The world is getting smaller and smaller, with people across all countries using phone calls, text messages, and applications like WhatsApp and Facebook (News - Alert) Messenger to connect with family, friends and colleagues. This type of interaction is only expected to increase, with experts predicting that by 2020, there will be 6.1 billion people using apps via smartphones for communication. That’s over double the 2.6 billion users in 2014.
Not only are consumers communicating more, but they’re traveling abroad more regularly too. With more than 1.2 billion tourists travelling internationally in 2015, more people are roaming outside their cellular networks, wanting the service they are used to at home – fast and seamless connections for data streaming and access to email, apps, and website downloads.
This shift in data consumption presents new communications challenges, where mobile operators have to support the increasing number of connected devices on their networks, as well as transform digital communications behaviors to meet the needs of subscribers, all while generating consistent revenue streams and meeting business objectives. Mobile operators, therefore, need to prioritize and tailor the communication services they offer, which ensure connectivity, drive customer loyalty, and create new revenue opportunities. They can do this by supporting the global customer with services like collect SMS, sponsored data, and multiple-device capability services, enabling the best possible communication services for customers while keeping them happy.
While many mobile users now rely on Wi-Fi and data plans to send messages through applications such as WhatsApp, a large majority of messages are still sent by text, especially by prepaid, limited message plans. This is particularly true in developing markets and communities. For many prepaid contract holders, their SMS balances run out before month’s-end, which leaves the non-completed messages trapped in the network, never delivered to the inboxes of a subscriber’s family and friends.
With collect SMS, however, services providers can offer the subscriber collect capabilities in the case of a low SMS balance. With this, the subscriber is able to send a request, asking the receiver to accept the small sum necessary to receive the message, enabling its delivery. This monetization effort allows the mobile operator to create additional revenue that previously would have been left unclaimed. It’s a win-win solution that lets subscribers stay connected even if their account runs out. This type of innovative service generates extra revenue, all while providing subscribers seamless user experience and connectedness.
Sponsored data, or toll free data, is quickly becoming one of the biggest trends in the telecom industry, and for good reason. It allows brands to sponsor data that subscribers use when they are traveling or roaming without access. More specifically, sponsored data enables companies to finance data usage for specific content on behalf of a mobile provider’s customer base. Brands like Booking.com and Uber have recently announced plans to implement sponsored data programs with mobile operators.
The move to sponsored data ushers in a new wave of business case models for big apps, making it easier for people to use these services and stay connected – especially when subscribers are roaming and not certain of the associated costs.
Mobile operators can now give their subscribers consistent data usage, even when they’re roaming outside their networks, all while gathering revenue and usage data from participating brands. Services like sponsored data let consumers stay connected and expand their communication geography for work, school, and play.
Along with collect SMS and sponsored data services, it’s important to provide customers with seamless user experience and integration through multiple device capability by providing a platform that allows people to receive all of their SMS, MMS, and voicemail messages onto all their devices. Currently, Apple and Samsung (News - Alert) (News - Alert) devices only sync data and information across their operating systems. But having multi-device capability enables the telecommunications industry to prioritize customers’ personal preferences, as they now can buy whatever device they prefer without fear of interoperability.
These types of network-based approaches let consumers pick the right devices for them and synchronize messaging and data, no matter the brand. With the rise of challenges and threats like demanded increase in privacy, third-party applications and higher download rates, mobile operators must find new ways to innovate and compete to satisfy users, and multi-device capability is just one offering to consider.
What’s at Risk?
If mobile operators don’t pursue service offerings like those outlined, they risk losing out to the innovative operators that already are. If mobile operators continue to rely on outdated services, they’ll fail to provide their customers with the fast access and seamless user experience that they’ve come to expect from their digital experiences. If they don’t, consumers will be quick to move, as customer loyalty today is a rare commodity and has to be earned.
Nicolas Appert is head of monetization at Xura (News - Alert) (News - Alert) (www.xura.com).
Edited by Alicia Young