HomeMobile EuropeOperator portals: time to renovate these forgotten download stores?

    Operator portals: time to renovate these forgotten download stores?


    A few weeks back I wrote a newsletter post in which I said that operators wouldn’t gain much from playing around with “channels” on app stores, but instead had a chance to be using their own “portal” as a main point of customer interaction, with content really only a secondary driver.

    I said then that some of my thinking on this had been firmed up over a lunch with Momac. Now one of my lunch companions, Olivier Milcent, has fleshed out that thinking, referencing one operator – Mobistar – that is taking exactly these steps.

    Olivier’s article, “The Future of Mobile Portals”, begins below. Thanks to him for taking the time to put it together. I think it’s an interesting read on a subject that is of key importance – how operators communicate and interact with their customers. Of course, the portal word has been massively devalued, but is it time for the operator portal to be rehabilitated?

    The future of mobile portals

    It’s no secret that operators are faced with a serious relevancy issue when it comes to the mobile Internet. Thanks to the rise of smartphones and then app stores, operator portals are no longer so much “portals” to the mobile Internet as they are forgotten download stores. Long gone are the days of the walled mobile garden that funnelled subscribers through the operator portal on their way to the online world. Today, smartphone users access their email, social media accounts, games and preferred news outlets directly via apps, leaving operators struggling to maintain any place in the mobile ecosystem. Mobile Europe pointed out in a previous blog post that out of fear of having lost a direct line of communication with their clients, operators are now even scrambling to gain visibility in app stores. Any why wouldn’t they? Operators are a brand like any other and need to start marketing themselves where their customers are.

    However, that doesn’t mean that it’s time to shut down the operator portal. It’s time to renovate.

    In the wake of the smartphone explosion, operators have a golden opportunity to re-invent their portals into something toward which their customers naturally gravitate. Whether in the form of a mobile portal or a native app, a truly subscriber-centric mobile interface has the potential to become the most relevant channel by which operators communicate with their subscribers. Self-care, personalised content, account information, customer service, etc… become standard in a subscriber-aware world where the customer experience is individualised.

    Operators sit on mountains of individual subscriber data, from basic information like gender and location to more substantive data such as favourite sporting team, overseas roaming habits, video data consumption and imminent mobile contract expiry. In leveraging this data, operators can transform their portals into the primary point of contact with clients, create up- and cross-selling scenarios, decrease call centre expenses and significantly enhance customer loyalty.

    The Belgian operator Mobistar recently revamped their entire mobile portal into an advanced consumer-centric interface directed by their CRM system. They are now able to propose customised services and offerings, tailor-made campaigns and promotions to individual subscribers all the while enriching their end-user experience. The result is a portal that converts subscriber data into a marketable asset, directly impacting ARPU, sales and customer satisfaction.

    Additionally, Mobistar incorporated popular elements of the mobile Internet (social media, email, premium content, etc…) with operator services and individually tailored campaigns. Subscribers can now manage their mobile accounts via the Mobistar portal, and at the same time access their Facebook, Twitter and email accounts, driving traffic and sales.

    OTT players like Facebook and Google have masterfully established the benefit of making the most of user data. And Amazon’s enormous recommendation engine has become the commercial personalisation model to emulate, having prompted scores of customers to buy products based solely on the strength of their previous purchases. There is no reason why operators cannot implement the same kind of personal recommendation engine into their portals, delivering customers relevant and germane products based on their own mobile behaviour. Whether on the web, app store or a mobile Internet site, consumers look for content that interests them. A subscriber who recently purchased a fulltrack mp3 might also be interested in purchasing an application related to the same artist. Why not ask?

    Outside of providing content and product recommendations, operators have the ability to erect a transparent and mutually beneficial relationship with subscribers via this same interface, revolving around personal account management. By way of an intelligent mobile portal, subscribers have the power to view their voice and data consumption, pay a due tariff, access self-care services, purchase top ups or data “boosts” and generally manage their own mobile accounts without ever having to contact a call centre. This engages subscribers by putting more control into their hands and promoting bill transparency.

    And in the end, transparency benefits everyone. Operators can reduce their customer service overhead by shifting more control into the consumers’ hands, and subscribers are able to better govern how and when they spend their money. One thing is for certain, yesterday’s operator portal no longer serves its purpose; in order to remain relevant, operators must transform they way they speak to clients by meeting them where they already are – on the mobile Internet.

    About the author:
    Olivier Milcent has 15 years of experience in multi-channel strategies, customer interfaces and management of mobile media projects for operators, enterprises and media. At Momac, Olivier is leading Group Marketing, Communications and Products, in addition to his overall responsibility for Momac France.