With O2 Wallet, The Disruptive Mobile Payment Space Is Heating Up

A year ago, Forrester stated that mobile payments were entering a disruptive phase. More recently, my colleague Benjamin Ensor elaborated on the battle for the digital wallet.

Mobile digital wallets are emerging and going beyond payment. New technologies, mixing QR codes, apps, personal financial management software, NFC, and many more, are combining to convert mobile handsets into digital wallets that combine not just payments but also receipts, vouchers, and loyalty. Beyond the convenience of using the phone for payment, consumers will benefit from post-transaction elements such as location-based coupons or enhanced product information at the point of sale (POS).

We’ve not seen a single day without a new product launch, start-up creation, or acquisition — or a new strategic alliance between banks, payment networks, Internet firms, or mobile operators.

So what’s new today? Telefonica 02 just announced the launch of O2 Wallet in the UK.

We believe that the O2 Wallet is, for now, the most comprehensive mobile payment solution in the UK – available to a majority of smartphone owners, whether they are O2 customers or not. The new product combines the following functions:

  • Money Message — This gives customers the ability to easily transfer money to any UK mobile phone number.
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Drive Product Innovation To Mature Your Mobile Strategy

To gauge how far organizations have come with their mobile initiatives, Forrester conducted the Q4 2011 Global Mobile Maturity Online Survey among executives in charge of their companies’ mobile strategies. 

Since 2010, fewer companies report not having a mobile strategy in place. Between Q3 2010 and Q4 2011, the percentage of companies we interviewed that have no mobile strategy or are at the early stage of defining one has significantly decreased, from 57% to 31%. C-level executives are increasingly in the driver’s seat, and mobile is moving away from a test-and-learn approach to fueling companies’ corporate goals. Mobile is primarily viewed as a way to improve customer engagement and satisfaction.

 However, the majority of companies face organizational issues and struggle to allocate the right resources for mobile and to measure the success of their mobile consumer initiatives. The main obstacles they face are these:

 ■ Lack of measurable business goals clouds early success.

 ■ Limited investment, resources, and expertise slow progress.

 ■ Cross-functional and cross-geographical complexity cause inefficiency.

 There are plenty of new disruptive platforms emerging from tablets, from game consoles to connected TVs, but mobile will be the primary platform for global product innovation. Only mobile phones can offer such a global reach.

 To prepare for the accelerating pace of mobile disruption, product strategists should help other internal stakeholders rethink the life cycles of their mobile applications and services and drive innovation via smarter apps, richer data, and converging technologies.

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Thoughts About NFC, Contactless Services, And Nokia Lumia Devices

A couple of weeks ago, I stated that there was much more to Near Field Communications (NFC) than just contactless payments. The WIMA conference starting today in Monaco will showcase numerous use cases for the technology.

I continue to believe that most consumers using an NFC device in 2012 will more likely use it for device-pairing or data-sharing purposes than for payments. Pairing NFC accessories and reading NFC smart tags will open up new opportunities. NFC will be a key technology for interacting with the world around you — and it is time to test it, as highlighted in this recent piece of research written by my colleague Anthony Mullen. There is an ongoing debate about bar codes’ potential replacement by NFC; I think both technologies serve different objectives and have different advantages but will continue to co-exist. Radio and optical technologies are converging, as highlighted by French startup Mobilead, which does a fantastic job of delivering a great branded experience mixing QR codes and NFC tags.

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Thoughts From My Pilgrimage To Mobile's Mecca

Once again, I've just spent a couple of days in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress (MWC). Year after year, the show is opening up to non-telecom players and going beyond mobile. Think about the rise of personal cloud-based services delivering consumer experiences across devices, Sony's marketing efforts to promote seamless entertainment across different screens, or the emergence of the "phablets" acronym (devices in between a phone and a tablet, such as Asus Padfone or LG Vu).  

While it is difficult to summarize all the news and announcements, here are some thoughts on MWC 2012:

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2012 Mobile Trends And What They Mean For Product Strategists

When revisiting our 2011 mobile trends, Julie Ask and I concluded that many, if not all, of them were still evolving and relevant. We have placed the main new trends for 2012 into four categories: business, ecosystem, consumer expectations, and technology.

Mobile Is A Key Business Strategy Enabler

Product strategists must work with other roles in the organization to:

  • Develop a scalable approach to delivering mobile services. Organizations will need a strategic approach to building and spreading institutional knowledge as well as governance for the development of mobile services.
  • Craft a mobile strategy that extends beyond phones. The emergence of tablets in particular will require a different approach than smartphones.
  • Differentiate on the delivery rather than the content of mobile services. In 2012, “how” mobile services are delivered will differentiate them — not what they offer.
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Product Strategists Should See NFC As Much More Than Contactless Payments

A year ago, Forrester stated that 2011 would — finally — be the year that Near Field Communications (NFC) began to matter. We predicted that dozens of millions of NFC devices would ship and that the market would start moving away from being niche, although it would still be years away from becoming mainstream. Now that 2011 is coming to an end and it is once again the time for predictions, let’s look back at NFC’s year before we publish our report on mobile trends in 2012 at the start of next year.

I recently got confirmation from trusted sources that 35 million to 40 million would be a good estimate for worldwide NFC mobile phone shipments. 2011 was a game-changing year in that handset makers eventually started to embed the technology in their product portfolio.

Despite the hype about Google Wallet, the reality is that few consumers can use it. It will take a few more years before we reach a critical mass of not just NFC device owners but also users of services enabled by NFC technology. Why? Few services are available now; the out-of-the-box experience is still poor; consumer education is missing; and there’s only limited availability of NFC readers in the retail environment.

