Today’s mobile market is vastly different from the one we saw one year ago. Using history as a guide, we can expect the market will be markedly different in the coming year. New devices are exploding onto the market, driving new content, new applications, new functionality and consumers want it all, opening new doors for opportunity for operators. Throughout this explosion of mobile content and new devices hitting the market, the mobile ecosystem has advanced and left the consumer’s interest behind.
Consumers have high expectations for how they find and interact with their content, across all of their devices. However with the experience they have today, consumers spend countless hours sifting through content and applications in an attempt to find those that are right for them and once obtained, that content is likely to be lost again if the user decides to upgrade to a new device. Consumers should not only be empowered to transfer their content to another device, but also to access it from any of their connected devices. Traditional modes of discovery and usage are limiting the consumer mobile content experience from reaching its full potential, not allowing the desired “anywhere, anytime” access. To advance the consumer content experience, the industry should be asking the following questions: “Who owns the content and how can we personalize the mobile experience?”
Operators are investing heavily in their networks – AT&T and Verizon have publicly stated that they collectively spent more than $35 billion on their networks in 2009. The quality of their networks gives them distinct advantages in delivering a better experience: By connecting consumers to the content they desire and ensuring they can keep that content moving forward, no matter what device they use to access it.
THE ISSUES TODAY
In a world where consumers can truly take control of their content, operators and brands will need to collaborate to find new areas of value-add that they can provide the consumer. Three imperatives must exist to provide the best possible experience – discovery, portability and engagement.
• Personalized Discovery: Deploying intelligent recommendations technology to make the experience meaningful to each user
• Portability: Creating an experience that is consistent across devices and allows the consumer to manage their content in a digital locker so that it can be accessed from multiple touch points
• Engagement: Leveraging network and current subscriber relationships to help facilitate a stronger relationship between consumers and the brands that matter to them
A recent research study commissioned by Qualcomm found 63 percent of mobile consumers polled in the United Kingdom and United States would spend more time accessing online information or would purchase more content if it was easier to find. Consumers are overwhelmed by the abundance of content that exists in the marketplace. As more content become available, it will be increasingly difficult for consumers to find what they are looking for. Traditional search and discovery methods do not translate well to mobile as consumers are looking for more direct and personal information on a mobile device.
To further this notion, 80 percent of users also noted they had difficulty obtaining content on their mobile handsets, meaning they spent more time searching and less time accessing their content. And once they’ve found it, there is a clear demand from consumers to want to keep it – 58 percent of those polled believe the content should move with them, having invested significant time, energy and money in applications that do not transfer to new devices.
Operators must relinquish control of content, and instead find ways to help enrich the consumer experience by facilitating their relationship with the brands they care about. It is in driving this engagement between consumers and the content that matters to them that operators can add value to the experience and help to build a stronger mobile ecosystem.
HOW DO WE GET THERE?
Discover what’s possible: If the consumer’s mobile experience is a poor one, customer brand loyalty will suffer, placing an enormous, sometimes irreparable, strain on the relationship with their wireless carriers. Operators need to add value by giving consumers the keys to their content.
The operator has an invaluable role to play. For example, by leveraging user activity and location, they can better understand their subscribers and offer content that is meant specifically for them. With their combined knowledge of the consumer, content providers and operators can develop content strategies that take into consideration what content they want. And, as the consumer recognizes the personalized content on their device, brand loyalty will surely grow. The right content needs to be as personalized as a phone call from a family member, rather than a telemarketer.
The Digital Locker – If they found it and bought it, they keep it: For consumers, it’s about having a digital experience that’s consistent across multiple devices and platforms, but also being able to access any content, no matter where it was purchased or downloaded, through any device. One way to do this is to provide consumers a digital locker to manage their content.
Allowing the consumer to access their content, whether they have upgraded their device, or simply want to access it from a different touch point, opens up a whole new definition of a mobile content experience. Mobile content should not exist in isolation, but rather be an integral aspect of a consumer’s overall content experience.
To this end, cloud computing will play an integral role moving forward. An industry debate is taking place on the value of native applications versus Internet-based ones, and in particular the role cloud computing will play. Both sets of applications access information from the cloud, and thus, expect to see more cloud-based and cloud-enabled content.
The cloud will be important in giving consumers absolute control over their content and allowing them to carry it in a virtual suitcase as they travel onto the next device. For operators delivering new applications and personalized programs, the cloud also offers the opportunity to offer ubiquitous content access in a multi-device setting.
Operators Need to Drive User Engagement: As operators continue offering easier ways to access and allow ownership of content, there lies great opportunity for them to stay relevant by driving user engagement.
Service providers today are focused on providing the sexy user interface to attract consumers, but the real value-add is enriching the consumer experience by opening networks and allowing content to flow freely, facilitating the consumer’s engagement with the content they care about.
Operators need to serve as a liaison between content providers and the consumers in an effort to remain relevant and provide richer, more targeted content consumers crave. Customers will exhibit more loyalty to a wireless operator who provides this service.
HOW OPERATORS WIN
Consumers want content that will be ubiquitous through all their connected devices, both wireless and wireline. Operators can help to deliver impactful digital experiences by blending information such as consumer demographics and behaviors, location-awareness, billing, relationship and brand loyalty.
Unlike traditional ISPs whose cost structures diminish over time, wireless operators are continually re-investing in their networks to ensure an optimal experience for their subscribers. There exists great opportunity for those who can create the best content experience for consumers and operators have earned this advantage. It starts with discoverability – ensuring that the experience is personal and the right content is easily discoverable. Then, giving consumers access to their digital locker to maintain and own the content they’ve already searched for and downloaded. Finally, it will be up to the mobile operator to create an ecosystem where the network harmoniously bridges the relationship between the consumer and the content they desire.
Operators hold the power to truly connect the mobile content experience, making it easy and portable so that brands and content publishers can focus on differentiation at the services layer. But for operators to win, it starts with giving the consumer the keys to their own personalized content and letting them drive anywhere with any vehicle.
Michael Wallace is senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm Internet Services (QIS).