Kiosks raise hopes for m-commerce take-off

IT managers will be able to offer retailers access to new mobile payment systems, as IT suppliers are now beginning to offer...

IT managers will be able to offer retailers access to new mobile payment systems, as IT suppliers are now beginning to offer in-store kiosks to top up mobile phones.

With the new equipment retailers will be able to allow customers to buy pre-pay vouchers for their mobile phones at in-store kiosks, a move that analysts believe will boost uptake of mobile commerce.

Despite the hype, m-commerce has not been a priority for most retailers, but the kiosks will provide an opportunity for some IT managers to offer new services to their business, according to James Myring, senior research analyst at Continental Research.

"There is definite potential in topping up pre-pay vouchers via mobile phones, as it is so much more convenient for the consumer," he said.

"And it will get people used to dealing with financial transactions over their mobile phones, making m-commerce a real issue," Myring added.

IBM, which developed the kiosks in association with mobile payments provider Paybox, is in the process of marketing the concept to its retail customers, which include Tesco and Somerfield. It expects trials of the technology to begin by the end of the year.

The kiosks, which can also be sited in public places for 24-hour access, will allow retailers to "jump on the mobile phone bandwagon", according to Barry Shrier, vice-president of marketing at Paybox.

"The mobile industry is struggling but consumer usage of mobile phones is booming with, for example, 42 million text messages sent every day in the UK alone," he said. "And 70% of all mobile phone users in the UK use pre-pay vouchers so the opportunity for retailers is clear."

IT managers will also be able to help retailers to tailor the kiosks to add some of their own services, Shrier said.

"A lot of retailers have shown interest in using the kiosks to allow customers to scan their own shopping," he said, particularly for "short shops", such as lunches and snacks.

The kiosks will link into retailers' legacy systems in the same way as traditional tills, explained Shrier. "The kiosk will basically be a digital till with a built-in scanner, linking to suppliers and inventory systems in the usual way."

Earlier this year Abbey National announced a deal to allow its customers who use the Orange network to top up their pre-pay vouchers at Abbey National cash machines, while consumers can already pay for Internet services and other low-cost items through their phone bills.

Shrier said the Paybox/ IBM deal takes m-commerce to the next level, as the service is network-independent.

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