Just in time for next week's Mobile World Congress (MWC), mobile payment solutions provider BOKU is announcing BOKU Accounts, a mobile payments solution built specifically for mobile operators. It's geared toward targeted offers for consumers who can redeem them through their phones. Note to merchants: No new hardware or software is required at the point of sale.
While BOKU has deals with 240 operators around the world, BOKU President Ron Hirson calls today's news the most significant announcement the company has made since launch. To be sure, it's a solution that doesn't need NFC to be widely deployed in order to work, but it's "future ready" for when NFC is more widely available. NFC is the payment technology in Google Wallet and ISIS, the mCommerce network of AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA.
BOKU did not announce a customer for the platform but is conducting a trial with an operator in the U.K., where it's initially focused.
Designed to be set up through mobile operators, BOKU Accounts allow subscribers to make payments online, in app and in store. In-store purchases via BOKU accounts will be enabled anywhere MasterCard is accepted; BOKU says it's agnostic when it comes to financial services so you can expect other payment processing companies to be added.
"We're excited about NFC," says BOKU Senior Director of Marketing Ray Ramillosa. That said, it's going to be a long time before NFC is broadly available. A very small percentage of merchant locations are equipped for NFC transactions, he says, so going with NFC alone is not enough to jumpstart mobile payments. BOKU is, however, planning for the day when NFC is more widely available by supporting it in this latest platform.
A lot of mobile payments solutions are being touted out there, so what makes BOKU unique? Ramillosa tosses out some words like "backwards and forwards" compatibility and, for good measure, "side to side" compatibility, meaning they've built the solution to work with existing handsets – both smartphones and feature phones – and the ability for merchants to send targeted offers to consumers without changing their own POS terminals.
It includes two payment instruments: a carrier-sanctioned sticker on the back of a phone for NFC-enabled merchants and MasterCard card. The phone is not the payment instrument; where NFC is unavailable, the way to make payments is with a physical card.
BOKU offers two sources of revenue for the operator; the first is through payments, so operators can make revenue when payments are processed. However, the predominant source of revenue is through the merchant advertising component.