Massimiliano Silenzi, director of m-payment, explains how the phone bill could even pay for anti-virus software.
Earlier this year, Neomobile revealed a new corporate identity to reflect its changing focus. The Italian firm had evolved from being a successful D2C operation with a strong base in Southern Europe to being a mobile payments enabler for online merchants.
It had bought 'pay by mobile' specialist Onebip early in 2011 to add web merchants to its client base, and then added Turkish content group UCT in June.
So now Neomobile offers m-commerce services in 70 geographies from 12 offices around the world - which helped boost turnover by 50 per cent year on year in 2011.
So now Neomobile is active in the very hot 'pay by mobile' space occupied by Zong, Boku and others. To accelerate its growth and profile in Anglophone markerts, the firm is now based in London and has ambitious plans for 2012.
ME spoke to Massimiliano Silenzi, Neomobile's executive director of m-payment.
Why would a merchant choose Neomobile over other payment partners?
Three reasons: first, we have more influence on carriers than others because of our past in D2C. We've worked with them, we know them, so we have good relationships. Second, there are no intermediaries as we have direct connections into operator payment systems. Third we buy ads from the operators as part of our own D2C business and the ad network we own, so that puts us in a strong position.
Another important thing is that we work very very hard on the payment flow. It's so important to get the user experience right. In fact, we have engineers working on the process all the time, and we've found that just shifting the position of the 'pay now' box on the screen can improve payment completion by as much as 20 per cent.
Are any merchants concerned that you also sell content? Does that cause a conflict?
No. It hasn't happened, but I can understand why you would ask the question. Our partners appreciate the insight it gives us having our own content operations. Also, we can even bring them users from our own brands.
How many merchants do you work with?
Around 500 at the moment. The best known are BigPoint, Badoo and others. I'd say 25 of them are large players, and we have lots of local merchant customers.
The old complaint about mobile payments is the operator pay-outs. I hear they are changing their approach. Is this true?
Yes, the pay-out situation is changing. We're seeing operators differentiating their rev charrs by market sector. Turkcell, for example, charges 40 per cent for virtual goods, 25 per cent for social products, 10 per cent on a digital good where there is a licence fee involved like music, and five per cent for physical where the margins are tight. Although operators can be slow, I think that they do copy each other when they see a good idea. And I see signs of this.
Many of your clients are in dating and gaming. Can they market move beyond these verticals?
There will be new hybrids, I think, as the market develops. We could see games that are played on mobile but paid for online. There are obvious opportunities in e-books and streaming video that we've talked about before. But I also see potential in utilities, like anti-virus software, for example. Anything that requires regular small payments can made easier for consumers and for merchants if you set up a pay by mobile option.
In general, the reach and convenience of mobile as a payment tool is a huge opportunity for companies to start making money. I'd even say that pay by mobile has saved some companies by giving them a payments option where before they just had users.