Facebook Mobile Payments Via Carrier Billing (And Bango) Live In U.S., UK And Germany

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Another step ahead for Facebook’s strategy to make more money out of its mobile business: the company is accepting mobile payments for its mobile web service via carrier billing in the U.S., UK and Germany and it has now been confirmed that it is Bango powering the service. The option of letting users bill services like virtual gifts and game credits to their mobile phone operators was first announced in February 2012, and means that users do not need to use premium SMS or credit cards in order to buy these: it’s a one-click system. Bango also provides similar services for BlackBerry’s App World, Opera’s Mobile Store and Google Play. It is also working with Amazon on a similar service. Bango says it will be rolling Facebook carrier billing out to further countries later in the year.

Bango made the announcement today in a regulatory filing (below) confirming that it is the company powering the service. It claims that its carrier-billing, one-click system results in much higher conversion rates among users, of up to 77%, compared to 40% for other mobile-based billing services. Facebook began to roll out mobile carrier billing in June, integrating Facebook Payments with the carrier billing option.

When Facebook went public in May this year, the company had not rolled out much in the way of services to monetize its mobile user base, but its an increasingly important part of the company’s business. In its last quarterly earnings, in July, Facebook reported 543 million monthly active users on mobile, with 955 million on desktop. But mobile is growing much faster right now: Desktop MAUs grew by 29% over the year before, while mobile MAUs grew by 67%. Furthermore, some 102 million people in that quarter accessed Facebook only from mobile devices, up 23% from the previous quarter.

Since then, one of the main ways that Facebook has been monetizing mobile has been through ad units. The most recent movement in this department has been the launching of its own mobile ad network. Facebook also offers social and non-social mobile ad units. Early numbers for mobile ads have been encouraging: compared to the equivalent ads on desktop Facebook, they get over 13 times the click-through rates and earn 11.2 times the money per impression.

But today’s announcement reminds us that when it comes to making revenues, Facebook sees mobile as more than just an advertising vehicle.

Facebook has been gradually updating the functionality of its mobile services — putting a lot of effort into its HTML5 work; relaunching native apps with better responsiveness; achieving parity between the mobile and desktop experience with access to apps and other features with photos and more; and helping to create ways of accessing Facebook on mobile when you don’t have a fancy smartphone. Some of these features, such as the camera functionality, are unique to mobile.

Bango’s announcement is another example in this latter vein, and opens the door to Facebook creating a much richer experience (and one more monetizable) on the handset. For now the payment service seems specifically geared to transactions that users make on Facebook itself. But getting users accustomed to using their mobile handsets for transactions on the Facebook platform is something that could also prove useful as Facebook continues to extend its commercial activities further. Last week’s announcement of adding barcodes to its Facebook Offers scheme, for example, points to a time when Facebook may also look to get in on wider, physical mobile payment activities.

Release below.

BANGO PLC

(“Bango” or “the Company”)

Facebook Update

Bango plc (AIM:BGO), the mobile web payments and analytics company, today announces that its integration with Facebook is now live. Bango is providing Facebook mobile web carrier billing in Germany, the UK & USA, and the service is being expanded to other countries during the remainder of 2012.
Following an initial announcement of the partnership in February 2012, Bango now provides Facebook mobile web carrier billing, as part of an improved mobile payments flow. This enables Facebook’s mobile web users to easily purchase digital content without the use of premium SMS messages or the limitations of credit cards. Instead, users enjoy frictionless operator billing, paying on their phone, without the need to register personal details.

Bango is one of the world’s leading mobile payments and analytics companies. App stores, publishers and content providers use Bango to collect payment from mobile users for online content and services. Bango’s pervasive presence across app stores, publishers and mobile operators creates a platform effect for its partners, leading to more identified mobile users and maximizing the number of single-click payments. The result is significantly higher rates of collection. This is the experience that Facebook is now using for its smartphone payments service on the mobile web.

Bango has become the payments platform of choice for many of the world’s leading app stores. In addition to Facebook, Bango’s existing app store connections include Blackberry App World, Opera Mobile Store and operator-led connections to Google Play. Bango has also announced an agreement to provide payment services to Amazon and has become a technology partner for MasterCard’s PayPass mobile wallet.

Conventional operator billing is expected to achieve around a 40% conversion rate. Put simply, most mobile commerce customers who click ‘buy’ do not successfully buy. Billing with the Bango payment platform delivers an average conversion rate of 77%. Most users who click ‘buy’, do buy.

Commenting on the announcement, Bango CEO Ray Anderson said “We are delighted to bring Bango’s payment experience to Facebook. As the mobile web experience has matured and improved, consumers are increasingly keen to purchase digital goods on mobile devices. By ensuring a frictionless payment experience, Bango technology is unlocking the business potential of the mobile web.”