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Zong adds debit, credit to mobile payments service

Zong has launched Zong+, an online mobile payments platform combining carrier billing with credit, debit and prepaid cards.

Now, in addition to making online purchases through their mobile phone bill, Zong customers will also be able to link any type of payment card to their Zong account through a one-time entry process and continue to buy goods and services by entering their mobile number and confirming the security transaction code sent to their phone.

“We wanted to address three deficiencies that we saw with our product: high transaction costs, limited priced points and slow payout times of up to 90 days,” said Hill Ferguson, vice president of product management and marketing at Zong, Palo Alto, CA. “With Zong+, we address all three, lowering transaction costs up to 80 percent, increasing our price points and removing all limitations and accelerating the payout times threefold.

“Our research shows that the majority of Zong users actually have a debit or credit card in their wallet—they just don’t always want to take it and type 80 characters and handover sensitive information to a lot of online merchants,” he said.

“For consumers, Zong+ adds the security of mobile authorization of card-based payments, while making it more convenient by using your mobile number to initiate a transaction, and furthermore, your card information is not shown to anyone.”

Echovox’s Zong is a mobile payments service used by social networking Web sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Hi5. It is also featured in online gaming sites and virtual worlds such as Gaia Online, IMVU, Mochi Media and Outspark.

This year, Zong claims to have processed mobile payments for more than 10 million unique consumers worldwide, as well as 25 million total unique users since 2000.

Zong+ customers will be incentivized to complete the one-time card registration and will receive automatically redeemable rewards for every dollar spent through the Zong service.

This new release is designed to enable Zong to address new market segments, win additional merchants and accelerate its consumer adoption rate.

Zong claims that this will even benefit wireless carriers, which it claims will experience a significant increase in transaction volume.

Merchants who may have previously been unable to leverage the higher conversion rate of mobile payments due to accompanying fees or limited price points can now achieve transaction completion at the typical card rates, according to Zong.

“Our customers will start to roll out Zong+ in a matter of days,” Mr. Ferguson said. “Upgrading will be essentially painless, as our software is backward-compatible to previous versions.

“For merchants, the economics improve quite dramatically,” he said. “So much so, in fact, that we will now have the ability to penetrate new markets for ecommerce.

“The beauty of Zong+ is it’s the first payment system to combine the ubiquity and convenience of the carrier-based payments with the flexibility and efficiency of card-based payments.”