It was on the BusinessWeekcover. iPhone App Store is a gold mind for sure. Mobile commerce (m-commerce) in particular, attracts many gold rushers but fulfilling in-app payment is never a piece of cake. In this issue, we’ve interviewed our R&D Team Leader, Danny, to tell us why.GT CHATTERBOX: We heard that the in-app payment of Hong Kong Movie is quite a remarkable achievement. Why is it so?DANNY: When we first created Hong Kong Movie, whether it’s in Hong Kong or elsewhere in the world, “iPhone-commerce” was still at its infancy. There are two common methods developers use to complete purchase transactions. The first being that users will be taken away from the app and brought to a mobile website, where they pay just like they do in Amazon.
The second is through Apple’s payment gateway. Since a credit card is required to be registered when setting up an iTunes account, it’s relatively easy for users to make payment inside an app using this method.
So it was a breakthrough when we made it possible for users to complete the purchase with their credit cards directly inside the app.
GT CHATTERBOX: Why you and your team didn’t use the common payment methods for Hong Kong Movie in the first place?
DANNY: We ruled out option 1 early on because it is counter-intuitive to users’ behavior. Imagine you have selected your movie, the showtime, and even your seats, the next logical thing for you to do is checking out but instead, I ask you to stop and go to another page with Safari, log in and pay! It will create another layer of inconvenience to users and when that happens, they’ll give you all up.
Also, there isn’t one payment vendor that is popular enough in Hong Kong to make it easy for users.
We’ve thought about the second method but it won’t be able to feed real-time payment reports to the cinema backend. We need a payment approach that synchronizes with the system over at the theater so that seating can be updated right at the moment when purchase is made. It’ll be completely chaotic if there is a few seconds of update delay. We don’t want to take that risk. People can do anything unimaginable to safeguard their tickets.
GT CHATTERBOX: What Hong Kong Movie doing now seems very straightforward to all parties. I’m surprised we don’t see it that much in other apps.
DANNY: It’s indeed not as easy and straightforward as it seems. In order to fulfill direct ticket purchase inside the app, making everything smooth and secured, our partnering cinemas have to chip in significant amount of time and investment. It involves hugh effort from our partners as well for the integration and maintenance with their existing ticketing infrastructure.
Only because Hong Kong Movie has gained a critical mass following did our cinema partners see that mobile ticketing is an inevitable trend and the investment is then justified because of the outlook for more business.
However, not that many developers and companies are willing to go that extra mile.
GT CHATTERBOX: One last question, how successful is Hong Kong Movie now?
DANNY: We’ve got 400,000 downloads so far with a daily active user base around 40,000. We remain a Top 5 app in the lifestyle category. As an over-one-year old app, this is quite something.
We are so grateful that the Hong Kong Movie community continues to grow with the number of daily unique access up 100%, but I think we can still do better. We will also apply what we’ve learned in Hong Kong Movie to apps we’re creating in the future.
GT CHATTERBOX: Thank you for your time and we look forward to the next wonderful app from you guys.