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Spending moves towards digital in Italy

Interview with Virgilio Mariani, Product and Business Development Director at Euronet Pay & Transaction Services S.r.l.

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“Italy is still 80% cash driven, so digital payments are relatively in their infancy here,” says Product and Business Development Director Virgilio Mariani. “Nevertheless, the digital payment world is mak-ing inroads.” The Italian Euronet subsidiary operates three divisions: Worldwide money transfer under the brand name RIA; ATMs and payment processing services; and Prepaid Services, known as epay Italy. It is epay Italy which is leading the way in introducing diverse forms of digital prepayment and payment services to the Italian market.

epay Italy offers two principal product categories. Firstly, credit purchase, refilling call credit and mobile data onto smartphones and, secondly, its content business, an example of which is the PlayStation network, translating cash into digital credit enabling a variety of online gaming and services. “The Italian market for smartphone prepaid cards is the largest in the world and worth around eight billion EUR,” notes Mr. Mariani.

The core business remains the same, providing access to consumers via digital codes and gift cards to a world of content and media services loved by customers, as well as credit for prepaid smartphones, both for calling and data services. For retail brands such as Carrefour and Euronics, Euronet & epay Italy has developed the Precision platform, enabling stored value solutions, commonly known as gift cards, and has become one of the most important players in this segment of the retail sector.

However, innovation is at the centre of the business, and epay Italy has developed a broad portfolio of other related solutions and services. As an example, a mobile payment app, in partnership with PayPal named PayPal Carica, has already proved very successful. Alongside its core propositions, epay Italy has introduced couponing and voucher products, which are used extensively in the electronics sector.

“Consumers purchase the latest smartphone, for example, in a retail store,” explains Mr. Mariani. “Using couponing, they receive a producer price discount as an incentive, which is settled by producer. The service enables improved insights and data to understand what products customers have bought including from where and when they were purchased.”

Looking forward, and seeing digital currency and mobile payments as a channel becoming more important, epay has developed products and solutions for Alternative Payment which include Alipay and many others digital wallets, applications for anyone who wishes to use the service but primarily targeted initially at travelling consumers from Asia.

Customers will be able to pay using their own mobile and app at the cash register, using a payment method that is familiar to them. With these types of prepayment, payment and content services, the preference to pay by cash is still important and considered. Ricarica Click & Collect (Ricarica in Cassa) is a new, and patented ‘order digitally, pay cash’ product, where customers select via an app (currently Vodafone and TIM) and the product or service they want to load on their phone; pre-completing the transaction, they receive a barcode in the app from the epay system which they can use to pay for and activate their mobile credit at the supermarket.

The epay Italy portfolio also includes incentive and loyalty products which are implemented using its own platforms. Another example is the welfare incentive. epay Italy also provides products like a pay-TV subscription to the relevant companies working in this area.

Sales channels for epay Italy products include large retail grocery and electronics chains, as well as small sales points such as bars, newspaper kiosks, tobacco shops, phone centers and hotels, with solutions covering In-store, Online, Mobile and Payment sectors. epay Italy also has a partnership with Lottomatica, Italy’s most important sales point network, which encompasses 30,000 tobacco shops and 20,000 bars and restaurants.

A new solution, launched last year through the Lottomatica network is Regalo Digitale (regalodigitale.info); this allows consumers to purchase an Amazon claim code in the shop and convert this into a personalized digital Amazon.it gift card which can then be sent electronically to the intended recipient.

Mr. Mariani joined Euronet in 2008 when the epay Italy brand was just two years old. Today, Euronet Italy generates a total turnover of more than 360 million EUR, and is constantly growing. “One of the key things I have learnt is that you have to offer tailor-made services which meet the needs of your customers,” he says. “This means that everything must function as simply as possible but, at the same time, guarantee complete security. Our customers recognize that we have a solid and secure technology infrastructure, and a strong understanding of our customers and their brands, which makes us flexible and highly professional in our approach.”

Mr. Mariani’s strategy has been to continue to differentiate Euronet and the epay Italy brand from the competition by enriching the portfolio with new products and diversifying the company’s sales channels. “Over the past ten years, I have really enjoyed the experience of helping to build a company virtually from scratch,” he says. “Today, epay Italy is structured, with a consolidated core business, and is very well positioned to pursue new initiatives and make continued progress in the new world of digital payments.”

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