Ashley O'Kane

Meet the Team – Ashley O’Kane, Head of Business Development

26 October 2021
Carrier Billing

Tell us about your background and your role at SLA Digital.

I began my career in marketing over 15 years ago, working in various industries from tourism to medical devices which then led me to the telecommunications industry with SLA Digital. I joined the marketing team of SLA Digital, known then as SLA Mobile, almost 10 years ago when I started my journey as Brand and Marketing Communications Manager in 2012. Now as Head of Business Development, I am responsible for strategising and implementing the company’s marketing plans, analysing new business opportunities and managing partner relationships.

What do you enjoy about your role?

That every day is different. My role allows me to experience a variety of different areas in the business and gives me the opportunity to work with a great team. I enjoy all aspects, especially working with clients, understanding their needs and building relationships. Working for a global company has also meant that I have had the pleasure of travelling to some beautiful places in the world and enjoying different cultural experiences.

How have you seen the carrier billing industry change over time?

One significant change I have observed is premium content providers recognising the value of carrier billing, not just as payment option to access the unbanked but as a way to offer customers a seamless and convenient user experience. We are also seeing a positive movement with content providers and mobile operators understanding each other’s business models and working together to make carrier billing work.  

What type of content do you think benefits the most from carrier billing?

Carrier billing has always been successful for gaming and streaming services and I believe  that isn’t going to change anytime soon. The impact of Covid-19, lockdowns and people increasing their screen time significantly has only given these content providers another welcomed boost in business. However most paid digital content has the opportunity to benefit from carrier billing, and we have seen that over the last 18 months with a growth in new verticals such as eLearning, health and lifestyle and esports.

What do you see as the main motivation for digital content providers to partner with SLA Digital?

The value we bring merchants and content providers is not just the payment solution itself but the entire managed service. We work with our clients to make sure they are getting the best from our solution. From our account managers to our operational and technical teams, we provide ongoing support and guidance when required. Our API platform allows us to give content providers access to new customers, reducing their time to market with a single integration.

What is the question you get asked the most from content providers?

Like any business, the key discussion point is always around the commercials. Especially with content providers new to carrier billing as they begin to understand how things work and the revenue share models. Content partners are always pleased to learn that there are no hidden or upfront costs and that in order to see success all parties must work together to benefit from the revenue share model.

Once a content partner is onboarded, what one piece of advice would you give them in terms of marketing their service?

Marketing your service to the right audience and having an attractive offering is key but one thing we focus on at SLA Digital is building sustainable revenues with our partners. We believe using the right marketing channels and slowly building the business is the key to success. We have seen growth of fraud with mobile payments over the past few years and we have measures in the place to protect our partners and their customers, but we also rely on our partners’ cooperation to use trustworthy marketing channels and ensure their advertisement practices are clear and concise, and not misleading to end customers.

How far off do you think carrier billing is to becoming mainstream?

I believe that people have used carrier billing in the past and perhaps not realised or understood what it is or how it works. The pandemic has most definitely increased the number of customers using carrier billing and that is positive but in order for the payment channel to become a mainstream payment option, I think two key things must happen. Firstly, the carrier billing industry should consider standardising terminology for the solution so that it can be recognised globally. Secondly, education of the payment solution plays a huge role in its adoption. I believe that mobile operators and content providers could work together on this and we would see a significant shift in people’s understanding and usage of carrier billing. 

Are there any recent industry developments that you find particularly exciting?

It is great to see the growth of carrier billing that we are experiencing but I am excited to delve into new areas that we are working on in the payments space such as ewallets. We have strong relationships and direct connections with mobile operators and I believe there are more opportunities that we can develop and bring to the table to help drive revenues for all parties.   

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