“One and done?” Or “sure to be more?”
Payments firms want the latter, to move beyond fleeting relationships with customers, and the same is true within the money transfer arena. The process of sending money around the world can be a laborious one, with forms to be filled out and data to be authenticated.
The Tuesday (Oct. 4) debut of MoneyGram’s digital money transfer service, MoneyGram MobilePass, is the the latest news focused on making transactions a bit more seamless, but also quicker.
Through the service itself, MobilePass users are able to initiate a transaction online, with the ability to use a mobile device, and then pay for the transactions in person at a MoneyGram location in the United States.
In an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, Alex Holmes, who serves as the firm’s CEO, said that the process is an intuitive one, where MobilePass users fill in sender and receiver information through mobile devices, with the amount of money tied to the transaction, and then select the physical location at which the transaction will be completed.
The overarching aim, said Holmes, is one where “experience at the point of sale is easier, and the experience with an agent [at the MoneyGram location] is faster … to give a little bit of the control back to the customer.” And, he added, the stage is being set for a wider embrace of mobile payments, as more consumers comfortable with conducting online transactions across a host of industries have been joining small retailers in moving toward “taking a physical transaction and adding a digital element to it.”
In a question posed by Webster about how the company has viewed the payment space, especially with an eye on mobile payments, remittance, mobile P2P, as well as things outside traditional P2P activity, Holmes noted: “There’s a couple of things that have helped clarify our direction. First is that it’s very simple,” and that large swaths of consumer demographics have obtained mobile phones, smartphones and, as he pointed out, ”entry-level smartphones are a lot more prevalent.”
Other use cases that have helped inform MoneyGram’s MobilePass include airlines, with mobile boarding passes, or theaters, where tickets can be ordered online. Thus, “ a lot of the drivers,” as Holmes noted, “have been to eliminate paper.” For MoneyGram specifically, said Holmes, agents still play an important role and must enter consumer data into the system and confirm that data back to the customer. In some cases, that can take a fairly long period of time, particularly when there is a new transaction or a new receiver. “We realized that customers were really adept at thinking about new technology and thinking about how they transact and interact and to to speed up transactions at the point of sale.”
Now, said Holmes, with MobilePass, the transaction is mostly mobile, with the presence of the teller as one that completes the transaction. “When you think about big retailers,” he said, “or even smaller convenience stores, there’s a lot of turnover with staff, and so, training is a big issue in the industry. But if we can simplify the requirements around that training” and make the focus on AML and other compliance issues — and rely on preloaded data rather than manual entry — then several benefits are realized. And while MoneyGram’s aims may not include a carbon copy of a full-fledged mobile banking relationship, “being able to update sender and receiver information in real time is really sort of a small bridge in that direction. This is taking a fast transaction, a local transaction and, for the first time, bringing a digital element into it.” The more robust transaction, with fewer errors that might be seen with more manual processes, should engender customer interest in MoneyGram’s other services, which would extend to bill pay (coming in the next phase of MobilePass) or insurance, changing the interaction with the customer and deepening that relationship beyond “one and done” and moving toward repeat usage, regardless of payments rails.
Eventually, wider spread adoption of this online/in-person continuum integrating fully at the physical point of sale will serve to “take the transaction to the relationship level,” said Holmes.