UK Consumers Show Strong Appetite for Sponsored Free or Reduced Mobile Bills

Guavus recently announced the findings of a new survey into smartphone users’ attitudes towards mobile marketing and use of data. The survey of 2545 UK smartphone users, conducted by research house TNS Omnibus, found that almost half (47%) of respondents were keen to have commercially funded mobile phone bills; with adverts delivered straight to their phones in return for a partially or fully paid line-rental, similar to offerings such as Spotify where the service is paid for through advertising.

“Spotify-type commercially funded phone bills are not something we are seeing yet; but the fact that almost half of consumers are welcoming the idea shows there is serious potential for the future,” comments Louis Brun, Senior Vice President for Guavus. “According to eMarketer, advertisers spend more per user on mobile advertising in the UK than any other country; and the latest IAB (Internet Advertisers Bureau) figures shows mobile advertising in the UK grew by 148 per cent; with total digital ad spend reaching £5bn in 2012. If operators can find a way to tap into this market, the rewards will be very compelling.”

Consumers consent for data usage

The survey also showed that many customers are open to operators selling their aggregated, anonymous personal and usage data to third parties to help fund network upgrades; if it meant that they could avoid increases in phone tariffs or the introduction of data charges in the future:

•43% of consumers would be willing for operators to sell their aggregated anonymous personal data; such as, age, profession, location etc., to third parties.

•46% would be willing for operators to sell their anonymised usage data, such as which apps they downloaded and how often, to third parties.

“With the explosion of mobile data across networks, operators are now uniquely positioned to gain valuable insights into customer behaviour and demographics; a valuable resource in today’s data hungry world,” Brun continues. “However, customer consent is key and there needs to be transparency over how the data will be used and in what context. Clearly this is, and will continue to be, a divisive and controversial issue; but it is very encouraging to see there is a large group of people out there who are willing to give consent.”

Growing demand for more tailored services

The research also indicates that consumers are keen to have more tailored services; both from a tariff and services perspective. It is clear there is willingness from the consumer side for operators to use the data they have to gain a fuller picture of what is relevant to those individuals and create services and packages that are tailored to their individual experience:

•84% of the smartphone users surveyed believe operators should provide phone packages that are more closely tailored to their individual usage.

•53% of users would sign up to a text message service whereby companies could text with special offers (for example 2 for 1 deals or 50% discounts); as long as the operator matched the companies according to their preferences to ensure all the messages were relevant to them.

•Telemarketing is the least attractive option for customers; whereas text message marketing and on-screen banner adverts are more popular.

“Operators are sitting on a goldmine of information, which could allow them to create a whole new generation of data-led service and product offerings and more dynamic pricing models which closely match consumer preferences,” Brun added. “This will not only allow operators to design tariffs that meet consumer expectations, helping to reduce churn and upsell relevant services; but it will also open entirely new data-services through partnerships with other businesses.”

Protecting future revenues; Age concerns

The survey also showed that the younger generation are already more inclined to use OTT services, and are more comfortable with sharing data and accepting marketing messages to their mobiles. This demonstrates that the market will grow over time as the younger generation ages:

•Almost half (49%) of 16-24 year olds use free services, such as FaceTime, WhatsApp and Viber, to reduce their phone bill; as opposed to just 12% of over 55-64 year olds.

•53% of 16-24 year olds would be willing for operators to sell their anonymised personal data; as opposed to 26% of 55-64 year olds.

•61% of 16-24 year olds would be willing to sign up for personalised discount text services; as opposed to just 39% of 55-64 year olds.

•56% of 16-24 year olds would be interested in commercial ‘Spotify-like’ funded mobile phone bills; as opposed to just 30% of 55-64 year olds.

“Over time, the market for data-led services will only grow; and mobile operators have the distinct advantage to be at the centre of this revolution,” Brun concludes. “But they need to act now and change the way they view and interact with their data. Not only will this help with customer acquisition, retention and increased revenues in the short-term; it will also provide a model for data-led marketing that will enable operators to carve a position for themselves, not as ‘dumb pipes’, but as innovative market-leaders in a data-rich economy.”

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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