There are so many new applications, services and technologies flying about that the choices which will face operators and customers in the future are almost unlimited. This variety is a strength but navigating a path through this maze is going to be tough and the last thing that the industry needs is for consumers to get fed up with the challenge before they start.
The next generation data vision is for new services to be launched on a constantly rolling basis but how will the consumer keep up with this? A consumer may well be interested in one of a package of new services launched in a particular month but how will that individual know that it is available?
Traditional advertising models do not hold true in such a rapidly changing environment. While there is no doubt that Messers Schumacher and Beckham have done wonders for the visibility of Vodafone Live! they can only be used for similar broad-based launches. The logistics, not to mention the cost of doing otherwise would be out of the question.
Broad-based advertising — whether TV, radio or print — cannot give the individual messages that are necessary. More targeted media may well offer a route to specific markets but the real ace already sits in the mobile operator’s hand. Operators register their customers and with that registration comes basic information. Obviously, this is not fool-proof (particularly in the pre-paid market) but it is a definite starting point. Not only does this provide basic information but it provides it to a company that already has an access mechanism to reach the customer — the mobile network.
This combination of customer knowledge and access is highly unusual and highly valuable but, it has to be said, it something that mobile operators have so far done little to exploit or indeed manage. Customer segmentation tends to be broad and basic to say the least. This needs to change. Understanding the customer’s needs, interests, preferences and usage patterns is essential if operators and service providers are going to be able to reach customers with information about services they could be interested in. Send information to the handset — via SMS or MMS — on every new service launch and customers will quickly become aggravated and may even change operators to get away from the constant interruption. Send information about a new service that fits with the customer’s interests and suddenly that interruption, assuming it is not untimely, is a service and can actually increase customer loyalty.
The problem is that to do this, customer information has to be managed, updated and should learn from the customer’s behaviour. Data bases per se are therefore useful but limited. Making the same mistakes because the system cannot learn will be a recipe for disaster; making sure that the customer information gleaned from the customers themselves and from network-based information on such things as what services are accesed, usage times, location, etc, is a recipe for a much stronger business. It is also something that could, in the long term, provide mobile operators with a database that is highly valuable to others as well as themselves and therefore a possible source of new revenue streams. Getting to know customers is becoming an essential part of the mobile business.