Industry Panel – Questions and Answers

The Mobile Business Industry Panel aims to get views from leading figures on key topics. On the panel we have a selection of senior management from operators, distributors and retailers, plus a couple of  industry observers and pundits; each month we invite comment from some of them and we print the best/most interesting of their responses.

It’s an interesting time for an interesting business, so if there are any questions you think we should put to the panel just email them to the editor:
BenQ Mobile has repackaged the CL75 for young women, Alcatel did a deal with Elle for the Glamphone. Is this kind of targeting the way forward for handset marketing?

Clarke, O2: With consumers increasingly mobile phone savvy and style conscious, more targeted handset marketing holds great potential.
What this means however is that room for the middle ground is reduced. There is now a very real prospect of rich reward if marketing works on one hand, but if mistakes are made; major losses can be a reality.

Tapping into style and fashion fads can be hit or miss. The impact of getting it right directly affects sales of new and refurbished phones and has close connections for a brand.
White, Virgin Mobile: A more sophisticated approach to customer segmentation is absolutely the right approach.

Segmenting handset simply by price is not sophisticated enough in today’s market. We need to look carefully at who we are targeting and the whole package that we can offer to meet their needs.

The main implication of this is to make sure that the manufacturers, the network operators and the retailers are all talking the same language when we look at what we sell, how we sell it and where we sell it.
Marsden, Sony Ericsson: The handsets mentioned are some of the first handset marketed to the female market. In 2006 you will see a lot more of this.

Choosing a mobile phone is an important decision for the consumer, the device will stay with them for over a year, in most cases. It is important that the right features are there but you will see the commitment from manufacturers go deeper than that in the future. Handsets may combine multiple interests that will appeal directly with women and be suitable for both a professional and social lifestyle, but it has to be more than just changing the colour of a handset, as an industry we have to realise that men
and women often want completely different things.
Price, Avenir Telecom: Segmenting the market is to be expected as the industry matures and is likely to become more common. It will allow manufacturers, networks and channel to exploit their strengths within a market segment, plus explore niche markets.
Forbes, BenQ Mobile: I think that the nature of the fragmenting mobile phone market and the plethora of options available will mean that specific audience targeting and delivering a complete product experience will become ever more important.

The Siemens CL75 Poppy project was borne out of extensive research at a global and local level that indicated that a significant segment of female consumers was not being addressed by the current mobile phone market. The total product experience including the feminine packaging was central to the success as it positioned the Poppy as an accessory to which women could form an emotional attachment.

As other companies such as Alcatel head down this route, the retail channels are going to have to alter the way in which they present mobile phones which currently don’t offer the consumer any sort of engaging retail experience.

Heeran, Valista: The concept of creating marketing segments for handsets is certainly interesting and has already been attempted by some handset manufacturers wishing to target consumers who simply want to use their handset for voice services.

However manufacturers need to be careful not to stereotype consumer segments by producing, for example, overtly feminine handsets. Although I think this practice will become more common and will be, for the most part, driven by the manufacturers, some of the very largest operators who can have handsets built to their spec may also play a role. However, in practice, I think this concept will be applied to select handsets only rather than the complete range from a manufacturer.

Another interesting point worth noting is how the operators are positioning themselves. Perhaps the best examples are the Disney MVNO and the recent launch of Tesco mobile. Assuming there is a large enough target market, this positioning may provide an interesting opportunity for operators to work with handset manufacturers to produce the perfect handset/operator segmentation.

Are mobile phones a blessing or a curse for pre-teen children? And what should be the role of the mobile phone industry – if any?

Price, Avenir Telecom: Parents need to have information available to them to make an informed decision about whether their children should have a mobile phone or not.
This information is available, but not always at the point of sale (i.e. the retail store, or website). However, even with this, it’s very hard for the industry to verify who’ll be using every handset sold.

There are niche products being launched which are aimed specifically at this market both in terms of functionality and design. These are being marketed through non-traditional routes as well as through department stores, parents clubs and national press.
Heeran, Valista: Providing mobile handsets to the pre-teen market is significantly less dangerous than providing them with open internet access. This is because the same mechanisms which exist to protect children when browsing the internet can be applied to the mobile phone industry.

The most obvious example here is simple white-listing, which has already been trialled. The white list is a list of registered numbers which the child is permitted to use to send and receive calls. The list gives parents the piece of mind they need to know they can reach their children but that undesirable calls and messages are effectively blocked.

Allowing this list to be managed by the parents via the Internet or IVR is important and also provides the operators with a powerful “family” themed marketing campaign.

With a growing number of pre-teen mobile users, there is a significant opportunity for the operators who can provide these safeguards.
Clarke, O2: Mobile phones today provide a key tool for keeping in contact with children and making sure they are safe. A major dilemma for parents however is the type of mobile phone that they use – having too expensive a phone can place kids at risk of mugging.

The current responsible role of operators is to avoid marketing to children. How involved operators become in this debate is something that has to be decided. More could be done to use clearer language to determine most suitable products for the young. Before this happens, however, a clear sign must first be made that society is happy for operators to take this responsibility.

Peter Marsden, MD Sony Ericsson UK

Fran Heeran, VP Product Management, Valista

Louise Forbes, Head of Marketing, BenQ Mobile UK

Tanny Price, Sales and Marketing Director, Avenir Telecom.

Nick White, Head of Value Added Services and Handset Marketing at Virgin Mobile

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