Q&A: Hiroyuki Sato, Founder and Chief Executive of DOCOMO Digital

DOCOMO Digital

DOCOMO Digital, the m-commerce platform and consulting business of Japan-based telco NTT, launched at last year’s Mobile World Congress. Its Founder and CEO discusses progress so far

Eurocomms.com: What are the highs and lows of DOCOMO Digital’s first 12 months?

Hiroyuki Sato: One of the biggest objectives in our first year was to establish the DOCOMO Digital brand, with a particular focus on helping companies understand our capabilities in the mobile payment and customer engagement space.

Through a number of strategic partnerships with mobile operators, merchants and marketplaces, we have made some very positive progress on bringing different areas of our business together to provide unified m-commerce solutions.  

Our m-commerce solutions are very complex and require the implementation and integration of payment gateways, CRM technology and business intelligence to work.

Within the first year we recognised that it was hard for companies to understand how this all works.

This has led us to redefine our entry approach for brands, making sure that the first steps on their path to m-commerce success are simple and direct.

This year we will be launching a powerful, yet easy-to-understand solution that will revolutionise the sharing economy, providing a perfect gateway to our platform.
What evidence is there that carrier billing, one of your key offerings, is gaining traction with European consumers?

In the past 12 months we have implemented around 20 direct carrier billing integrations between network operators, merchants and marketplaces in Europe and Asia, including partnerships to enable physical goods to be paid via the payment method.

While we are still seeing demand from operators and merchants for carrier billing, it is only one of many different ways of paying for goods via mobile.

For us, it’s more about ensuring end users have access to safe, easy and convenient methods that are appropriate for the transaction, rather than forcing them to use a specific payment method.

In Spain, you managed to get Movistar, Orange and Vodafone to work together on an m-payments project. Has this type of collaboration been replicated elsewhere?

We are currently working on another multiple operator collaboration in Europe, which will provide a similar experience to the ALSA carrier billing initiative.

We are currently under a NDA but hope to announce the partnership by the end of February.
You said last year that you working on use cases around lifestyle or luxury services with telcos. Has anything come to fruition?

In September, we announced a global partnership with VICE media, to bring VICE’s award-winning content to a Japanese mobile audience starting with VICE Plus in Japan.

Prior to our partnership with VICE, we already had experience in the entertainment media market, with a number of m-commerce relationships with OTT providers in Europe and emerging markets like Africa.

What makes the VICE collaboration really special for us is that it isn´t just a payment deal.

A big part of the collaboration is to provide customer acquisition and marketing services, alongside the payment capabilities to bring VICE programming to hundreds of thousands of users, including original, locally produced video which was premiered alongside curated content from VICE’s network of digital channels around the world.
What are your predictions for the m-payments space in Europe this year that telcos need to be aware of?

One area we are particularly interested in is the sharing economy, made notable by companies such as Deliveroo or AirBnB.

In the sharing economy, sellers often have to wait for at least five working days for card transactions to clear before they get paid.

While there are many big disrupters in this area, agents and sellers are still largely dependent on traditional funding methods.

Given the huge potential of the sharing economy, I expect to see some disruption in the way people pay for goods and services here.

Whether that is through mobile money, carrier billing or peer-to-peer bank transfers, it is very likely that it will be powered by mobile.
What impact have you seen from Apple and Android Pay and how has this affected your business?

Apple and Android Pay has been an interesting talking point for the industry, putting mobile payments very much in the spotlight in the mainstream technology circles.

Personally, it’s very positive to see two of the biggest mobile technology companies put such a large focus on creating platforms and gateways to make mobile payments easier for consumers.

Our vision is to connect operators, merchants, marketplaces and other stakeholders with five billion consumers using a single gateway through mobile, so the more attention and innovations that come from everybody in our space will put us one step further to achieving this.

Read more: Evangelical DOCOMO Digital urges telcos to work together on basic m-payment services


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