Hey Random Parents, Your kid WANTS to join!

The way BillMyParents works is that kids shop around for goods they want online and then click on the BillMyParents icon on the page to send payment requests to a participating parent. Then the parent decides whether to complete or deny the transaction. Kids can write little notes along with requests explaining why they want a given item, but parents retain complete control over their own payment information and what gets purchased in the transaction.

Right now BillMyParents is participating primarily with physical goods retailer Amazon, but CEO Jim Collas has made it clear that the technology is compatible with virtual goods and that he’s interested in having BillMyParents handle those sorts of microtransactions. Other future products will include a special BillMyParents debit card that parents can load up with a child’s allowance, so the child can then use it like a credit card when making online purchases.

Something like BillMyParents could be very useful to youth-oriented virtual worlds and games where the friction involved in getting money from young users is always an issue. Inevitably revenue is going to be lost as kids decide paying is too hard to be worth the virtual item. Right now prepaid cards are primarily filling that niche, but it could be argued that BillMyParents attacks the same problem in a much lower-friction way.

While the payment method does lack the immediacy of cashing in a prepaid card in an online world, it’s also much faster and easier to send requests to a parent’s account. Whether or not BillMyParents took off with kids would probably depend on how quickly parents were responding to transaction requests and how they were discussing denials with children. There’s also the matter of the debit card, which sounds like it will work a lot like the cards being provided by competitors like Zeevex.

Virtual Goods News: BillMyParents Offers New Payment Options For Tween Virtual Goods

This… this concept is brilliant.

I’m sitting here reading & re-reading this news item from Virtual Goods News, trying to figure out where the poo-poo factor is, but really… this is a no-duh kinda initiative.

Why ‘no duh’?  I operate under the factor that – if you can find a simplistic behavior that has been implemented within grown-up sites successfully for some time now (say… “wishlists” on amazon) and then find a new way to spin it, work it, and offer it to another audience (especially one like tweens that need such a thing), then WAAA-LA! You’ve got a ‘no duh’ opportunity on your hands.

My understanding is that BillMyParents is much like a hub for wishlist requests, and that’s great.  What will make this a fire-cracker process is when they start working within virtual worlds.  Talking to virtual worlds these days – the biggest issue isn’t getting free users (well, not as much), but converting free users to PAYING MEMBERS.  You can get a bajillion users on your site, but if you can’t find a way to convert funds from them (now now, don’t freak – i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again… to make an exciting adventureous atmosphere online for youth you HAVE to have money coming in to sustain and improve. Thems the facts, folks).

Many sites have tried any & everything from giving away free temporary codes, free virtual goods, coupons, push-email parental reminders, etc.  “How to get the credit card info” becomes a sketch-ish goal that obscures the point of the virtual experience and makes it about ‘hand out whatever lures the kid in’.  Meh, not so hot.

It sounds like BillMyParents offers a third party easy solution, much like the trust of paypal for ebay-ers, where you can pick & choose & be notified about your child’s a) web wanderings, b) web wishlist of environments.  Again, i believe this will be much more successful of an initiative if there is a wish list button within the virtual world, on say – the ‘become a member page’.  Why?  Kids are inherently lazy (or, oddly enough – aggressively lazy, which is as much fun of a concept as jumbo shrimp) in these virtual worlds.  You’ll get a better turnover if you make it a ‘one-click easy’ request sent to the BMP site.  If you make them have to sign up/in at another website location to inform parents of wishful playing? Boo… too much work.  Gotta make it a one-stop-shop for kids somehow.  THAT is the important part.

After that – for parents, simplistic info = great. Any time you make a parent/adult feel dumb, the more likely they’ll be turned off (example: ask your parents/grandparents how they feel about that “I’m a PC and I’m four years old” commercial.  Cute kid. Insulting. Think about it).  And hey, BMP – think about teaming up info with someone like commonsensemedia.org.  Why?  Because parents might want to see WHY they should have their kid sign up at that site as a member… up to you, but it’d be a cool addition.

Anyway, enough rambling for now.  Worth heading over to both VirtualGoodsNews.com and BillMyParents.com to check out more info.  I look forward to where this site could go…. 🙂

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  1. July 14, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Sounds like a very interesting way for kids to save up and buy things for themselves. I’m a bit concerned that this will take away from the great feeling kids get when they walk in wide-eyed into a toy store and run down the aisles looking for the perfect toy.

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