PayPal Mobilizes With Zong

Smartphones are finally paying off the promise of one-device connectivity and the mobile consumer has emerged. The next great mobility wave — paying on the go — is now upon us.

In May, Google announced Google Wallet, a product that essentially turns a Droid into a mobile payment device. At the time it was the newest addition to the emerging NFC-based technology that will eventually turn most mobile phones into payment devices. But in the U.S. market, the technology is lagging. In addition, consumers here may be hesitant to adopt it because of security concerns.

The leading online payment service PayPal potentially has a lot to lose if phone-based payment systems take off. In late June, PayPal reported on its blog that “we’ve just raised our 2011 Mobile Total Payments Volume (TPV) projections to $3 billion. Mobile payments are growing at a rate we never could have imagined when we started processing them back in 2006 — in fact, this is the third time we’ve had to update our mobile 2011 projections.”

The growth of mobile payments is one of the key reasons PayPal owner eBay just purchased Zong for $240 million. Zong, which will become part of PayPal, approaches mobile payments in an entirely different way, by adding the payment for a mobile phone or computer-based purchase directly to the consumer’s wireless bill. In effect, this avoids any of the technology issues related to phone-based payments.

PayPal has about 100 million active accounts. Zong has 250 carrier partners around the world. Putting the two together makes a lot of sense. Like chocolate and peanut butter, the melding of PayPal and Zong could be the technology version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Zong CEO and Founder David Marcus is clearly psyched about it:

“I am so excited by the unique combination of PayPal’s 8 million merchants, brand power, risk management expertise, and financial stability, with Zong’s Carrier DNA, its largest direct carrier payments network, product innovation, and best-in-class carrier billing technology. This industry first is going to allow us to scale what we’ve built over the course of the past 3 years (and then some) in a massive way!”

PayPal President Scott Thompson adds:

“Zong’s expertise in carrier billing means that it has the potential to reach the more than 4 billion people around the world who have mobile phones – including people who don’t have (or choose not to use) bank accounts or credit cards online. By combining Zong and PayPal, we believe we can offer more services to more customers, ultimately bringing even more value to how people pay and get paid.”

Ryan Kim, writing for GigaOM before the acquisition was even announced, said PayPal’s biggest future opportunity would be “mobile payments for offline goods” because they represent “more than 90 percent of current transactions.” It looks like that is exactly what eBay was buying with the Zong acquisition. PayPal, long known as a payment service totally focused on eBay and other online transactions, needs to penetrate the offline world if it is to be taken seriously.

Zong should put some offline zing in PayPal’s bottom line.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

6 Responses to PayPal Mobilizes With Zong

  1. alastairmonk says:

    question: I think everyone agrees the US (and other countries) are years behind Asia / Japan in phone based payments – but is ‘pay via your phone bill’ the way it’s done ‘over there’?
    I’m confused – as you have stated Zong basically hooks up with the carrier, will that still be the case with PayPal?

    • Barry Silverstein says:

      Thanks for your comment. In Asia, the smartphone is more accepted as a payment device. Zong does have carriers signed up around the world and operates in 42 countries, but usage in countries varies. PayPal plans to blend Zong in with its own service, so it is likely that PayPal will have payments enabled via carriers.

      • alastairmonk says:

        Thanks for the reply – – So would you be able to give your best guess as to who would be paying an affiliate if they direct a person to buy something via their phone – Let’s imagine a location based mobile App pushes a notification to someone -‘you are 100 meters from a 2-1 offer to buy bacon flavored ice cream!’ – would it be:
         A) The merchant who’s store has the product (tracked via another affiliate network)
        B) PayPal / Zonga who enable the transaction / have an incentive to ramp up mobile payment usage
        C) a combo of both A & B 

        • Barry Silverstein says:

          Good question. My understanding is that PayPal would be in control of the transaction, so I guess it would depend on the arrangement the merchant has with PayPal.

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  3. Spook SEO says:

    PayPal is not the only “online wallet” that you could use nowadays.
    There are a couple more others that are even friendlier to other country’s
    rules. Just like what they always say, you have to work with your assets and
    let them be spread out. This case, work with more than just PayPal.