I don't think a day goes by that I don't see some type of offer for mobile payments. Whether I'm paying my bills on my bank's website, watching TV with my family or checking out the latest industry news, everyone is telling me that I "need" to use my smartphone to pay bills because it is so convenient. We've talked about the Millennials, and I'm more confident than ever that Gen Y will eschew email and expect everything to be accessible via handheld converged devices. No doubt there will be a growing number of mobile apps focused on consolidated payments, either from banks or third-party aggregators.

For example, if I'm at the airport waiting for my flight and I realize that, oops, I forgot to pay my phone bill, I can take out my smartphone and click on my app (that I had to download to get mobile payment service) and then, poof! I can pay my phone bill. Now, I can board my plane and enjoy my vacation with peace of mind that my bills are paid. The only problem is that I missed the great deal for two months of free movies that my phone carrier promoted to their online biller-direct customers. The bank or bill consolidator did not have the information and/or the technology to make that offer usable or viewable, so I lost out on that deal.

In their report, "US Electronic Bill Payment And Presentment Forecast, 2009 To 2014: Preparing For The Rise Of The Biller-Direct Generation," Forrester forecasts that by 2012 bill consolidators will exceed biller-direct websites (in terms of number of bills paid). With many people spending hours a day on Facebook and an increased focus on compiling all of our online activities, consumers may migrate away from biller-direct payments. If they do that, billers risk losing touch with their customers and missing the opportunity to enhance customer loyalty through coupons and other incentives.

Have biller-direct sites gone stale? Some are really good, easy to use and provide payment options and information that I can't get through my bank or aggregator, but some are not so good. To stay in the game, billers and third-party EBPP services will need to focus on building programs and services that are mobile enabled with marketing and up-sell offers configured for multiple channel delivery. A PDF attachment may be an easy transition from paper, but it's inappropriate for mobile devices. Billers need to be able to deliver to multiple platforms and keep customers interested with useful, compelling content and offers.

I do think that there will be a fight for the consumer, and it's clear that banks are already on the offense. Although Forrester predicts slow but steady growth in EBPP over the next five years, the report indicates that consumers are coming to appreciate the convenience of bill aggregation.

While convenience is important, consumers (particularly those Millennials) still value a personal connection with their providers of choice. If they (and their billers) don't want that monthly love letter sent via the USPS, then billers need to figure out how to foster that connection online. Feature-rich biller websites are essential to draw customers and keep them coming back. Billers need to leverage the fact that they can offer valuable incentives and information that aggregators just can't match.

I hope you are the winner!!

TRACY DALTON [tracyd634@gmail.com] is an expert in electronic payment and presentment solutions, specializing in the innovation and execution of the bill-to-cash life cycle. She has 18 years of product innovation experience in document printing and payment processing outsourcing solutions and she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the electronic delivery market.


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