Paythru provides mobile payments for a range of clients, including charities and local authorities, as well as retailers getting into mobile commerce. 

I’ve been speaking to Paythru MD Keith Brown about the company, and the challenges of making mobile payments easy for customers. 

When and why did you launch Paythru?

My background is financial services, while my partner Russell is a techie, and we intiially set up the company to solve the problem of how to take payments for insurance premiums via mobiles. 

A large number of under 35s don’t have travel insurance when they go on holiday, and since it’s a commodity product, we saw the opportunity of using mobile to attract this audience.

Having seen the changes brought about by e-commerce platforms to the insurance and financial services market, we saw the same opportunity in mobile. 

The existing payment options were not the best though;  we needed an e-money license, and at the time this was very expensive to get, while the other mechanism for mobile payments was reserve billing. 

We saw that what people needed was a payment system which replicates what people do elsewhere, and that’s what we set out to do. We provide a way for customers to pay on a mobile without having to pre-register, which makes the process smoother for customers. 

Have you take any funding for the business? 

We’ve been working on this for three years, so it has been a slog, but we’ve raised almost £1m for tech investment over the last 12 months, and we’re starting to see some traction now, and we have a number of clients coming on board in the next few months. 

Who are your typical clients? 

We have been targeting several verticals, including payments for parking services, utility bills and local authority bills, as well as mobile retail payments. 

Our current clients include NSPCC, for whom we handle mobile donations, while we also provide mobile payments for Rangers FC, and have been working Sccope. We have a few announcements coming over the next three months. 

How big an issue is security in mobile payments? 

I think security is a concern to users, and we use this compliance as a way to appeal to customers. 

We achieved PC1 level compliance last year, and we’re the only mobile payment solution to do so, meaning we have the same standard of security as retail banks and card issuers. 

Also, shoppers make a contract with the retailer when they pay using our service, so they are still protected under the Consumer Credit Act. 

What is the key to making mobile payments smooth for customers? 

I think the process has to be invisible to users. We have done some clever things with our technology, but customers cannot see it; every extra step in the process increases friction for customers. 

We have developed a one-click payment system, like Amazon, and consumers can opt to have us hold their card details for future payments to make purchases smoother. 

The easier and smoother card payments are, the more people will shop through their mobiles. 

Most importantly, payment pages and checkouts need to be designed for mobiles. When we build any payment pages, these are all optimized to mobile.

Mobile retail is not exactly the same as e-commerce, and mobile sites need to be adopted to reflect this. For example, it isn’t necessary for mobile sites to display all the stock from the main site, it can be better to keep it simple. The way I see it is that mobile commerce is a picnic, while a website is a four course meal. 

We’re moving into a new areas, and retailers have to understand that you can’t just stick a website checkout onto a mobile site and expect it to be OK. Payment pages should match the rest if the mobile site to reduce customer abandonment. 

The challenge is to make it seamless and easy to use for customers. 

Are we reaching a point where mobile commerce will take off? 

Yes, I think we are approaching the tipping point, and I think more and more retailers are picking up on that. They can look at their visitor stats and see an increasing number of visits from mobile devices. 

ASOS, for instance, has 14% of visits through mobiles, and has a site that hasn’t been designed for this purpose. When retailers see the business case for mobile retail, then more and more will become involved.