New services will help mobile operators regain consumer relationship control, claims Weve exec

Will it be a success?

New commerce-focused services from mobile operators will help them regain a deeper relationship with their customers amid continued pressure from players such as Google and Apple, according to Tony Moretta, marketing director at mobile marketing and payments firm, Weve.

Speaking to StrategyEye, Moretta says that Weve, a joint venture between UK operators EE, O2 and Vodafone, is the operators’ way of avoiding being the ‘dumb pipe’, used merely as a distributor of voice and data services. Weve, formerly known as Project Oscar, was granted EU approval last year and is already working with brands to deliver targeted advertising to mobile owners using the networks’ data and the firm is working on mobile payment solutions.

“Weve is really about the operators realising that they were starting to get into a number of areas in the mobile commerce market where they didn’t believe that they were going to get the scale individually to compete with the over-the-top players like Google, Apple, PayPal and a whole host of other organisations,” says Moretta. “It was really less about differentiating from each other and more about working together as an industry to compete more effectively with those players and avoiding being the ‘dumb pipe’.”

Moretta adds that consumer trust in mobile operators will be a factor when they begin rolling out services such as mobile wallets.  However, he warns that operators are unlikely to launch payment products until next year, with both merchants and smartphone vendors implementing the infrastructure for technology such as NFC, which can take years. Recent figures from ICM Research claim that the use of contactless payments among UK consumers remains low at just 8%, despite 80% of people knowing what they are and a quarter actually owning a credit or debit card capable of processing such purchases.

While there is still much hype surrounding the mobile payments space, it is yet to take off, with consumer education cited as one of the key remaining obstacles. A recent study from comScore highlights this, with nearly half of US consumers unable to name any digital wallet offering other than PayPal. However, as more smartphone vendors integrate technology such as NFC, mobile payments are still expected to grow, with recent Forrester stats claiming that mobile payment volume could top USD90bn in the US alone by 2017.

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