We are more and more convinced that the future of telecoms operators lies in the hands of OTT players – and other partners. We are gearing up for the age of mutually supportive partnerships, smart platforms that enable that support and devices which are simply ‘windows’ into a total virtual world.
We also discuss trust – and have convinced ourselves that if operators cannot become the customer’s trusted partner in the digital world, then it is ‘game over.’ Bombard customers with offers and they will switch off. Literally.
But, as before, retailers are showing us the way.
When OTT players first appeared and started to take away core communications revenues, they reacted by trying to block them. Some got together and cried ‘foul’ to the authorities and started the whole ‘net neutrality’ debate, others simply blocked them or provided poor quality network service – see: various Caribbean operators and Netflix blaming the carrier for poor video quality.
Now, operators are partnering with these players and are starting to realise the benefits.
The same happened in retail.
When the web went mobile, customers could check online prices while standing staring at price tags in a store. If the online price was better, they would demand the online price. They would also compare prices with other, nearby stores without needing to visit. Shopping went from the store, to online, from the living room and back to the store again, together with the online tools.
Like operators, retailers’ first reaction was to try to stop it. Then, having aligned the customer channels better, they took advantage of it, just as the customers had. Price comparison apps have become common, and stores are becoming more and more sophisticated with what they can offer in that space where the online and offline experience comes together. If a product is out of stock in the store a sales assistant will now check if it is available online and offer free delivery. Other stores encourage customers to use the online process to buy stuff, while in the store. This encourages customers to buy online. Both these processes not only improve the customer experience but radically improves the ‘just in time’ stock management process.
The next steps for retailers and big brands like Coke is to personalise the customer experience as far as possible. Coke is trialling ‘smart fridges’ that use facial recognition and other context aware technology. The aim is to recognise regular customers and offer them coupons or other, intelligent, timely offers. Barneys is experimenting with an app that pushes offers based on spending patterns at the same time as pushing tailored content a small piece at a time.
If this sounds familiar, it should. We can learn a lot – as usual – from retailers about context aware offers and marketing. Our industry has a unique opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes rather than our own – and we should follow in the footsteps of those who are one step ahead. Or face the consequences.