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April 2017


    Like its predecessors, the 2017 edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) didn’t fail to impress. Over 108,000 visitors gathered in Barcelona to air and share their views on the likely future of the global telecom space. That being said, it was business as usual. The who’s who of the sector put their heads together to discuss the modalities of deliveries, including specific roadmaps, deployment models and investment challenges.

    In a nutshell, all discussions were centred on three pillars-investment, innovation and intelligence. It doesn’t stop there of course, but, for the sake of simplicity, I shall focus upon trends that are relevant to our business.

    Mobile Money: A decade and Still Going Strong

    It would be an understatement to say that mobile money has come a long way, from the 2007 launch of M-Pesa in Kenya.

    To illustrate, as per GSMA’s State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money: The Decade Edition 2006-2016, a survey undertaken by the Financial Access Initiative in 2009 revealed that 2.5 billion adults globally were unbanked. Cut to 2016-as per the same report, mobile money is available in two-thirds of low-and-middle-income countries, as of December 2016. Quite a jump, this!

    This theme, needless to say, took centre stage at the MWC this year. Various stakeholders-from the bigwigs to those just about starting their journey-announced ambitious plans to enhance their mobile money portfolios. The end game? To ensure an optimum customer experience and continuity of mobile money services, of course!

    Visa and MasterCard Take the Lead

    It is an interesting fact that when it comes to mobile payments, MasterCard and Visa can’t be too far from the discussions. Needless to say, MWC was no exception. Visa chose this platform to announce its plans of expanding its global payment capabilities. The finance major’s mVisa QR-based payments service is set to expand its global footprint. The aim is simple-to provide simple and secure point-of-sale and e-commerce transactions. The company challenged start-ups to bring digital payments into the realm of Internet of Things, with the expansion of its Everywhere initiative to Europe.

    Meanwhile, MasterCard made quite a splash with the announcement of its tie-up with Oracle. The partnership is aimed at enhancing the features of the former’s retail and restaurant-based applications. This is, needless to say, aimed at enhancing the end-user’s experience.


    Chatbots: Coming Soon!

    Another interesting revelation uncovered at MWC 2017 was that chatbots are waiting in the wings. Permit me to explain-it is no secret that commerce is steadily increasing its influence on messaging platforms. Why? Well, because brands have woken up to the fact that constant customer engagement is an important ingredient to success. Naturally, then, technology players are going full throttle on creating a platform for e-commerce and on monetizing their subscriber bases.

    There is a catch, though. Chatbots, indeed, are chock-full of potential. However, issues related to easy and secure integration of payments is the roadblock. This is why conversational commerce is yet to surprise us (the industry).

    Net, net, these are interesting times for the global telecom space. Well, on paper, at least. It remains to be seen how many of these trends fare well in the real world. Bets, anyone?

    April 20, 2017 0 comment
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    Mobile banking, financial success, accounting and electronic internet money payments business concept: macro view of stack of credit cards and modern touchscreen smartphone on office laptop keyboard with selective focus effect

    Mobile money has played (and continues to) a key role in deepening financial inclusion. According to data on global financial inclusion released by The World Bank Group, mobile money services are available in 85 per cent of countries where the number of customers with an account at a financial institution is less than 20 per cent. There is a catch, though-while these numbers are, without a doubt, quite impressive, the penetration level varies (sometimes drastically) across regions.

    To illustrate, according to the GSMA’s State of the Industry Report 2015 on mobile money, mobile money is available in 82 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa. At the other end of the spectrum, a mere 30 per cent of Europe and Central Asia uses the facility. Quite a difference, this!

    Now, the question is-what is the secret sauce to making a mobile money facility successful? Indeed, what differentiates the successful from the not so successful services? It’s quite straightforward; really-an optimal user experience.

    Here’s how-it is well-known that today’s customer expects an “always-on”, multi-channel experience. Ideally, mobile money services ought to be always available, consistent and easy to access and use. Naturally, then, mobile money providers ought to begin focusing on what makes customers tick. It comes as no surprise, then, that enhancing customer experience is the obvious answer.

    This is merely the tip of the iceberg, though. Operators can still cover a substantial amount of ground across several areas. Some initiatives that can help to enhance user experience are discussed below:

    Enhancing the mobile money user experience via mobile applications

    As per data released by Statista, in 2015, over 25 per cent of the global population used a smartphone. By 2020, this number is expected to increase to 37 per cent. As these devices become increasingly ubiquitous, so do the applications they support. Operators, thus, ought to focus on offering mobile money applications that reduce the time taken to execute a transaction, while obviously offering cutting-edge customer experience.

    Here’s an interesting example-according to the GSMA, in Mexico, Telcel’s Transfer application permits a customer to generate a barcode for merchant payments. This is then scanned by a cashier’s barcode scanner or through the application itself for person-to-person transfers. This facilitates easier interactions with third parties, while not disclosing the customer’s mobile number. Innovation is clearly the key to success in mobile money!

    Ensuring seamless online payments

    Now, this area is tricky to navigate. This is simply because even today, using mobile money isn’t the most pleasant or easy experience. In other words, mobile money has to cover a lot of ground, especially with regard to making a customer’s online experience a seamless one.

    A possible method (in my opinion) to simplify this process is using the MasterCard Virtual Card. This is a prepaid service linked to the existing balance in a customer’s Mobile Money Account. The card enables customers to execute online payments at any website that accepts MasterCard. The card is virtual as the customer requests for the same via the USSD channel and receives the card’s details (the virtual card number, CVV number and expiry date) in an SMS. It is not physically present.

    Net, net, the point is that operators ought to realize that customer experience can make or break their business. This is especially true, in regions where mobile money is sought after, but doesn’t really take off. Enhancing the customer’s experience is one way of making the cash registers ring. Operators, are you listening?

    April 4, 2017 0 comment
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