Oren Glanz looks at the future for mobile music, and what operators need to consider to ensure they don’t get left behind
Music fans have always been proud of their collections and where, in the past, they used to compare their massive vinyl collections in meters, gigabytes are now a better means of comparison. Statistics from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's 2007 Digital Music Report demonstrates the growth of digital music, showing an estimated $2 billion worth of music being sold online or through mobile phones in 2006, accounting for 10 per cent of music sales. A Strategy Analytics forecast for Western Europe shows that in 2006 there were almost a million active mobile music users and it continues by predicts that by 2010 this figure will have risen to 2 million users - which has made mobile operators take note and place even more faith in the mobile delivery channel.
Usage and interest in mobile music is clearly exploding so how can operators ensure their subscribers become addicted to downloading music?
With so many devices on the market there is the potential for mobile music users to be quick to churn when a service/device doesn't live up to their expectations - very often without contacting their operator. These customers do not contribute to the operator's top line, and can tarnish the reputation of mobile music amongst their peers and fellow subscribers. This is where the challenge becomes difficult, as most service providers do not have a clear view of their customers preferences or what barrier to adoption they face when trying to use a service. They do, however, now accept that customers will not make contact to highlight any barriers to service.
It is important to note, even when a subscriber has successfully overcome any barriers to initially adopting a service, that there are still issues to turn them from an occasional user to an active user. It is vital for mobile operators to understand that identifying problems with delivery/usage is only part of the issue, encouraging new users and increasing their consumption should be imperative and is a key to a successful mobile music service.
Subscribers trying to access mobile music services can encounter various technical, training, value and compatibility obstacles, which can reduce the likelihood of their becoming a habitual user. These include:
Digital right management (DRM) - creates major barriers within a music download service as the mechanism for DRM can vary between the complete separation of the music content from the DRM file to a lock on forwarding tracks. Another major issue is variances between handset models - certified Vs non-certified operator handsets.
Navigation - concerned with music downloads tracking all aspects of a subscribers' journey through to identifying valued content. Experience shows that navigation paths are not always clear, subscribers cannot find the content they are after, causing them to quickly lose interest and abandon a service.
Barriers to usage - also common relating to areas of handset and music service usage. Customer behaviour is very intuitive with most individuals happy to try new services, but the majority will give up once they encounter a barrier to usage. The sheer complexity of many new mobile services sometimes causes this.
Functions such as streaming and downloading can often be confusing. Subscribers tend to struggle with how to search, locate, select and replay after they have downloaded a track, especially the mass market, non-technical and inexperienced users.
This leads us to far simpler barriers, but ones that are ultimately the largest barriers to subscribers becoming addicted to mobile music on their handset. Usability, training, interest and other user experience barriers are just as damaging as any of the previously mentioned issues. Mobile operators need to look at how they can ensure such customer problems are solved before they impact on the user experience.
So with so many barriers to the success of mobile music, why use a mobile phone as a music delivery method and player when compared with other standalone players? The obvious argument is the need to only carry one device, and the advantage mobile operators hold here is that consumers are already addicted to their devices and other services such as SMS. But how can operators change this device addiction into a mobile music addiction?
The answer is simple - mobile operators need to improve their subscribers' user experience when using music services, which, in turn, will drive satisfaction.
Understanding users and delivering exceptional customer service is just as important a part of the mobile experience as the latest technology and the size of the marketing budget. It can be the key differentiator for a business. Too much time and money is invested in getting products to market quickly rather than getting products to market efficiently. The objective is to provide the best mobile experience for each individual user.
To do this, mobile operators need to build an end-to-end view of their music service from all contributing systems and content. This is not as easy as it might seem, as although common elements are contained within most music services, many aspects of delivery, billing and content are unique to each operator - which affects subscriber behaviour, usage patterns and other adoption barriers. The simplest way to achieve an end-to-end view is by approaching the problem with Service Adoption Management (SAM) tools.
SAM treats adoption and usage from a holistic point of view, taking into account all technical and non-technical issues which affect adoption and usage levels. It provides an operator with a clear insight into the groups enabled to use mobile music and presents the operator with the information to enable them to encourage a user to download songs on their phone. For example, SAM tools allow an operator to understand which handset a user is using, what they are interested in and at which stage of adoption they are. If a user can be seen to search for a song but stops, and does not download it, then pricing could be the barrier and the mobile operator can review this. If a user is only downloading one song a month, then the operator should try to encourage greater usage by offering promotions.
By using these principles and analysing subscriber information (such as billing, CRM, customer care and network or platform services) it should also be possible to track other key adoption traits such as social networking, campaign effectiveness and early service launch measurement.
Armed with this highly granular insight into virtually any aspect of usage, and the ability to identify and remedy usage barriers, even those which have never before arisen, managers in charge of mobile music marketing and content can make more informed decisions and better target offerings and campaigns. By providing deep real-time visibility into subscribers' interactions with mobile music, it is possible to stimulate customer loyalty and increase mobile music usage and generate meaningful profits.
Operators can immediately see how mobile music services perform, how campaigns are working, and the experience of both individual and/or larger groups of users. This detailed real-time information can then be used to make mobile music more effective and attractive, and to proactively contact customers who need training or an upgrade to use services successfully.
Customers enjoying a positive first experience of new services will be more likely to use them again. If services do not work or perform properly, operators can proactively contact these customers to solve the problem, offer assistance or offer refunds. By treating customers positively in this way, users are more likely to use the service again and stay loyal.
This will be measurable by the increase in number of music tracks downloaded, the growth of active users, reduction of streaming terminated sessions, reduction of DRM related problems or in the number of music related calls received by customer care.
The mobile industry needs to be less focused on the technology and should instead proactively explore the real needs of users. When setting their objectives, service providers should also consider the impact of customer satisfaction on their brand and image. Providing a higher quality customer experience will also help service providers to differentiate themselves from their competitors, increase loyalty and attract more customers.
Understanding and improving the user experience, not just for customers who have became addicted users of mobile music, but more importantly, for those who never get past their first failed usage attempt, is essential. SAM tools revolutionise the whole business process of value added services such as mobile music and allow the operator to understand what is actually happening to the user. By focusing on removing some of the frustration that is inherent in today's users' experiences the road should be clear for mobile operators to succeed in reaching the mass market with mobile music.
Oren Glan is CEO of Olista