Having access to so much data can be daunting – as a business it is important to learn how to use it to your advantage but always remembering to keep the customer at the heart of it, says RICHARD MULLINS, MD of MEA at Acceleration.
Data works in two directions. Firstly, it gives businesses access to unprecedented volumes of real-time data about customer behaviour, preferences and context. It also provides consumers with information about where they should go for the best product range, experience, and pricing.
Thanks to smartphones, consumers have this information at hand whenever they research purchases, shop, and interact with brands.
Consider, for example, someone in a mall looking for the best nearby restaurant. He or she will look up nearby pizzerias on Apple or Google Maps or look up best restaurants on Zomato’s app. This provides the local owner of a pizzeria to target him or her with a contextual ad and perhaps an offer for a complimentary drink.
Think about someone trying on a jacket in a clothing store – having checked out the colour and the fit, he or she may decide to find the cheapest price and order it online. This may be done via their mobile phone, a mobile app or a tablet, for next day delivery. Why not offer to match pricing from the biggest online competitors in a PPC ad when the customer does his or her mobile search on Google?
The trail of behavioural, location, demographic and even psychographic data customers leave behind as they use mobile search and social media enables us to understand consumer behaviour and personalise messaging and right place right offer opportunity. Bear in mind that is aggregated customer data rather than information that identifies them personally.
To thrive in a world where smartphones make nearly every shopping experience a digital one, brands must learn to use data across their touch points to deliver a clear and personalised experience to each customer. Luckily, marketers have unprecedented volumes of data that they can use to understand and influence consumer behaviour in real-time.
The problem with trying to wrap one’s head around all this data, however, is that it can be hard to capture, analyse and segment. Most organisations have a plethora of information scattered across numerous logistical, transactional and marketing systems. The marketing systems include the likes of CRM databases, ad-servers, social media platforms, search, third-party data providers and more – and most companies have no idea how to bring it all together to create a single view of the customer. Some large enterprises have been struggling to reach this Holy Grail for decades.
What’s more, in the South African context, data isn’t as big as it is in the US or Europe. Outside a few of the large banks and telcos, most local companies don’t have deep pools of customer data to mine for statistical insight as, for example, Amazon. Lacking the volume of data, they will not achieve the same results as a player with Amazon’s scale even if they apply the same algorithms and analytics tools.
Think smart rather than big
We recommend that marketers ignore the buzz about big data and begin by asking a simple question: “What information will enable us to offer relevant messages and experiences to our customers?” Once they have identified that piece of information, they can begin to think about where and how they can access the data and how they will activate it with the customer.
For us, it’s not about big data. It’s about smart and usable data. Data that enables us to align the right message, service and product with the right customer at the right time. Rather than starting off with a complex data technology solution, marketers should step back and ask: “What data do we need, what data do we have, where does our data sit, and who owns and controls it?”
Understanding the answers to these questions will help the brand create a strategy for accessing the data it needs to serve customers better. Most South African brands have a wealth of transactional data at their fingertips – the next step is to start gathering and leveraging data about the customer context and journey more effectively.
The point is to start with the customers: what do we know about them and how do we serve them better? They should look at specific questions – “We have customers who purchase from us twice a year. How could we entice them to double their purchases?” – and seek equally specific answers.
A focused approach is the key to reaping an investment from customer data.
When will we stop calling them phones?
If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.
Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?
It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.
Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.
It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.
That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.
Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti, Admyt and Kaching.
Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.
Who has time for phone calls?
The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.
The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,
This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.
That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.
Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.
Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.
Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.
More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time.
I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.
There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.
MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps
MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.
The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.
“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.
Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”
“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”
“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.