. The easy availability of instructions always helps the applications making it to the market. The monolithic appearance of the mobile networks and absence of a contact point discourages many developers to launch their service on a smaller scale, limiting their impact potential.

    Tracking usage and user data should be easy with open APIs– Today’s time has got data analytics and data sharing as a useful feature. The developers want good feedback loops in order to understand the number of users accessing their API-linked services and their usage patterns for constantly improving the services.

    Summary

    Now-a-days, when open APIs have become a rule to success, the innovation rate among the developers will be robust. Those having promising mobile service strategy will face lesser go-to-market barriers. And, for the financial service users, the option range will be far more diverse, personalized and locally relevant- leading to greater level of financial inclusion.

    November 2, 2015 0 comment
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