ARPU Plus, a leading provider of value added services (VAS) and monetization platform solutions across the Middle East and an OTVentures subsidiary company, announced the launch of T-Pay, the first open mobile payment platform in the region that is expected to revolutionise digital shopping. Through T-Pay, ARPU Plus has built a unique ecosystem for mobile payment, allowing consumers to easily purchase and pay for digital goods and services from multiple vendors through their mobile telephones, using Direct Carrier Billing.
Digital shopping transactions will become as easy as 1-2-3, as consumers will only have to enter their mobile phone number at the end of their online transaction. Digital businesses are expected to attract more consumers to shop online and pay through their mobile telephones. The announcement came in parallel with the World Mobile Congress, which is taking place this week in Barcelona, and is attended by senior executives from OTVentures and its subsidiaries, ARPU Plus, T-Pay and LINK Development.
The new system, which was designed, built and is powered by LINK Development, another OTVentures firm and a sister company of ARPU Plus, connects electronic and mobile businesses to their consumers through major mobile carriers. The first phase of the project will provide digital merchants and consumers in the UAE, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Egypt the ability to pay for their digital purchases from any desktop or mobile device through a single, click-to-buy action, using a Direct Carrier Billing system. Major mobile carriers in these three countries are already on board with the project, and T-Pay has plans to roll-out the service to other major markets in the region in the next phase.
T-Pay is expected to help businesses offering digital goods and services overcome the setbacks in their growth, mostly due to issues of payment methods or the lack of them. At the moment, consumers who buy digital goods online pay either through credit cards, pre-paid cards or cash on delivery; the latter still being the king of all payments in the region, albeit with high risk and high cost to merchants. With T-Pay, consumers will only have to enter their mobile number to purchase digital goods or services, and the transaction will be added to their monthly mobile telephone bill by their mobile carrier, if they have a post-paid number, or will be deducted from their existing account for those who are a pre-paid number.
Fadi Antaki, CEO of OTVentures, a pioneering digital and technology solutions provider for both online and mobile platforms, said: “In a region where credit card penetration is low, mobile penetration is high and the conversion rate for buying online digital goods through a credit card is low, T-Pay becomes the answer. A consumer who browses digital goods and services online will more often than not leave the site just before that final step that requests input of credit card details. The conversion rate from shopping to buying is as low as 10-12 per cent at the moment”.
Studies show that mobile payment has 10 times better conversion rates than credit cards. For low value purchases, online businesses will be able to convert 70% of mobile shopping to real purchases. This will include businesses that offer social media applications, publishers, content providers, premium content, charity donations and online and mobile gaming.
Sahar Salama, General Manager of T-Pay stated: “These are staggering figures. T-Pay will change the face of digital business in the region. It will unlock the potential of online transactions by unleashing the power of mobile monetisation. It will also revolutionise the way people consume digital products and services online and will become an important player in the future growth of digital economy.”
Credit cards, pre-paid cards or cash on delivery have been the three most popular methods to pay for online purchases around the world and in the region, but in the Arab World, credit card penetration is low, the pre-paid cards industry is fragmented and many potential customers are young and unbankable.
With the total value of mobile payments set to reach US$670 billion worldwide by 2015, Antaki believes that this is “a perfect time to enter a region with large numbers of underbanked online users, fragmented and inconvenient prepaid cards market and high cost of cash on delivery supply. At the moment, the Arab region has a huge un-addressable market, primarily dominated by young, unbanked population which has no access to make online payments for digital goods and services.” Currently 40% of internet users in the Arab region are buying online goods. Only 22% use credit cards, which has a penetration as low as 1.5% to 8% in most of the countries in the region.
The worldwide mobile payment transaction value has surpassed US$235 billion in 2013. The Middle East’s share of this market is minimal but is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 80 per cent until 2017, when it will be worth US$27.6 billion.
Adham el Gazzar, Managing Director of ARPU Plus, added: “T-Pay expands the mobile money ecosystem through an integrated and secure payment method that is essential to fill the gap in online demand for digital products and services. The platform allows mobile carriers and merchants to reach and serve their consumers, help drive the adoption of mobile payment services and enforce a smoother transition towards a digital economy.”
Sahar Salama explained: “T-Pay allows merchants to reach a growing market of mobile users and provide them easy, fast, secure and available payments wherever and whenever they want. Direct billing will also benefit the carriers, offering a US$13 billion revenue opportunity by 2017. While unlocking the potential of mobile transactions with monetization, merchants and carriers can tap easier into the market, establish relationships with their customers, increase user loyalty, enhance their brand value and expand their reach. They will be able to offer products and services with higher online payment conversion rates”.
Adham el Gazzar concluded: “The region is credit card shy, and the cash and carry culture predominates. Fortunately this is not the case for mobile payments. Many have made a paradigm shift, jumping directly from cash to mobile payment while bypassing the credit card phase. This is especially true with the young Arab population that has been known to adopt newer technologies quickly and easily. For many businesses looking at exponential growth through online presence, the inclusion of a mobile payment method is not an option anymore. It is indispensable.”