Telco 2.0™ Research

The Future Of Telecoms And How To Get There

The M-Commerce 'Land-Grab': Telcos Vs. Apple & Google

Summary: The mobile commerce market is going through a critical 'land-grab' phase. This report reviews the strategies and tactics of the leading telcos and Internet players in Asia, Europe and North America as they seek to use the mobile medium to become an intermediary between buyers and sellers. It considers the pivotal role of the digital wallet, 'big data', the race to acquire merchants and the key alliances between telcos, banks, payment networks and Internet players (December 2012, Executive Briefing Service, Dealing with Disruption Stream).

Digital Commerce Flywheel December 2012

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Below is an extract from this 33 page Telco 2.0 Briefing Report that can be downloaded in full in PDF format by members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing service and the Telco 2.0 Dealing with Disruption Stream here. We'll be publishing more on Digital Commerce in in 2013 and it will be a key theme at our Executive Brainstorms in Silicon Valley (March 2013), Europe (London, June 2013), Digital Arabia (Dubai, November 2013), and Digital Asia (Singapore, December 2012). Non-members can subscribe here and for this and other enquiries, please email contact@telco2.net / call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

Introduction

STL defines Digital Commerce 2.0 as the use of new digital and mobile technologies, such as smartphones, to bring buyers and sellers together more efficiently and effectively.  Fast growing usage of mobile, social and local services is opening up opportunities to provide consumers with highly-relevant advertising and marketing services, underpinned by secure and easy-to-use payment services. By giving people easy access to information, vouchers, loyalty points and electronic payment services, smartphones can be used to make shopping in bricks and mortar stores as interactive as shopping through web sites and mobile apps.

Telcos and their partners could play a major role in enabling digital commerce 2.0 as intermediaries that create platforms that help to bring together buyers and sellers. But Internet companies, banks, payment networks and others are also seeking to act as digital intermediaries between merchants and consumers.

This executive briefing builds on STL Partners' Strategy Report, Dealing with the 'Disruptors': Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon, which examines the mobile commerce strategies of the major Internet players, and STL's Digital Commerce 2.0 Executive Brainstorm events in London, New York, San Francisco and Singapore.

This report reviews the strategies and tactics of the leading telcos and Internet players aiming to use the mobile medium to become an intermediary between buyers and sellers. It considers the pivotal role of the digital wallet, the race to acquire merchants and the key alliances in this space. It sets the scene for a forthcoming report that will make recommendations for how telcos and their partners should build a compelling mobile commerce proposition.

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Executive Summary

Smartphones are extending digital commerce out of the home and the office and on to the street and in to the store. With full web browsers and a host of apps, these handsets enable consumers to access information and interact with merchants and brands from anywhere and anytime.  

The wallet land-grab

As smartphones go mass market, Internet companies, telcos, banks, payment networks and other companies are in land-grab mode - racing to sign up merchants and consumers for platforms that could enable them to secure a pivotal (and lucrative) position in the fast growing digital commerce market.

Across Europe, the Americas, Asia and parts of Africa, telcos, Internet players, payment networks and banks are looking to deploy their own digital wallets in the belief that these apps will become a key strategic platform. A digital wallet - software that stores debit and credit card information, loyalty points, electronic vouchers and cash – could be used  to interact with consumers while they are actually shopping, brokering targeted offers and promotions. For marketers, the wallet offers a golden opportunity to reach a consumer on the cusp of making a purchase.

While Internet players, such as PayPal and Apple, tend to be focused on signing up users for their online wallets, telcos, such as AT&T and Vodafone, are developing a mobile app-centric solution that uses the SIM card for authentication.

In fact, you need both. To become a market leader, a digital wallet will have to be very easy to use both online and at point of sale. Most consumers will want to use the same digital wallet across a PC, a mobile handset and a tablet, so they can track all of their spending and offers easily. At the same time, wallets that are used both online and at point of sale will be able to generate a far more complete and comprehensive picture of the consumers' shopping habits.

More and better data

Akin to a search engine, the digital wallet could also enable companies to capture valuable data that can be used to improve the targeting of offers and promotions. For example, the transactional data captured by a digital wallet may show what kinds of restaurants the consumer likes to eat at, enabling the delivery of appropriate vouchers. The data generated by a digital wallet could be used to broker highly-targeted offers, thereby enabling the wallet supplier to secure a pivotal and lucrative position in the digital commerce value chain.

