The arrival of 4G has so far been dominated by EE, leaving rivals O2, Three and Vodafone with a lot of “catching up to do” according to IT trends analyst IDC. In the last four months alone, EE has doubled its number of customers and as of the beginning of this year had signed up more than two million phone users to EE 4G.
With the number of customers signed up to 4G contracts by the end of 2014 likely to rise, questions are already being asked about how this will affect the amount of data we use and what opportunities this presents to marketers. According to Carphone Warehouse Chief Executive Andrew Harrison: “There is a real willingness for customers to move to 4G and… for them to understand that data usage is going to go up in the future.” But with more customers gaining access to contracts with larger data allowances, what does this mean for telcos, who will have to deal with a new spike in data volumes? How will it change the way telecommunication companies manage their consumer data?
It has been widely reported in the US that the average 4G customer burns through more data than those with 3G devices. In fact, according to Forbes, traffic across high-speed 4G networks will increase 40-fold by 2017, meaning the average 4G customer will use far more data than they currently do using 3G. This increase is not only due to customers interacting with a greater level of content, but also marketers taking advantage of this extra capacity to send an increased level of marketing materials to customers. From adverts to other rich content, the amount of downloads across the 4G spectrum is vast. This presents a huge opportunity to marketers, as the likelihood that customers will use their increased allowance to interact and engage far more than they did previously is infinitely higher. However, this by default creates an enormous amount of additional data, from customer preferences and browsing histories to location activity and real-time events. This, if not managed appropriately, could prove detrimental to major telco brands as they struggle to cope with the amount of data being ingested.
So what is the solution?
Telco brands need to invest in systems which will help structure and interpret the increasing amount of data that 4G will generate, and ensure they have the technology and capabilities in place to collate, sort and use it in their customer acquisition and retention strategies.
Understanding and interpreting this data, which may emerge in unstructured formats, is a big concern and perhaps the biggest barrier to achieving a single customer view. To gain insight and ensure business and marketing operations are effective, there must be a consolidated view of the entire customer base across all areas of the business. Establishing a structure will remove these obstacles. That may evolve from a top-down evaluation of the value of the current database and data capture methods, but whatever approach you’ve taken, businesses must look at their analytical capability and simplify internal processes. It’s all about achieving a 360-degree view of the customer.
Are you able to easily identify who your customers are and how they are interacting with you? Do you know what their personal preferences are? Are you effectively capturing these details and then using this insight to improve the service they receive from you? Is it targeted? Is it relevant? These are all questions telco brands need to start asking themselves in the months ahead.
Whilst businesses think they have a firm understanding of their customers, the advent of 4G will inevitably change the way they think about and use data. Therefore, making sure the customer database is up-to-date and that investment is being made in obtaining crucial demographic and lifestyle information on both existing and potential customers is crucial. Using it to overlay or supplement existing data sets or prospect lists with additional insights, will provide an enriched understanding of the customer. That might range from what newspaper they read to which supermarket they shop at or the type of car they like to drive.
Understanding the dynamics of a household’s composition and the things, which impact its finances, is crucial to identifying and predicting purchase decisions. These details about customers’ hobbies and interests can help make better sense of emerging data sets and types. A number of these have been around for years but with data usage predicted to increase 40-fold over the next three years, all brand marketers - not just those at the telco companies offering 4G services - need to re-evaluate their data strategies.
Investment in the skills, technology and resources that will enable them to continue to grow and develop a sound understanding of their customers is crucial. This commitment will enable them to deliver an effective, targeted multi-channel campaign through which to communicate with them.