You would be forgiven for thinking that Openet is a leading provider of information and knowledge to the communications industry, rather than a leading provider of real time charging technology. They have led the debate about where operators are going to find the revenues to replace those that are being eroded by the commoditisation of voice, texts and, increasingly, data.
Their latest survey goes right to the heart of the matter. Carried out among 87 operators in October, the results are encouraging and worrying in almost equal measure. Almost 90 percent of those surveyed agreed that an important part of their strategy is to be able to offer instant, relevant offers to their customers, and almost as many want to speed up the offer process. The worrying part is that two thirds do not have the ability to do so. Openet has calculated this real time offer opportunity as being worth $47 billion.
Just one third of the respondents currently have the ability to make real time offers based on real time information. The rest, while planning to implement the technology as a priority, base current offers on historical or pre-planned campaigns.
The real trick, though, is to step away from technology to really see the opportunities and the pit falls that will trap those who leave common sense at home. Offering, say, an extra slab of data when a customer has landed at his destination may sound like good news. But if that customer has to turn roaming data on in order to get 1Gb of data for $5, he might well have spent $9 on roaming charges, having a coffee in Newark airport. Offering customers who are close to your bar a free drink on a hot day might sound a cool idea, but spare a thought for the customers who get the offer while thundering past on the freeway. The line between irritating and compelling is a fine one.
Looking at some, at this stage hypothetical, examples for the future might provide a road map of sorts. These hinge on the next obstacle being overcome, that of combining information. This might come from a variety of source. As an example, let us look at travel and travel web sites. Offering data at the airport might be clever, but knowing how much data the customer uses in a week and what for would be more useful. Knowing where he is going would also be helpful. Knowing whether the trip is for business or pleasure would make the Marketing guys sit up. Knowing whether he was going alone or with a partner and kids and where and for how long and you would have Marketing following you down the corridor. Knowing that the kids love playing a particular game with complete strangers in Australia but that Dad made them turn their data off last year, and the Marketing guys will buy you lunch. Then you have something that operators cannot possibly have right now – knowledge about the future.
Once you have the road map about what you might be able to offer customers, then you can swivel the chair back round to the technology table and talk to Openet (other experts are available). They will tell you that one key thing is to centralise the offers, as this alone speeds up delivery of offers. According to their survey, by centralising offers operators can halve their time to market. And that is significant.
The critical point is that while there is a $47 billion real time opportunity out there – as well cost and churn reduction benefits – operators will only be able to reap the rewards if they thoroughly discuss use cases, and work out whether a particular offer is likely to irritate or engage the customer.
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