Lucrative new niche promised by combined mobile money venture
Weve, the mobile money and marketing venture brought together by Vodafone, EE and O2, is to go into overdrive this summer as it targets more than 17 million British customers with paid-for advertising. The initiative aims to provide member operators and partners with a single set of technical standards for use on all devices and networks, at the same time acting as a ‘one-stop-shop’ selling services to advertisers. In its original guise the venture was codenamed ‘Oscar’ and primarily envisaged as a mobile wallet service, though since it has evolved more into a marketing than pure payments platform.
It was also meant to provide widespread mobile payments in time for the London Olympics 2012, but became mired in red tape over competition concerns with the result that it did not win approval from EU financial regulators until last September .
Its slow progress is known to have vexed Vodafone’s CEO Vittorio Colao and, in February this year , it was revealed that chief executive Nancy Cruikshank would be stepping down from the helm after just three months in the job.
Before leaving Cruickshank, whose role was said to be that of mere ‘launch editor’, revealed how she hoped the service would generate £1 billion in revenues over five years, with 3UK and Virgin Media also due to be brought on board as partners.
Even so, mobile money has been slow to take off in the UK. America’s leading mobile operators, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, which is 45 per cent owned by Vodafone, launched their own joint mobile payments scheme in October.
The joint venture, Isis, was given the go-ahead despite objections from the likes of Google which also has a mobile payments scheme, and now allows users to leave their wallets at home and instead make payments by waving their handsets at the till.
Weve finally hopes to do the same in the UK as it rolls out its own service.
It aims to use the large stores of data voluntarily provided by more than a third of the country’s smartphone and tablet users to open lucrative new revenue sources in mobile app and website marketing, with brand campaigns tailored for individual phone users.
Advertisers will be able to target users according data sets such as location, gender, age, device and other personal details, though identity and phone numbers will stay secret.
According to David Sear, Weve’s new chief executive, an agreement with Britain’s major banks should be reached in the next few months, helping to consolidate the otherwise fragmented market for mobile payment schemes in Britain.
He also aims to have a banking service accessible to half the UK debt card market by the end of next year .