Upstream CEO Marco Veremis discusses the latest trends in mobile marketing. From a telco perspective, what are the biggest opportunities that mobile marketing provides currently?

Marco Veremis: As mobile is a very personal medium for consumers, operators have had much more success in garnering responses to promotions over mobile than they have with mediums such as PC. This is helped in part by the mobile technology now available such as sophisticated geolocation services, making promotions more relevant and timely than ever. For example, EE can remind a customer that their credit is running low as they walk past an EE shop. These relevant and personalised communications delivered from a mobile operator over the relevant mobile medium can radically increase the potential ARPU of each customer.

Mobile marketing further empowers telcos to monetise their marketing assets, especially with the rise of the new mobile services (or mServices) available including mGovernment, mobile money and mEducation. To look at these services in more detail, mobile is now becoming not only a device for communication but also information-gathering and operators have a fantastic opportunity to market these over mobile to their customer base. mEducation, for example, provides students, teachers, employees and all learners with the ability to learn anywhere, anytime and on the move with educational content made available over mobile networks to devices including tablets, smart phones and feature phones. Marketing these new services to customers can massively increase incremental revenue.

Finally, mobile marketing can often be the most effective form of reaching consumers in emerging markets, a customer base that is continually looking for new mobile services and content that is not always available to them via current setups such as the Apple App store.

Who is best placed to capitalise on these opportunities: operators, device manufacturers, OS providers or OTT players? And why?

This varies by region. In the West, OS providers and OTT players have taken the lead because of the mobile content and apps that are in fashion. In the emerging markets, however, it is the operators that are king. This is because emerging market customers have great trust in mobile operators (our recent survey of 3,650 consumers in India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Brazil revealed that mobile operators are the most trusted senders of promotional messages with almost a third putting them above brands, the media and third party services).

So, how should operators approach emerging and developed markets differently with regard to their mobile marketing strategies?

Mobile operators (MNOs) have a brilliant opportunity in emerging markets to work with app developers and mobile partners to create OTT services that are currently not accessible to emerging market consumers due to their Western format.

Whereas Western OTT players such as Spotify and WhatsApp have taken centre stage by creating mobile apps that Western consumers can pay for via credit/debit card details through App stores, many emerging market consumers don't have banking facilities, so can't access these services.

By partnering with app developers and mobile content producers, MNOs can leapfrog these players to create their own unique services that consumers can access and pay for through their mobile contracts or pay-as-you-go plans.

MNOs can therefore look at completely different services to market to consumers in developing regions compared to customers in the West. 

What are some of the key lessons that operators have learned re their mobile marketing strategies in your experience?

There are three key lessons that come to mind- the first is that mobile consumer usage has shifted towards data usage but the contract plans didn't have the level of flexibility needed to build this in.

Second, mobile operators failed to capitalise on the importance of OTT players and missed out on some key partnerships during the apps marketplace boom. This is a lesson that can now be applied to the emerging markets, where opportunity is still rife for capitalising on these partnerships.

Third, mobile phones have proven to be the best game devices and this is why techniques such as gamification (adding game mechanics to promotions) have proven to dramatically increase engagement rates. A great offline example is McDonald’s monopoly and bringing this to mobile, the opportunities to gamify promotions are endless; quiz questions, rewards systems, location-based check-in offers - the list goes on.

What should operators look out for as the next big thing in mobile marketing?

It's hard to pin down the next big thing in mobile marketing as the industry is evolving at such a rapid rate. However, I would recommend that operators keep their eye on real-time geolocation services, the rise of narratives and storytelling in mobile marketing, and last but not least, the greater focus on customer privacy and the respect of personal data.

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