Product strategists should stop focusing on NFC as just a contactless payment technology but should instead anticipate new uses for the technology that enable consumers to interact with the environment around them.

Most consumers using an NFC device in 2012 will more likely use it for device-pairing or data-sharing purposes than for payments. Why? Because it can work in a closed loop without the need for NFC infrastructure. Device manufacturers will offer NFC-based multimedia content sharing services, such as the recent Blackberry Tag.

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Product Strategists At Telcos Shouldn't Obsess About "Bit Pipe Syndrome"

Product strategists in various industries tend to dismiss telcos' role in service innovation, focusing instead on disruptors such as Google and Apple. It is true that new entrants and over-the-top (OTT) players have bypassed carriers, reducing their role to providing bit pipes.

Product strategists at telcos are suffering from what we are calling “bit pipe syndrome.” Didier Lombard, the former CEO of France Telecom, summed this up well when he declared back in 2007, "I am not building freeways for Californian cars."

Since then, many observers have claimed that telcos will die if they do not reinvent their business models, leveraging their networks as a service. This case is overstated: Reports of operators' deaths are exaggerated.

No doubt telcos are increasingly being commoditized to the point that they will become utilities, but there is no shame in monetizing networks — carriers' bread and butter for a few more years. Fundamental connectivity remains a valuable service — all the more if product strategists focus on gaining more pricing power and delivering more segmented offerings, either on their own or with new strategic partners.

When it comes to product innovation, operators still have key assets to leverage — particularly their billing capabilities — to become trusted partners for consumers and third parties. Some global carriers have a strong presence in emerging countries, and they will have more sway in shaping the types of content services that the world consumes.

Product strategists at operators have the assets to continue to differentiate their offerings and innovate in a disrupted telecom ecosystem. I am not saying this is not challenging and extremely difficult, but here are some approaches that could work:

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Join Our Global Mobile Survey And Get Free Aggregated Results

A year ago, Forrester fielded our Q3 2010 Global Mobile Maturity Online Survey. We interviewed more than 200 executives in charge of their companies’ mobile strategies around the globe (40% in the US, 40% in Europe, and 20% in the rest of the world). You can see the results from last year’s survey here.

To help consumer product strategists and executives benchmark and mature their mobile consumer strategies, we’re updating this survey.

Planning and organizing for the use of mobile technologies is a complex task. Some players are laggards and think they still need to get the basics of their online presence right, while others are clearly ahead of the curve. Yet two questions we consistently hear are: “Where is my organization compared with others in the use of mobile?” and “How can we mature our mobile consumer approach?”

Here’s how you can help:

If you’re in charge of your company's mobile consumer initiative or if you’re familiar with it, then please take this survey.

Click here to start the questionnaire. 

If you’re not familiar with your company’s mobile consumer approach, please forward this survey to the relevant colleagues who are in charge of defining or implementing your mobile consumer approach. 

  • The survey takes less than 20 minutes to complete.
  • The survey will be live until December 7.
  • Responses will be kept strictly confidential and published only in an aggregated and anonymous manner.
  • For your efforts, we will share a free copy of the survey results.
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Apple’s Product Strategists Maintain The Company’s Premium Positioning In The Mainstreaming Smartphone Battle

My colleague Charlie Golvin and I took the time to step back from the flow of news following Apple’s announcement today. Here below is our take from a consumer product strategy perspective.

Apple’s product strategists face an ongoing paradox: maintaining premium leadership with an annual product renewal while tapping the rapidly mainstreaming global smartphone market

Today, Apple’s product strategists revealed their newest premium smartphone: the iPhone 4S. Just like the 3GS at its introduction, the 4S relies on a leap in processing power and a new interaction paradigm but eschews technology upgrades upon which product strategists building Android-based devices rely today, such as LTE and behemoth screens.

Apple’s new iPhone lineup provides a complete portfolio of products, from the premium 4S in memory configurations up to 64 GB, to the 8 GB iPhone 4 which will allow all of Apple’s carrier customers (including new partners Sprint and KDDI in Japan) to offer a mid-tier iPhone. Apple’s product strategists have opted to add an entry-level option for its GSM-based carrier partners by maintaining the 8 GB iPhone 3GS.

With the iPhone 4S, have Apple’s product strategists designed a product that will maintain Apple’s leadership in the high-end smartphone battle? Forrester believes so — even though Apple chose not to include features that its competitors use to command a premium position, including:

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The Global Mainstreaming Of Smartphones

Thanks to the phenomenal popularity of Apple’s iPhone and Android’s growing traction — more than 550,000 Android devices are activated each day — many product strategists tend to assume that smartphones are a mass-market phenomenon.

The reality is that in a global population with more than 5 billion subscriptions, smartphones are still niche. However, in the US and some European countries, smartphone penetration is racing past 25%; smartphones are going mainstream, albeit at a varying pace across the globe.

Consumer product strategists should anticipate the consequences of moving from a smartphone target audience of early adopters to one that is more mainstream.

When targeting the second wave of smartphone users, we believe strategists should: 

  • Design specific mobile products by better understanding new smartphone owners. New segments of smartphone owners will emerge, with a much more diverse profile than the first wave of smartphone early adopters. One way to obtain more detailed information about these consumers is to use the basic connectivity of the smartphone to establish the beginnings of a digital customer relationship. The promise of ongoing product upgrades is one incentive that may convince these new customers to share their information, but free content such as an application is more likely to win their confidence.
  • Carefully monitor new smartphone owners’ usage. There is always a huge gap between the features available on a smartphone and the actual use of these features. It is critical to constantly analyze how smartphone users are using their devices; this will allow strategists to optimize the road maps not only for new devices but also for those products and services to be delivered to the second wave of smartphone users. 
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