A ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work; the operators have to evolve an approach to segmenting their customer base using an understanding of the mobile user’s behaviour, argues Michel Quazza of SurfKitchen.
With more than two billion users, double-digit annual growth rate (CAGR), and an age range for users between 13 and 77, today’s mobile phone market looks like a marketer’s dream.
However, what seems like the perfect market opportunity is rather badly exploited by today’s mobile industry.
Admittedly, a market this size certainly breaks down into a lot of market segments. But, in effect, in a voice-centric mobile world, these segments were simplified to mainly two primary tariff packages – pre-paid and post-paid.
What drove mobile telephony over the past decade has been one of the key barriers to the success of mobile data. For voice traffic it was a simple matter of “build it and they will come”. Mobile data requires more focus on understanding consumer needs and tracking behaviour to deliver personal, relevant content and services.
Consumers do want to use their mobile device for services other than just plain voice. However, today, they go through a lot of pain to download the digital content or access the information services they want or need.
But why is it such a pain? The mobile industry has a lot to learn from the traditional retail world. In retail, there is an intense focus on making sure that the offering is simple, that the pricing is clear, and that products are easy to find. Loyalty programmes have ensured that consumers receive promotions specific to their needs and wants. The mobile world has yet to embrace such concepts.

Reality bites
The first choice mobile consumers make is about their device, often done within minutes and based on a simple mock-up! While a lot of design creativity can deliver the most desirable handset, some realities will not change. The device has to fit in the hand, and the major trend that still prevails is that “smaller and lighter is better”.
Mobile data users will use their device typically a couple of minutes a day, be it in a taxi queue or on the bus, to access content or information services. They will not browse. They will check the latest football scores or catch up on news. And according to research conducted by User Analytics, 18-24 year olds expect to find this information within 10 seconds!
The ideal mobile data service has to be extremely personal to the user – access with little or no clicking, adapt to user behaviour and then deliver the relevant content and information. Basically, when users pick up their phone they should effortlessly have what they want and when they want it.

"Mobile data requires more focus on understanding consumer needs and tracking behaviour …"
And timing matters too. News or traffic in the morning, football results or movies at lunchtime, and party info in the evening.
The phone should become the ultimate companion, that knows what users want. The phone becomes so personal that churn is no longer in use.
To be honest, though, this is very far from reality. Finding something as basic as a ringtone can be quite challenging, sometimes easier done off-portal than on a mobile operator’s portal. A simple service like ringtones should provide a great experience, where users can find and preview a ringtone in 10 seconds, and have it on their phone in 20 seconds, with only a few clicks. No mobile world-wide-wait, but a gratifying experience instead!
Ringtones, news, sport and specific events such as the World Cup or major TV programmes provide many unique opportunities to seed a new breed of mobile data services, where the end user experience is front-and-centre.
Here lies a real opportunity for mobile operators.

Personal services
Once consumers use a service, it is a matter of making that service evolve, personalising it and bringing the most relevant, context based (i.e. time, location) services to the top menu of the phone. A lot of these tools are already in use on the internet, combining explicit and implicit choices (i.e. changing the interface, graphics or logic based) on usage patterns.
Time and location may be two specific dimensions to consider in the case of the small screen. User wants may be different at 7:30am than at 10pm. Location matters as traffic info for London will not be so relevant when in Madrid.
The mobile world is a world where “small is beautiful”. With it come constraints and new rules. It is no longer a simple matter of content supply. It is more a matter of personalisation, relevance and ease-of-access. In much the same way as a local corner shop does not try to emulate a supermarket but rather offer shoppers what they need when they need it.

Michel Quazza is CEO of SurfKitchen, a solution provider that aims to increase data service ARPU for its operator customers by delivering a ‘Dynamic User Experience’ that differentiates itself from browser-based models currently on the market. 
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