Speakers’ Corner: Channel positivity


If you were to describe the market today simply as going through ‘interesting times’, you would stand to be accused of either playing it down or not fully understanding it.

We’re not only seeing some of the very best devices, we are also seeing a level of application development which business users have never previously experienced. Couple this with extended communication offerings of both fixed and mobile broadband, as well as the vast opportunity of FMC, there’s no doubt the mobile industry is as exciting as ever.

In this column last issue, [Yes Telecom founder] Keith Curran said we’ve had it easy until now, that we’ve been giving products away, that it’s an easy sale traditionally.

But that misses the point. Devices are hugely complex, and the sale is more involved than ever before, and we are still persuading customers to make substantial monthly outlays over very long periods. Nothing is free in this world; it never has been and never will be. Customers want to ensure their expenditure is kept to the minimum while delivery is at the maximum. That is no easy task.

Uplands has been in business for 30 years and has touched every conceivable end user – consumer, SME and corporate.

At present, the High Street is boring and tough to survive on. But like most things it is cyclical and the economy will see that out. There will be casualties on the High Street but, hopefully with a bit of flair from local councils and government, there will also be a return of local specialists to provide much-needed diversity to our towns and cities.

But challenges in this market go beyond pure economics. Probably the biggest change recently is the introduction of revenue share – something that definitely deserves the Marmite award.

If you are sat there now with low ARPU customers on your base and no real strategy to attract higher spending customers, it doesn’t look good. However, if you’re able to understand and really add value to your customers, then revenue share has to be the best answer.

You can leverage network support and put in your own local specialist expertise to ensure customers stay longer and are willing to pay more for a diverse service.

Another major challenge is how to increase your existing base, increase its spend, and continue to attract new customers  in a saturated market. What we have to do is see beyond the mobile device, not only by looking to add greater value to the tariff but by getting closer to the customer and adding greater value to their needs.

Embracing things like mobile broadband is the way forward. It doesn’t make sense to call yourself a mobile specialist and then point next door when you don’t have the product or service customers require. That’s not to say that we can all be experts in every field.

There’s nothing better than using your own resources and expertise, having control and full sight of everything you do, but also from time to time recognising when partnering is the best solution.

I’m not about to offer free advertising to any company out there and at the same time I was always told that self praise is no praise at all. But, of all High Street retailers, Carphone Warehouse deserves praise for showing how important staff and service are to brand.

Carphone goes beyond just products and services. It understands individuals, brings stores to life and it understands about putting the customer first. The depth of its products and services makes the whole thing interesting.

Typically, mobile shops have offered a mix of devices on a predictable selection of tariffs. The best retailers predict the market to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to newer, products like broadband and connected notebooks. Those who survive and indeed thrive will be those that adopt this principal.

It is important to do this now, because there is plenty of growth ahead, despite connectivity saturation. That growth will come from the leaps in technology.

Approximately 60 per cent of the world’s population has a mobile device. These devices are predominately used for voice. Data remains a small component. That is a great growth opportunity for us all.

Emerging markets are joining the revolution. 4G will soon replace 3G. Mobile voice and data will be ubiquitous.

If you go back five years, the real push was to get as much into the smallest product possible (think of the Nokia 9000 Communicator). As good as it sounds this is probably not what we all want. We really want our particular demands met whenever and wherever.

A device like the iPhone is a great product for consumers and businesses but it won’t do everything. Connected netbooks are a superb solution for commuters, but they won’t replace the PC.

Businesses want access to data, and consumers want access  to their lives. Central to this will be both online and offline content, and the internet will be at the absolute core.

How you access information will be dependent on what you want to do with it. We’re going to see smaller slicker devices for access to the ether of information out there. They will tick a box, although not every box.

The launch of ambient products like the O2 Joggler and Chumby give another dimension to mobile communications – with features like linked messaging, diary integration. These are  home hubs for the family. 

We have to see the opportunities of new, life-enriching products and services, which can save them time and improve their productivity in ways they wouldn’t have guessed at. Customers will pay for those kinds of products and services.

Our industry is not recession proof, but in difficult times wouldn’t you rather be in this industry than banking?