Sept. 20, 2012
Facebook's much maligned mobile strategy seems to be getting some attention. The company recently announced a number of updates to its platform, including updates that will make it easier for developers to integrate the mobile channel and include mobile billing as a part of monetizing their apps.
The first update deals with one of the vagaries of direct carrier billing, a payment method much preferred by certain audiences and in certain countries. Through direct carrier billing, users can place the purchase of virtual goods or currencies through Facebook directly on their monthly phone bills. It's a popular payment method for those without access to a credit or debit accounts — such as younger consumers (a core audience for gaming and social media sites).
The new update allows developers to calculate the mobile cost of virtual goods based upon the location and carrier of a user. The upshot of the update is that developers can price in markups made by carriers to purchases made using direct carrier billing.
Those markups can be significant and can vary greatly from country to country and carrier to carrier. They also can mean that paying for virtual goods via a mobile device is more expensive than paying online. With the new update, developers can ensure that the cost of their virtual currency bundles reflects those markups and is consistent from online to mobile.
According to a post on the company's blog, that consistency across channels means a better experience for users and, ultimately, more business for developers.
"Especially in countries when users tend to pay more with mobile, having access to the mobile price points for users allows developers to price their in-game packages to match the mobile price-points, which has shown increased purchase conversions for some developers," the post said.
Direct carrier biller and Facebook partner Bango agrees. A company spokesman said that carrier billing, now that it is well-established, is the most conversion-friendly form of billing.
"Our experience shows that where game players can charge digital purchases to their phone bill, developers will see two or three times the number of payments," the Bango spokesman said. "The key trick is to minimize the number of steps to payment."
The spokesman said Bango is working closely with Facebook to ensure mobile payment is a frictionless process. Ensuring that costs are in line with the payment options allowed by the operator is one important step in that direction, he said.
Another update made by Facebook will make mobile carrier billing ever quicker and will add to the "frictionlessness" of the payment method. This second update allows developers to add a shortcut taking mobile customers straight to the mobile payment flow.
In the past, mobile users were routed through other payment options like credit cards or PayPal. Moving straight to a mobile billing option requires far fewer steps for the consumer and increases the likelihood that an individual will complete a purchase.
For more stories like this, visit the In-App Payments research center.