The idea of ‘toll-free’ data has been around for a couple of years. The concept is simple and compelling. Instead of paying the data charges for going shopping online, brands pay the charge, essentially giving shoppers completely free access to their store – so they can spend money.
BillingViews’ operatives were looking at the Amdocs blog yesterday and wondering whether they were being particularly prescient or whether they knew something that we did not. In a recent post, Naomi Weiser predicted that 2014 would be the year that toll free data becomes a reality. The operatives filed this under ‘interesting, keep an eye open.’
This morning there was an announcement in several publications that AT&T has announced the advent of sponsored, toll free data. Definitely prescient, then, the folks at Amdocs, except, a little way down the article it points out that the API that allows toll free data to happen is powered by Amdocs and Ericsson.
Without doubt toll free data is an innovation, taking the pain and uncertainty of paying for data away from customers and on to brands. The result will be that customers are more open to getting product information, video adverts and will immerse themselves to a greater extent in the shopping experience.
It was amazing was that the announcement was not accepted with universal applause for such an immense company proving that it is capable of innovation. Instead it was greeted with grumpy people saying that it gave brands an unfair advantage and that, in fact, it meant that both customers and brands are now paying the data charge.
BillingViews’ considered response to these viewpoints is: Boo Hoo (any company that wants to pay for customers’ data is, presumably, very welcome to do so) and: how do you work that one out?
Whatever the reaction – and this from FierceWireless is probably the best – the potential of toll free data is huge. Whilst the benefits to Walmart or whoever are very clear, it puts a whole new twist on the alarmist idea that telcos are about to disappear into some kind of abyss.
Consumers may be less and less inclined to pay for this incomprehensible stuff called data, but brands will be more and more inclined to pay for it if it means commercial (not unfair) advantage. And they will pay for SMS and MMS, in order to get targeted, intuitive, timely messages to customers. And these messages do not have to just be about sales.
They will, more and more, be about our lives.
– Have you taken your meds today?
– Place your thumb here, we need to check your pulse.
– Excuse me, but we have noticed that you have missed a payment, click to pay now?
– Wait George, you left your credit card at the restaurant.
Take this model into developing economies, sponsored not only by brands but Government agencies, and any advances and innovation that the humble text message has brought will look like a Model T Ford sitting beside a DB9.
So exciting are developments like this, that we have to wonder whether this will soon be offered on an open, managed service basis, in the same way that Bango offers telcos its API to get involved in last year’s success story, Direct Operator Billing.
Great news. Can’t wait. Independent retailers (bookstores, anyone?) ought to die out in no time and give it a decade and we’ll probably be able to outsource our ability to think for ourselves to a micro-chip manufacturer, or perhaps even a telco. Toll free data: so the turkeys are voting for Christmas, after all.