Payforit Under the Spotlight

Mobile payment initiative Payforit came into force across all mobile Internet services and UK networks officially on 1 September. The payment system was welcomed by the mobile industry; and now key operators, content providers and APIs (Accredited Payment Intermediaries) believe the future success of the initiative will rely on the developments made over the coming months.
Dialogue Communications hosted a seminar on the future of Payforit in London on Wednesday night to look at what the future holds for the mobile payment mechanism. Dialogue MD Guillaume Peersman was joined by Iain McCallum of O2, Jeremy Flynn of D2See, and formally of Vodafone, and Phil Cooke of I-Play, to discuss where Payforit is heading.
Since Dialogue went live with Payforit in January 2007, the feedback has been positive, with statistics from content providers demonstrating a clear increase in conversion rates. Dialogue has seen a rise of up to 27% on conversion compared to Premium SMS solutions for its connected customers, and I-Play is now approaching a 15% conversion rate for customers visiting its mobile site.
Speaking at the seminar, Peersman said he believed that Payforit would be a success and that consumers would trust the service. I believe Payforit will dominate m-payments for some time to come, but it is by no means the finished product, and further developments need to be made, which is something all operators and APIs are working to achieve over the coming months,” he said.
Price points have been one area of debate among operators, with the consensus being that a 5 maximum purchase value is not enough to offer a broad range of content, and that ceiling  should be increased to 10. Operators are already working on solutions to tackle this problem and in only a matter of months some may well raise the limits.
Ian McCallum, Head of Interactive Messaging Products at O2, believes that improvements need to be made to the customer experience and that this is the key issue that Payforit is trying to address.
A lot of work and expense, by APIs and MNOs working together, has gone into optimising the PFI scheme rules to ensure that they are both robust enough to deliver the best possible subscriber experience and can be implemented by our partners with the minimum hassle and complexity he said. The next few months will, no doubt, throw up issues of concern and the MNO group will study these and fine-tune the scheme rules accordingly.”
The seminar also looked at some of the challenges that Payforit faces in achieving widespread consumer adoption. Consumer awareness is one of the key issues facing the brand. Simply, consumers are not being told what Payforit is and what its purpose is. Operators need to promote the system more aggressively if it is to achieve its objectives, delegates concluded.
Data charges involved in buying the content are another major concern for Payforit. Consumers dont know the final amount they will end up paying for a game or music download, as the purchase price does not include the data charges that come with downloading the content. Two solutions were discussed at the seminar, including listing the size of the download at the point of purchase, so the customer can work out how much extra it will cost to download. Secondly, some operators have introduced all- you-can-eat data tariffs that remove the worry of not knowing how much you are paying for a download, as all data downloads are included in the monthly line rental cost. This seems to be the way the industry is heading and would remove the barrier of unknown data charges.
The next stage in the Payforit development process is to ensure that the standard is used not only in the off-portal market but also on operator portals, said D2See CEO Jeremy Flynn. For it to truly achieve its goal, the customer needs to see the standard payment screen wherever they buy content, be that on- or off-portal,”
Currently, on-portal content purchases make up around 25% of the market, therefore it is very much an active area in purchasing content and needs to incorporate the Payforit standard to ensure the users buying experience is always the same.
Subscription services have been available on mobile for many years, but the trust in them has diminished over time as customers are unclear as to what, when and how they will be charged.  Phil Cooke, CTO at I-Play believes Payforit could lead to the revival of mobile subscriptions. He said:
With Payforit taking over off-portal buying, subscriptions are set for a rebirth, as APIs now ensure consumers receive all the payment terms, including details of how to unsubscribe and helpline information at the time of purchase. This will hopefully demonstrate to the customer that a streamlined system is behind the subscriptions and that all previous problems have been resolved.”
In terms of marketing, opt-in boxes are currently left ticked on certain networks and unticked on others, and there is a feeling among some operators that this is an issue that needs to be standardised across the whole industry. In addition to this, there is the matter of a merchants memory of consumer choices. Put simply, should consumers have to re-tick a box every time they revisit the same merchant?
The seminar concluded that Payforit will come up against some tough competition over the coming year from systems such as Google Checkout and Paypal Mobile, but that, with some minor developments, it stands every chance of becoming the market-leading initiative it was designed to be.