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Dec 01 2014

4 ways to innovate: mobile loyalty-based plans

To conclude our series on the 6 degrees of mobile data plan innovation, let’s look at ways to innovate loyalty-based plans. People love getting things for free. And it turns out that free mobile data, merchandise or services as a reward for mobile plan loyalty are no exception. However, it is doubtful these create true customer loyalty. The customer can simply redeem points toward merchandise and services before they churn. In many cases, free mobile data as a loyalty reward creates a discount mentality for an operator’s most popular service. Also, unless large sums of data are involved, many operators have seen that increased loyalty is an unlikely outcome. When this does happen, the so-called loyalty plan is really a subscriber retention plan. Best-in-class retailers, such as Starbucks, are teaching us that mobile loyalty-based plans can encourage regular subscriber engagement and support the brand while providing subscribers with meaningful benefits. In telecom, creating true customer loyalty is rare. Subscribers churn regularly for the latest deal. Competitors aggressively offer these deals and free OTT applications capture customer interest. How can mobile operators follow the Starbucks example?

From retention to true loyalty

My advice to mobile operators seeking to create true loyalty and brand engagement is to consider the following 4 innovations to their loyalty plans:

  1. Go mobile: Move the loyalty plan to a mobile app platform and make it the consistent face of the brand for all subscriber interactions.
  2. Present a united front: Ensure all lines of the operator’s business use the same app platform to engage subscribers for a consistent experience across connected devices.
  3. See more, know more: Gather contextual data across all lines of the operator’s business. This should be linked to social media data so that truly loyal customers can be identified and valued rewards offered.
  4. Time it just right: Re-engage subscribers with relevant and timely push notifications.

Let’s look at each of these innovations in a little more detail: 1. Go mobile This may seem obvious, but mobile loyalty-based plans must be mobile. With app-based loyalty plans, subscribers can redeem accumulated rewards from anywhere, anytime. But that’s only the beginning. The app should be the face of the brand for all subscriber interactions with the mobile operator:

  • Checking balances
  • Managing accounts
  • Self-care
  • Discovering relevant apps
  • Getting news about their service
  • Accessing the loyalty plan

This type of branded subscriber service app would go a long way towards creating a consistent user experience and focal point of engagement for an otherwise fragmented experience and brand image. The loyalty plan has now become the foundation for much, much more. 2. Present a united front Subscribers often have multiple services—for example, consumer mobile, home phone, Internet, IPTV, and enterprise mobile—from the same operator. However, these subscribers are frequently treated as if they are unique customers by each of the operator’s businesses. The root cause is that services are siloed on the operator’s side. Making the user experience even more disjointed, different lines of business often have separate applications, interfaces, care processes, and loyalty programs. It all adds up to a branding nightmare. The most effective way out is for all of the operator’s businesses to use the same mobile app, extended across all devices with a consistent look and feel. The significant upside of presenting a unified front makes the operator’s efforts worthwhile. In addition to creating a consistent brand image, the operator gains valuable insight into:

  • How subscribers use all of their services
  • Which new offers would be welcomed
  • What loyalty benefits would be most beneficial across the entire business

3. See more, know more By using in-application tracking (with the subscriber’s permission) and big data analytics, mobile operators can gather contextual information on how, when, and where subscribers use their services and the mobile app. To build a more complete picture of subscribers’ attitudes and desires, analytics should incorporate the operator’s social media channels. Findings can be used to present relevant services and offers to subscribers when they are most beneficial. What’s more, characteristics of a truly loyal customer and the loyalty benefits they value can be determined. 4. Time it just right Mobile operators can incorporate location-based services and push notification capabilities into their loyalty plan app. This is especially useful when loyalty programs involve partner retailers. Geofencing allows the operator to send an in-app notification when the subscriber is near a partner who offers rewards—a deal-hunter’s dream. Operators can also send notifications when context indicates that:

  • Relevant services are available
  • Plan limits are being approached
  • Reward eligibility is close
  • It’s the subscriber’s birthday

When it’s done right, notifications re-engage the subscriber with the operator’s brand. This is essential when subscribers don’t open the mobile app regularly. However, operators shouldn’t overdo it. Too many push notifications can become a real annoyance—so much so that subscribers may turn them off. These are just 4 ways to help you get started improving your mobile loyalty programs. For more inspiration, check out Why Brands Are Using Mobile App Loyalty Programs. For more on the 6 Degrees of Mobile Data Plan Innovation, see my presentation on SlideShare with further thoughts and research findings. To contact the author or request additional information, please send an email to networks.nokia_news@nokia.com.

About Richard Crowe
As a marketing director with the Alcatel-Lucent Product and Solution Marketing organization, Rich leads the global marketing activities for the Alcatel-Lucent IP Platforms portfolio. Appointed to his current role in January 2013, Rich previously led the product management and marketing activities for the Alcatel-Lucent IMS end-to-end solution. During a career spanning over 20 years, Rich has also held senior roles in product management, product marketing and business development covering a wide variety of technologies, including wireless, IMS, softswitch, and digital switching. Rich is the author of “The Six Degrees Of Mobile Data Plan Innovation” eBook and blog series. He has consulted with numerous service providers on evolving their data plans and business models for growth in a data-centric world. The Consumer Mobility Opportunity Study is the 5th primary market research effort Rich has led. Rich is the recipient of numerous corporate awards for his contributions to product leadership and new product launches. Rich holds a BS in Applied Mathematics with a concentration in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University and an MS in Computer Science from the University of Virginia.