Digi, Google Malaysia ink direct billing deal

  • Gives non-credit card users, those cautious of online transactions access
  • Google Newsstand comes to town tagged with localised content

Digi, Google Malaysia ink direct billing deal

DIGI Bhd has entered into an alliance with Google Malaysia that will allow their customers who want to purchase apps and content on Google Play Store to directly debit their postpaid bills or via the deduction of their prepaid airtime balance.

Claiming to be the first telco to offer this kind service in Malaysia, chief marketing officer Christian Thrane said this would provide consumers a new, safe and secure payment platform for purchasing mobile apps, in-app purchases and content.

“This partnership would allow our 5.3 million Digi customers who are Google Android users to buy premium apps, in-app purchases and content without having to use credit cards,” he said during a media briefing with Google Malaysia on Sept 10.

“For Digi, it’s about making transactions on Google Play Store easy, convenient, safe and accessible for all the customers out there who don’t have a credit card or who are not comfortable transacting online,” Thrane added.

Thrane said from today (Sept 10), Digi customers can simply add purchases from Google Play Store to their postpaid bill or deduct from their prepaid airtime balance through a four-step process. For more information on how to do this, visit digi.my/GooglePlay.

The Digi-Google direct billing tie-up comes on the back of another similar tie-up announced on Sept 4 with fledgling video streaming provider iFlix Sdn Bhd, where its users can charge their Internet TV subscriptions to either their Digi postpaid or prepaid accounts.

The Digi-Google relationship goes as far back as 2014, when the telco partnered the search giant by providing a number of new services including an add-on package that allows Digi customers to access YouTube at affordable prices, and more recently, a free 24 hour Internet, social messaging with the new Digi Smart Prepaid plan.

Asked why Digi chose to only now tie up with Google given that integrated direct billing is not a  new trend, Thrane said pulling off such an integration [of billing systems] “isn’t that easy” and there are technical details to manage between the two companies.

“[Also our] customer experience is extremely important to us and we want to make it easy and enriching for them to enjoy the service and do things the way they want to.”

Pressed further as to how such a service would impact Digi’s customer loyalty, Thrane said it’s too early to tell.

“How all this translates to customer retention, we’ll have to see how it impacts the numbers later.”

When asked how much revenue Digi expects to derive from this service, Thrane declined to comment, noting only that this service is about “an opportunity to make it easy and convenient for the customers to buy apps and that the transaction value lies with the customer, not Digi.”

“We revenue share with Google and get a transaction fee from the process but it’s important to note that this service is not a major chunk of our revenue,” Thrane explained. “This is something we do for our customers to make it easier for them to use the Internet.”

Beside these benefits to its subscribers, Thrane also believes that this new service will have a positive effect for Malaysian mobile app and content developers.

With direct billing for Google Play Store, Digi hopes to inspire mobile app and game developers as well as content providers to create more localised content for the Malaysian market, he added.

“Now they will have a more engaged target market with an easier and more convenient way to pay ensuring developers are suitably rewarded for their effort and we hope this helps cultivate innovation and drives the local app developer community,” Thrane said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Google Malaysia industry head Prashant Pathmanaban said Google chose to partner with Digi with this first-of-a-kind service in Malaysia as it already has a long standing relationship with Malaysia’s third-largest telco.

Asked if Google Malaysia is in talks with other telcos on similar direct billing arrangements, Prashant declined to say, noting only that “Google has nothing to announce on that today.”

Google Play Newsstand opens its doors

In conjunction with the launch, Prashant revealed that Google has brought its popular Google Play Newsstand app to Malaysia, partnering with 13 publishing companies and offering over 40 titles for local consumption. Content is available in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese.

Prashant said consumers now have access to a one-stop shop to obtain Malaysian news and magazine content on their Android tablets and smartphones. Readers, for example, can enjoy content from traditional media such as Berita Harian, New Straits Times, The Star, he said.

Online content includes Malaysiakini, The Malaysian Insider and magazine content includes Esquire Malaysia or Elle Malaysia, while foreign content include The Guardian, Reuters and The New York Times, Prashant added.

“With Play Newsstand, users can enjoy full-length article, dynamic content that includes audio and video,” Prashant explained. “Users can also save articles to offline to be read later.”

He said much of the content is free while some are premium content but that many publishers offer free 30-day trials and promotions to get readers on board.

“With Digi’s direct billing in place, users will also be able to pay via its service instead of using credit cards,” Prashant noted.

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