The mobile innovation conundrum

Well this may not exactly come as news to many of you but this week really reinforces the conundrum facing mobile operators – and therefore all of us – in the quest for new service innovations to support their future business.

In the week that we have seen Facebook’s staggering $1bn acquisition of a non-revenue generating business we have also seen the recent results showing that revenues at the UK’s leading mobile operators have declined by 2.3% in 2011 as their customers are simply using their latest smartphones & data packages to communicate and entertain themselves in many other ways than the high margin voice business.

Clearly the mobile operators are not starting from scratch and some such as O2 have had a business innovation unit going for some time looking at creating new services in areas such as health, mobile payments and monetisation of mobile search and web.

However, this week clearly demonstrates the need for them to accelerate their innovation even faster and I just hope that they focus the resources and take the appropriate risks to make this happen.

Don’t forget if the operators don’t get this right and help find new profitable revenue streams they will be forced to continue ongoing cost-reduction measures.

And the worst income in this would be a continued reduction in their subsidy of the shiny smartphones and tablets we are all using to drive the innovation in the first place.

Of course another scenario is that the over-the-top services such as Apple, Amazon & Google continue to drive the innovation themselves. However, even though Amazon are reportedly subsidising the Kindle Fire to a tune of $50 per unit that’s an awful lot of incremental margin they need to make and even then it’s a much smaller subsidy than the mobile operators have typically been able to support on new devices.

So let’s hope that between them they can get this right –  especially how the operators can better partner with the OTT service providers as they plan the build of their new 4G networks – so we can continue to enjoy the shiny new smartphones and tablets driving this fantastic innovation.

 

Tapping your customers up with NFC

As someone that likes thinking of fun ways new technology can be used to provide better customer experiences it is sometimes depressing that so much of the talk surrounding the fantastic NFC (Near Field Communication) technology that is built into my new smartphone (and will probably be in your next one too!) is based upon the notion of us using it as a mobile payment system.

I’m sure that this will definitely happen over time and will indeed offer us a simpler way for us to make many of our lower value purchases. However, given that this technology is now literally getting into many of our hands I think there is great opportunities for brands to use this to drive their own innovation and creativity with customer propositions and communication.

So it’s refreshing to see that Clinton Cards are looking to make better use of NFC to improve their customer experience and provide greater value. In doing so they will obviously help expedite use of it as convenient payment mechanism also.

My old company Sony Mobile are also looking to drive better customer experiences by providing NFC tags that allow their users to more conveniently programme their phone into customised settings – such as setting GPS, maps and voice activation simply by tapping their phone on a tag left inside the car.

So who are going to be the creative brands that really grasp this new technology and do something simple, fun and mainstream that really gets people talking about their brand in a positive way?

For instance we all know that Facebook wants to drive more ‘check-ins’ and entertainment venues/bars want to drive more customers so why doesn’t someone produce simple Facebook check-in stickers to go doors so you simply have to tap your phone as you enter to immediately activate the Facebook check-in?

We know that brands are struggling to find ways effective ways for using QR codes in advertising and other channels to drive consumer engagement. Basically QR codes are a bit ugly and it’s still not always convenient or attractive to get your phone out and take a picture of a poster. I would propose some start to shift to NFC instead which can offer a better customer experience and at least may help positioning for the brand in a better way.

Other ideas where the simple tapping of a mobile phone to a company’s marketing or actual product may make sense could include store promotions/vouchers, free content, network integration, etc.

Clearly many will want to wait for a bigger critical mass of NFC phones and others may be sceptical that this could be another passing technology that never really takes off.

But I applaud the marketer that can really show the innovation and drive to build their brand by being amongst the first to really embed NFC into their marketing and customer proposition.

At least I will have more things to tap my lovely new smartphone on! 🙂

3, 2, 1 Action!

Well, having worked in the Internet world for over 15 years I have finally managed to find the time to put down some of my own thoughts on how individuals and businesses can get the most out of the latest exciting digital technologies.

Clearly the internet has created a myriad of wonderful (and some less wonderful) new services, businesses and business models alike.

There have been real winners and losers. From those that have (or are about to become) famously successful by launching exciting businesses that provide compelling new offers to those that have struggled to find the best way to use or execute digital within their business and have subsequently lost market share or the potential to grow new business.

Of course, there are many factors that will help make company A more successful than company B but for me the keys to fortune are in having a real simplicity in what (and how) you offer your customers, coupled of course with a true sense of gratification that they experience.

I look forward to exploring this over the months ahead and sharing some thoughts & examples of what I think can be great or poor practice.