The Simple App - a successful example of VAS in context: Interview with Benyó Péter, CEO, OTP Mobil Ltd.
Background & Market context
Etvas: You were a little ahead of the market with Simple. What was the main driver that made OTP start this initiative?
OTP: OTP Bank has long played an innovative role in the Hungarian financial market. With OTP Direct, it was one of the first to create the possibility of internet banking; however, in application development, you compete with fast and flexible market participants. That is why OTP Group has decided to set up a subsidiary to support innovation that combines the benefits of startups with the security provided by the bank. OTP Mobile Ltd. acts as an incubator house, in which we can experiment with the latest ideas and technologies. This is how the Simple app was born and became successful.
Etvas: How does the OTP Simple offer compare to offers of other players in the Hungarian market?
OTP: Our aim is to develop the purchase method itself. The Simple-ecosystem makes our service truly unique. Available since 2014 and with more than 1.7 million users, the Simple app helps with everyday activities through several value-added services. Since 2016, SimplePay online payment system has been providing online credit card payment for 14 000 webshops. SimpleBusiness application, specifically designed for SMEs, is available since September 2020 and now has 2500 partners. Simple Account provides users with the gateway to pay with their saved credit card, both in the app and on the SimplePay interface.
About OTP Simple
Etvas: Could you please tell us a few words on the history of the app, so to say. Where did you get started? Was the app from the beginning meant to function as it does today?
OTP: It all started in 2014, when we were looking for a simple answer to an existing problem: what if I’m thirsty and don’t have change? Or worse, I have change, but the vending machine won’t accept it. The first function of our app was the QR-based vending machine purchase; this was followed by the official launch of the Simple app in 2016, where we were already able to present 5 services. Today, Simple app has around 1.8 million users, and we are constantly updating the list of available services. It makes us proud that we have a constantly growing service portfolio: mobile parking, motorway sticker or movie ticket purchase, vehicle assistance, check payment and mobile phone insurance services have also become available in the application.
Etvas: How did you acquire the early adopters, back in 2014? How do you acquire new users today?
OTP: Thanks to the Simple application, several important niche functions become available in the Hungarian market, for example mobile payment. Even back then, in the early phases, we found it important to provide bank and device-independent services. That is why we can gain our user base relatively quickly. After the launch of SimplePay and the Simple account, our ecosystem has become more complex, it can be applied to a wide variety of areas/fields. Thanks to the Simple account and to constantly growing new functions of the Simple application, we can acquire new users, as these solutions really make life easier.
Etvas: How are current customers of the bank presently made aware of the existing services in the Simple app?
OTP: OTP Mobile Ldt. is the company behind the Simple application. As a subsidiary of OTP Bank ,we develop and operate the app. We identify Simple as a bank-independent application. Our users have around 1.8 million cards registered in their Simple accounts, more than 50% of these are not issued by OTP. Our aim is to reach out to everyone who may be interested in simple solutions.
Etvas: The first article I read about you claimed that the “Simple” App aggregates over 40 VAS and is used by over 700 000 people - almost twice as many as the traditional banking app users. How do you manage such high customer retention?
OTP: With nearly 1.8 million users, the success of Simple is based on continuous renewal and expansion of services. Another advantage is that the Simple application is a bank-independent service. This way, even those who do not have a credit card issued by OTP Bank can pay through the application. Thanks to the Simple account and our ecosystem, they can also purchase around 14 000 SimplePay webshops in a quick, user-friendly way.
In 2020, with the onset of the pandemic, we shifted our priorities and focused on developments that could fill a gap in the Hungarian market. For example, we introduced the possibility to buy e-tickets for buses in county towns.
Etvas: And what services would you say are most commonly used by your end-users?
OTP: Out of the several services available in the Simple app, mobile parking, mobile payment and e-vignette purchase are the most popular with our users, QR check payment and mobile tickets are also commonly used services.
Etvas: As a company whose business model is based on the constant integration of value-add services, we are really curious to know: how do you integrate value-add services in the Simple app? Both technically and from the sales point of view.
OTP: We are constantly monitoring user and market needs and further developing the application along these. We always try our best to adapt to technological innovations and user trends. In addition to innovation, all Simple developments are based on safety, reliability, and comfort.
Etvas: How are the value added services offered to the customer? For free? Or do you monetise it?
OTP: The Simple app is designed to provide a fast and easy-to-use interface for users to access a wide range of services. After some of these, we charge a convenience fee or a handling fee. These fees have been designed by examining the market environment so that they provide a competitive solution for our users. Downloading the Simple app is free. In the case of several services such as mobile payment, QR cheque payment, and mobile ticket purchase there are no additional costs.
Etvas: What does the future hold in store for Simple?
OTP: Our mission is to create more simple, transparent, and safe fintech solutions for our customers.
We also want to continue to expand the Simple-ecosystem and improve the user experience. The recently introduced Instant Transfer was a first step in expanding electronic payment options, but we are also planning to renew the Simple app. From this month, the beta version of the new Simple app has become available.
Benyó Péter is the Founder and CEO of OTP Mobil, former project and portfolio manager at OTP Bank. He is experienced in payment industry implementation projects and product development, both card and mobile platforms.