Consumers who make online purchases have become accustomed to features and functions that would have been revolutionary a few years ago. The experience consumers find on Amazon.com, the world’s largest online shopping site, represents innovation. Amazon is a model for service providers that seek to offer more valuable and compelling customer experiences and to generate new portal-based revenue streams. The site stands out due to three key characteristics:
• A highly-personalized experience
• Easy to navigate self-service
• Proprietary and partnered content integration
Web portals with these key characteristics are attractive to users because they reflect their interests and stay current with relevant content.
That Personal Touch
Most likely each of us has purchased items on Amazon based on the recommendations compiled from previous purchases and like-minded customers who made similar purchases. There are several advantages to this strategy. First, the retailer benefits by taking that history and therefore generating pairings and packages that can ultimately increase the consumer’s purchase total. The mix of different products, like hardware, warranty agreements, software and content provide Amazon the opportunity to increase general revenue.
Service providers have a tremendous opportunity to leverage key purchasing patterns. Carriers can use prior Web searches, past transactions, location and other criteria to generate a more personalized experience that goes beyond a singular purchase. For instance, purchasing a Coldplay ringtone ties into customized packaged deals, like saving a dollar when a ringtone of a similar band is added. While Amazon accounts may be shared by household members and generate recommendations that do not necessarily apply to the individual purchaser, mobile phones are rarely shared. This allows the service provider to target individuals on a deeper level. That ability to offer tailored suggestions builds confidence in the brand, which in turn strengthens customer loyalty.
Do It Yourself
Service providers also have room to grow with regard to offering self-service. For example, most Amazon customers manage their own account, purchasing, service add-ons and additional tasks across product categories and services. Some customers may never call the Amazon toll-free number for customer service.
Service providers have the opportunity to mirror Amazon’s leadership and enable better self-service account functions. In a recent Amdocs Interactive survey, 64 percent of respondents said they prefer to use something that lets them choose and purchase an item, as opposed to using a customer service agent. While we know that in most cases the customer service agent will never be completely removed, the company understands the user’s preference to solve his or her problems with self-service tools. When these simple and effective tools are integrated with the total customer and site experience, customer satisfaction and transaction volumes can be positively influenced.
We all react better when we are using a portal where information is easy to find and navigate. For example, on Amazon, I can find recommendations for movies, electronics and home products based on previous viewings and/or purchases. While these recommendations come from both Amazon stores and affiliated partners, it’s not something that registers with me. Additionally, each section of the site, even personalized areas, has a cohesive look-and-feel. When I am on Amazon, the store (and everything inside) represents Amazon.
Service providers must ensure that they offer a similar single unified storefront for service plans, devices and other digital content, integrating products and offerings from the service provider and from trusted vendors. Their offerings need to be flexible, so they can create innovative bundles and personalized packages of products and services for maximum revenue opportunity. Content from off-portal sites or third parties can enhance the value of a service provider’s portal. The service provider’s portal can integrate useful network information, a user’s personalized content stream, and the service provider’s own storefront and ad delivery service.
When all of these pieces are presented together, the service provider’s portal becomes the user’s center for online experience. Service providers can then leverage those impressions and site traffic for greater revenue opportunities.
Consumer demands and expectations for online experiences are high, and service providers are well positioned to meet and deliver on these expectations. With a trove of data that can create valuable, useful and highly personalized portal experiences, service providers can create touchstone sites where users will want to start their online experience time and time again.
Scott Adler is vice president, Amdocs Interactive.