However, it will be important for wallet suppliers to give individuals a high degree of control over their data, enabling them to delete or amend information captured by the wallet and even take that data to with them to a new wallet. While that may seem counterintuitive, both individuals and regulators are more likely to trust and accept services that are transparent and put the consumer in control. 

Fragmentation could equal failure

The large number of players targeting the mobile commerce market with a diverse range of approaches risks confusing both consumers and merchants. There is a danger that both groups will play a waiting game, preferring to see which solutions rise to the top and which flop. Many stakeholders, particularly upmarket retailers and brands, will be waiting for Apple to roll out a mobile commerce proposition they can use to target the many affluent owners of iPhones. In other words, the land-grab may end up being a very drawn out and expensive process for all involved.

The Digital Commerce 2.0 Gold Rush

The opportunity

Digital commerce is being reinvented for the post-PC era. The combination of Internet and mobile technologies is enabling new forms of digital marketing, retailing and payments which could dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of all kinds of businesses. Internet companies, telcos, banks, payment networks and other companies are in land-grab mode - racing to sign up merchants and consumers for platforms that could enable them to secure a pivotal (and potentially lucrative) position in the fast growing digital commerce market. Although it is early days for Digital Commerce 2.0, the gold rush is in full swing.   

The advent of mass-market smartphones, with touchscreens, full Internet browsers and an array of feature-rich apps, is a game changer that is profoundly impacting the way in which people and businesses buy and sell. Consumers are already using these smartphones to access social, local and mobile digital services and make smarter purchase decisions. As they shop, they can easily canvas opinion via Facebook, read product reviews on Amazon or compare prices across multiple stores. 

STL Partners’ strategy report, Dealing with the 'Disruptors': Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon, identified authentication and payments and  brokering online advertising and marketing as two of the key battlegrounds in the Great Game being played out by the Internet giants and the leading telcos. 

Although hundreds of millions of people have already entrusted their credit or debit card details to eBay, Facebook, Apple, Google or Amazon and use these web giants’ online payment services to pay for goods, services or digital content online, telcos could yet become key players. Approximately three billion people worldwide have a billing relationship with one or more telco and carrier billing can be more secure and convenient that other payment mechanisms, particularly for people lacking debit and credit cards. Some Internet players, such as Google, would like to tap telcos’ assets and processes to help them authenticate consumers.

Brokering online advertising and marketing is clearly Google and Facebook’s core business, while Microsoft, Apple and Amazon see it as potential source of revenue growth. Different telcos have adopted different approaches to this market. While some, such as Telefonica O2, see advertising and marketing as a potential source of revenue growth, other telcos prefer to focus on providing enablers to specialists, such as Facebook. Figure 1 shows how Telefonica, an advanced telco, compares with the leading Internet players across key enablers of digital commerce. Green indicates a strong position, amber, a middling position and red, a weak position, while light blue indicates no position.

Figure 1 splits the enablers according to the two sides digital commerce platform – the blue set of enablers are aimed at downstream customers (typically consumers), while the red set of enablers are aimed at upstream customers (typically merchants and brands). Some of the Internet players, notably Google and Amazon, have a strong position on both sides of this platform.

As it stands, the online advertising and marketing market is Google’s and Facebook’s to lose. The more data and inventory you have, the more precise the targeting and the bigger the target audience. STL Partners believes only telcos with major in-market scale, such as China Mobile or NTT DOCOMO, should consider competing head-to-head with the web giants.  

But, in developing countries, in particular, where most people don’t have smartphones, SMS and MMS remain a powerful marketing medium with plenty of scope to grow. There is also an opportunity for telcos to act as a trusted intermediary, helping consumers concerned about privacy to control and derive value from their personal data.

Figure 1: How a leading telco stacks up with Internet players on digital commerce

Telco vs Internet Players on Digital Commerce December 2012

Source: STL Partners

Perhaps the biggest growth opportunity in online marketing and advertising is to help merchants and brands use social, local and mobile services to stimulate demand, engage better with customers and potential customers and achieve a higher return on investment (ROI) from their marketing spend.  Amazon, for example, is pursuing this market through its Amazon Local service, which emails offers from local merchants to consumers in specific geographic areas.  

In theory, at least, targeting marketing at consumers in the right geography and the right demographic group should be far more effective than simply displaying adverts to anyone who conducts an Internet search using a specific term.

