Banks in Belgium invest in local m-commerce

Friday 9 December 2016 | 16:33 CET | Background
Belfius has invested in Payconiq, an m-commerce and m-payment platform developed by KBC/CBC and ING Belgium. The three banks said they will further develop the payment system and bring out more loyalty programmes for small businesses.

Payconiq is a free app for Android and iOS, developed by ING Bank. After downloading the app, consumers can connect the app to a bank account. The three supporting banks offer quick onboarding, but the app can be linked to any account. Payconiq can be used for peer-to-peer payments between consumers, as well as for retail payments. Merchants must connect their cash register to the Payconiq platform and merchant app. 

ING Belgium supports an m-commerce developer community in Belgium and the Netherlands and has acquired several start-ups. The Payconiq app integrates mobile commerce and mobile loyalty, through Joyn and Citie.

Local m-commerce

In Belgium, Joyn (unrelated to the GSMA endorsed RCS application) has connected around 4.100 merchants to its platform for loyalty points. A look on the online map shows that those shops are mostly small, such as bakeries, baristas, barber shops and your local takeaway. Joyn was set up earlier this year as a merger between three smaller platforms, Het Opzet, Qustomer and CityLife. 

Payconiq also integrates Citie, a communities-based platform for social interaction and local commerce. Municipalities and local shops may share information, advertising and couponing. Citie has launched a service in sixteen towns. In Roeselare in West-Flanders, 83 stores have joined up, but in other towns this can be as few as five. 

This indicates that Citie is (even) smaller than Joyn. The Citie app in the Google  Play store is listed as having between 1,000 and 5,000 installs, as well as 27 user reviews. The iPhone app has 12 reviews (all versions) with a possibly somewhat biased 4.5 star rating. 

Joyn and Citie offer a quick-way for local shops to set up a loyalty programme. This does mean that local success is dependent on enthusiastic local agents. This approach tends not to scale up very readily, although support by three banks can be a boon. Large retail chains are not involved.

Limited payment options

The mobile payment method could also be a limiting factor. Payment is possible, but this is not on standardized and universal rails. Acceptance is very small in comparison to cash and cards, but also in comparison to other m-payment platforms, like Bancontact. This QR-code based payment method at point of sale is supported by twenty banks.

The banking apps are contenders too. Belfius, ING and KBC/CBC offer sophisticated mobile banking apps, as a full service channel for managing current accounts, savings, investments and insurance. Other features included are peer-to-peer payments and QR-code based payment online and at point of sale. 

Like in any other European country, contactless payment is available on the standard EMV card networks. Once banks enable NFC payment in smartphones, they will probably launch their own branded apps. For a consumer, this is a powerful incentive against using multiple mobile payment apps. 


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