Head of Asia at Centili
03 Mar 2021
Consumer demands have never been higher when it comes to connectivity. The average person spends 800 hours a year, or 33 entire days on their mobile device, according to research by Zenith. This is expected to rise to 930 hours in 2021, pointing to the fact that continuous connectivity is a trend that isn’t going away. This should be music to the ears of operators, especially in Asia, which leads the adoption of many cutting-edge mobile and digital services. However, increased screen time does not necessarily equate to a larger piece of the pie for MNOs. It is no secret that the likes of Google and Apple are vying for market share when it comes to delivering mobile experiences, and we have seen operators in Asia planning carefully to ensure their role in the ecosystem remains relevant.
Value add is outdated, MNOs adopting a value-expected mindset
One of the fundamental changes that need to happen is to drop the idea of value-add when it comes to consumer offerings. Value-add implies a “nice to have”, a bonus, or sweetener that engenders consumer loyalty. Customers do not see it that way and haven’t for a long time. Those perks are what is expected, customer demands are exactly that – demands, and recognising this is a vital part of operator strategies moving forward.
Instead, operators must adopt the mindset of “value-expected”. Consumers have clear expectations for their digital experiences. It might be to aid with travel, to integrate social media into consuming content, to ease payments or to streamline tickets and loyalty cards. Consumers know what they want and don’t care who provides the service.
So, where do operators fit in delivering the “value- expected” demands of their customers, and how do they deliver this in a way that ensures ROI?
Anticipating expectations: How to play a part in the delivery of everything?
For operators, their number one concern is providing the backbone to enable the mobile experiences their customers demand. When it comes to the experiences themselves, there are such wide and varied expectations it is impossible to play a part in the delivery of everything. This is where a strategic approach is needed and to focus on two key areas: partnerships and payments. And these are becoming topics of increased interest among a growing number of Asian operators.
Partnerships with digital service providers are a great way to meet expectations and have a range of benefits for both merchants and operators. Although the concept isn’t new, it is certainly becoming more sophisticated and enabling operators to better meet their users’ needs. It goes beyond “have free Facebook data” or a small selection of digital services and instead gives consumers access to all their digital interests in dynamic bundles. Operators have a natural advantage when it comes to understanding their customer with Big Data giving a goldmine of information on how consumers behave and what they want as part of their mobile experience. It is up to them to use it to adapt and increase their agility, to both follow consumer trends and meet them.
It’s a far more sophisticated approach and sounds great on paper, but how can operators realistically deliver this additional complexity? Pick and mix offerings that allow operators to deliver bespoke mobile services can be timely to negotiate, difficult to implement, and come with a lot of red tape. This can be addressed by operators working with an intermediary platform provider to take away the regulatory and legal difficulties. This gives an easy and cost-effective way to offer an extended catalogue of services that can be passed on to their customers to deliver the expected enhanced mobile experience. It is one of the simplest but most effective ways of serving modern consumer needs.
Once partnerships are established, we come on to the second opportunity operators have to expand their position; tackling payments.
Removing the billing barrier, Asia leading the way
Billing is one of the biggest challenges that merchants face when delivering a service or product. The need for robust security, identity verification and the need to meet regulatory restrictions makes it a complicated process and introduces friction for the customer. However, one of the biggest barriers for merchants is where operators can stand to make the biggest impact; the most advanced operators in Asia have done a great deal to remove this obstacle in digital services delivery.
Operators can easily access a ready-built solution to this problem in the form of direct carrier billing (DCB). It is a secure and well-established system that can be easily customised to suit the set-up of any merchant. Not only this, but it is simple for both end-users and digital service providers alike to make and collect payments. The end result is a tailored pay-as-you-go offering to hugely simplify the payment element of any digital service.
Security as standard
Beyond convenience, DCB also has the benefit of baked-in security that gives operators a great advantage as a payment facilitator. The access they have to Mobile Identity Solutions which offer verification based on the subscriber data minimises the risk of fraud. Mobile Identity matches the user’s phone number with the mobile operator databases and verifies the user with minimal disruption. It can authenticate each payment or app install via Silent Mobile Verification, SIM swap checks to ensure the identity of the user and protect them from fraud and hacks, enhancing security without compromising the service.
This type of solution is absolutely crucial to mobile users, and Asia has seen some great implementations. It is another example that by meeting expectations, rather than focusing on a “value-add”, operators expand their position in the mobile ecosystem.
Operators are always going to have a place in the life of consumers, but there is a significant opportunity to extend that reach and deliver even more for their customers. They have the exclusive position of reaching more of the Asian consumer base than any other type of company, and this unique factor cannot be underestimated. By making the most of this reach and sharing this with key partners, as well as facilitating a way to pay for goods and services, Asian operators truly deliver on the expectations of their customers. The result: it shores up their position as not just critical for connectivity but a huge driver of expected mobile experiences.
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