Highly-targeted direct marketing and loyalty programmes could be a much bigger opportunity than conventional advertising 

In the U.S., the direct marketing market (US$ 139 billion) is worth more than three times the U.S. advertising market (US$39 billion), according to some estimates (see Figure 2).  

Figure 2: A breakdown of the U.S. direct marketing and advertising market

U.S. Direct Marketing & Advertising Market December 2012
Source: STL Partners

The extensive data being generated by smartphones can give companies’ real-time information on where their customers are and what they are doing. That data can be used to improve merchants’ marketing, advertising, stock management, fulfilment and customer care. For example, a smartphone’s sensors can detect how fast the device is moving and in what direction, so a merchant could see if a potential customer is driving or walking past their store. 

Moreover, mobile technologies also make it easier for merchants and brands to tell whether a specific marketing activity actually led to a sale. If a consumer uses their smartphone to research a product and then pay for the product, the retailer could gain a complete view of the whole commerce cycle, enabling it to see exactly what kind of marketing results in transactions.

With merchants looking to close the loop in this way, marketing and advertising brokers, such as Google, and some telcos, are increasingly moving into the payments space. In general, their approach is to roll out digital wallets that can be used to complete both online transactions and point of sale transactions (either using a contactless technology, such as NFC, or a mobile network-based solution).

Although payments itself is a low margin business, it could be an important pillar of a broader and much more lucrative digital commerce offering – American Express estimates that merchants in the US spend four to five times as much on marketing activities, such as loyalty programmes and offers, as they do on payments. In fact, transactions are just one element of a far bigger flywheel that drives the digital commerce market (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: The key elements of the digital commerce flywheel

Digital Commerce Flywheel December 2012

Source: STL Partners

Actual deployments

With potentially hundreds of billions of dollars of business in play, an array of companies around the world are making significant investments in digital commerce services. They are generally experimenting with and testing different approaches and business models, particularly in the areas of mobile advertising, location-based marketing, payments and mobile money transfers. 

In the following sections we outline examples of services we believe will have the most market impact, either because they have already gained market traction or because they have the backing of powerful companies. These examples illustrate the diversity of the players involved and the approaches they have adopted.

To read the note in full, including the following sections detailing support for the analysis...

  • Europe – experiments abound
  • The Weve joint venture
  • Cityzi
  • Moneta
  • Turkcell
  • WyWallet
  • Visa Europe
  • PayPal
  • The Mobile Money Network
  • CellPay
  • Pingit from Barclays
  • Asia – leading the world
  • South Korea
  • The Philippines
  • Bharti Airtel
  • SingTel
  • Japan
  • China
  • The U.S. – gang culture
  • The Merchant Customer Exchange
  • Starbucks and Square
  • American Express
  • PayPal
  • The Isis joint venture
  • Minutrade
  • Global players – grappling with glocal
  • Google
  • Apple
  • Vodafone and Visa
  • Telefonica and Visa
  • Deutsche Telekom and MasterCard
  • Conclusions and Key takeaways
  • Index

...and the following figures...

  • Figure 1: How a leading telco stacks up with Internet players on digital commerce
  • Figure 2: A breakdown of the U.S. direct marketing and advertising market
  • Figure 3: The key elements of the digital commerce flywheel
  • Figure 4: Examples of mobile commerce activity in the U.K.
  • Figure 5: Where the Weve joint venture fits into Telefonica’s strategy
  • Figure 6: Examples of online wallets moving into mobile
  • Figure 7: How Isis compares with other mobile wallets in the US market
  • Figure 8: Google Wallet no longer needs to work directly with banks
  • Figure 9: Telefonica O2’s two sided strategy
  • Figure 10: The mobile commerce strategy of leading telcos
  • Figure 11: The mobile commerce strategy of leading Internet players
  • Figure 12: Giving consumers control over personal data

 

...Members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing Subscription Serviceand the Telco 2.0 Dealing with Disruption Stream can download the full 33 page report in PDF format hereNon-Members, please subscribe here. For this or other enquiries, please email contact@telco2.net / call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

Companies and technologies covered: Mobile wallets, localized commerce, location based services, personal data, telco strategy, big data, mobile commerce, APIs, business models, SoLoMo, mobile advertising, mobile marketing, mobile payments, digital wallets.