Visa’s mobile chief on digital transformation

Visa’s mobile chief on digital transformation

Digital transformation

The marketing industry is still putting too much emphasis on digital as a separate category, rather than integrating it across the business and "marketing to people in a digital world", argued Unilever's Marc Mathieu at Cannes 2014. 

Jeremy Nicholds, Executive Director for Mobile, Visa Europe, couldn't agree more. “We are living in the digital world. It’s not as if there are two parallel worlds,” he says. “Yet so many organisations fail to view it in a holistic way and as a result, digital remains siloed, with marketers saying, ‘this is how we do things normally and that’s digital over there.’ What they should be saying is, ‘How do I take my company, my brand or my service and enable it for the digital world?’

Visa itself has made this transition over the past few years, he says. “Having set up a digital division, we are now much more about, ‘How do we get that digital innovation to the core of the business and enhance, improve and revamp our offerings so they are fi t for purpose in the digital world?’ That has to be the approach.” It’s not simple, he acknowledges, with both cultural and structural organisational issues likely to be the biggest barriers. “Many companies, for instance, have been traditionally organised into very separate structures. But I think it’s possible to change this, provided you get to the point of ‘Ok, so we're in this digital world, so what does our proposition look like in that digital world and how do we deliver that proposition?’

The transition, which can be quite complex, must come from the top down, adds Nicholds.

“The message from the very top has to be, ‘We are setting out a new vision for the company and for our products, our services and our propositions to keep them relevant and attractive in market for this new digital world.’ Once you've got that vision and commitment from the top, there has to be involvement cross functionally, cross divisionally and cross organisationally. In other words, you have to get buy in from right across the organisation because you don’t want petty squabbles getting in the way of redefining or redesigning your offering.”

So what’s stopping so many organisations?

In many cases, believes Nicholds, it’s the fact that one company approach drives another. “So one company sees another having a chief digital officer and feels pressured to have their own.

That then leads to this bunch of people within the organisation talking in terms of, ‘the world is increasingly mobile.’ But in many ways that is a fatuous statement because mobile is already a core part of our daily lives.

It’s not as if it’s something happening somewhere else. It’s all around us. We are living it. Bottom line is there needs to be a whole mind-set change and not just within marketing. All functions need to understand and utilise digital.” 

Take business operations, he says. “It’s critical they are on board because we increasingly live in this app based world and as customers, our expectations from any company are shaped by what we come to expect from dealing with apps – that is, ‘instant’, ‘works anywhere’, ‘quick’ and ‘simple’. A huge amount has to be done for any delivery proposition to make sure those expectations are met.” 

Also consider data footprints, he says – one of the many aspects of digital. “Businesses that are providing new digital services for their customers are also capturing new data – perhaps on how a customer is using that product or service or where they are using it. The way that data is then used, noting all privacy issues, might involve product development or operations management or marketing or comms. 

A number of functions that are involved in delivering digital can benefit from that new digital offering and the data it provides.”

Beyond the mind-set of marketing in a digital world, we need to recognise that the future is also a mobile world, adds Nicholds. Mobile devices play an undeniably central role in our lives, shifting into payments, banking and media, just to name a few, he explains. “In many ways, Visa has been a digital pioneer for a number of years. We have seen the future, whereby our entire card base – which is over 500 million cards in Europe – would be digitised and available for use in mobile form. 

We therefore have big plans for mobile and have been laying down the core infrastructure to make digitised cards and mobile work. That infrastructure – such as the contactless payment structure that we in the UK know and love and that we have been investing in for the last six or seven years – is the same one that is required for mobile payments, in the proximity sense.” 

Visa has also been working to remove ‘friction’ from the retail experience via by Visa, a new solution that enables you to add your cards to a secure digital wallet provided by a bank or building society of your choice. “This is relevant for when you are shopping online at a retailer from a mobile device and you come to make the purchase. Instead of having to go through the form filling piece and entering payment details, this allows you to do it in three-four clicks – agree to pay, authenticate, decide which card and click confirmation.”

"Marketing to people in a digital world" 

In addition, Visa is working on mobile money transfer services. “Our Visa Direct service means that I can send money to a friend in Australia just by using my bank app. I just need to know his or her phone number, put in the amount and they get a message confirming it almost instantly and once they follow the link, connect their card, the transfer goes through on to their account straight away.”

The trick with all things mobile is to take a “mobile first” approach, believes Nicholds.

“Rather than thinking, ‘How do I translate what I do into mobile?’ you start with the mobile approach and ask, ‘What are the key things that people have a need or requirement for, or are interested in doing? Then how does mobile help me to do that in a good way?’” 

The market is very dynamic. Just a few years ago, he points out, the model for mobile payment focused on the mobile operators – having a SIM card in your phone, which gave you the chip where your payment credentials were securely stored. “We have been a supporter of that, and still are, but we also understood that new technologies would come along and indeed they have. Just recently, we have seen the announcement of Apple Pay and Google’s new Android Pay solution, both cool payment solutions which we’re very much involved with, that even just a few years ago would not have been possible. Things are moving fast, so you can’t stand still.

You have to be open minded and always recognise that what you bring to market needs to work for the customer. That must be the guiding principle in anything digital. It can’t just be the same but in a digital form – it needs to be better. And there’s no point in getting obsessed with what technology can do over the actual customer need for it either. You need to use digital and mobile technologies to improve the way things are done already. For instance, if I owe you £5, I could simply give you a £5 note, but only when you’re next to me not when you’re a hundred miles away. So money transfers, using mobile, are an example of experience enhancement.”

In terms of what will shape the future of marketing in our digital world, Nicholds believes it’s the fact that customer expectations are being shaped by their app experiences that will have the biggest impact. These expectations around things being simple, quick and convenient will start to manifest themselves into the physical world, he says. “If something isn't adhering to those key principles, then consumers will be less interested.

I see it happening already. Just last weekend, I needed an insurance document and when I phoned my telephone bank on a Saturday to be passed over to the insurance department, I found it wasn't open at weekends. In our increasingly time poor world, we just want everything now. You get used to being able to do that digitally and you want it in the physical sense too.”

Connectivity and continuity are two other areas that he thinks will shape the future of marketing. “With connectivity, this very much shapes our thinking around making payment integral to multiple devices. For instance, we are looking at putting payment into cars, so that when you buy petrol, you would drive up, have your number plate recognised at the forecourt, which would fire up the app on your phone. You’d then fill you tank, press pay on the phone and drive off. You could even have cars negotiating a tank of fuel as you drive to your destination. Your sat nav would tell you that you need to refuel in 75 miles and offer you three fuel stations, with current prices. A little fantastical but maybe it could make the purchase for you.”

"Once you've got that vision and commitment from the top, there has to be involvement cross functionally, cross divisionally and cross organisationally"

With continuity, Nicholds provides the example of how all of us have a frustration when we wait ages on the phone to a call centre, explain our situation, then find we have to get passed to someone else and explain it all over again. “If there was continuity, that organisation would be able to take forward the conversation. Meanwhile, an example of continuity in shopping might involve starting your shopping journey using one device and finishing it ending another, allowing an end-to-end shopping experience that takes place on a couple of channels in different places. “The biggest challenge for marketers, he believes, is the fact that there are so many good digital businesses out there now, meaning that organisations need to find ever more innovative ways to keep ahead of the pack when it comes to integrating digital within the business and delving into the future of mobile. 

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Jeremy Nicholds Executive Director, Mobile Visa Europe

Visa’s mobile chief on digital transformation

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