23 Dec Value added services in the 3G era
InfoTech has a decades old history with providing technology solutions to telecoms at all levels of the infrastructure and application stack. Increasingly we have been having conversations around “use cases”; understanding business requirements and mapping a future proof technology roadmap to enable business initiatives. So it is with great interest that we see various telecom players position and differentiate themselves in the 3G era. Value Added Services (VAS) are their main weapon for achieving this. InfoTech is fortunate enough to have Service Provider executives with experience in local and international markets. Here’s a summation of their thoughts on VAS in the 3G era.
Value Added Services in the 2G era were straightforward affairs. Most subscribers wanted Urdu content. SMS and Data were considered VAS and at most ringtones and news or sports updates would round out the VAS portfolio. What we find interesting is that even though operators knew about their 3G investments well in advance and 3G has been rolled out for 6 months most operators seem to be taking a gut instinct approach to VAS. Here are four key areas VAS teams should look at:
- Prioritize services from similar emerging markets that have gone through 3G. This means video highlights on demand esp related to Sports or current events, location based e-commerce services, rich media in local content, video conferencing, services portal etc are probably a must. Look for where you can localize these; for example an audio e-book service in Punjabi.
- VAS in the 3G era needs an “innovation factory “ approach but it requires organizational structure adjustments. First to market not once but consistently are key in highly competitive markets where innovative services are quickly copied. An organization that takes an “innovation factory” approach we feel will have a strategic and competitive edge over its competitors. An “innovation factory” approach brings together physically the payments, analytics and product management & VAS teams not only physically but also via process. Enabling a payment ecosystem is key and will require innovation in Pakistan. Analytics will be key to a strategic approach to VAS as they allow you to target VAS. For example a higher ARPU vision would use analytics to identify a metro customer demographic with a certain disposable income level that one could build a targeted service for. A key metric telecom companies usually do poorly is services time to market or how long it takes to roll out a service from conception to launch. Having all these teams together and working seamlessly is key to VAS success. The CIO and CMO relationship is also key. Enforce that at an executive level. Have them reading off the same page.
- Be creative. A creative company is the one with the most ideas and thus is the company best positioned to win. Learn to spread the net far and wide inside and outside the organization for which ideas to use and why for services. Remember if you wish to lead the industry creatively you have to give your subscribers a seat at the table. Enable that feedback loop intelligently. This will require you to be more participatory than you are. Interfacing formally with an official channel of bloggers or influencers that are looked up to by your core market is an example. A creative company is visual. From marketing to metrics to internal and external communication be visual. A single infographic will convince your CEO of investment more than a multi page spreadsheet. Have illustrators/ designers on board early.
- Understand your core audience. This requires not only enterprise grade analytics with visual dashboarding for executive governance and decision making it also means you invest time in understanding the core audience. The % of time given to that compared to shortlisting and building service is too low. Understanding them will allow for an emotional connection. Always aim for that. In the digital age it is a myth that it is easy to lose brand loyalty. An emotionally attuned brand has it easiest to acquire and retain customers. Put the time and effort in for primary research and do it yourself
Whether your strategic aims are churn reduction, customer acquisition or ARPU increase, a smart VAS strategy is essential to winning in the 3G era.
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