In 2005, I was at one of the earliest mobile conventions in Germany. Most of the people there were discussing the technical side of creating a mobile Web site. And how to find a cheap degradation-concept for the approximately 2,000 different handset models. Really not easy.

Another major topic of conversation at the convention was mobile content structure:

  • How many articles? Not too many; never the whole online content.

  • How many channels? Not too many; never the whole online offer.

  • How many interactive features? Not too many; never the whole online feature set.

The last and least-visited lecture came from Zed, an international ringtone company. The product manager spent the first few minutes delivering the standard introduction about the millions of ringtones they offered, the best technical set-up of their database, and the cool branding of Zed. His big finish: Content is king! Everyone in the room felt vindicated. They were right and had set their priorities perfectly.

But then the project manager added: “And billing is King Kong!” 

Amazing, but true. Zed in those days was able to offer each partner a simple billing and reporting interface. Almost every customer of the mobile network operators (MNO) and service providers (SP) could be billed. Impressive.

Six years later, the statement is truer than ever. The best collaborative partner in mobile business is the one that can offer you an easy, one-click, and secure billing back end.

The best proof? The app stores. Apple is the only successful partner because of its perfect billing process. Their initial user registration, which includes payment information, is the golden key. Google failed with their solutions, such as RIM and Microsoft.

On the other hand, you have the MNOs and SP. Because of the rising rate of fraud, some of the prepaid card distributors are pre-blocking their customers if they want to buy mobile content. You as a mobile portal company have to combine different payment opportunities for your user to find a solution to this dilemma.

Conclusion: Billing is one of the most important columns of a mobile product concept. It has to be implemented as soon as possible, especially if you are thinking about the user journey.

Let the money flow!