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Telcos can leverage mobile messaging for customer loyalty

Operators still have an edge over OTT players with their messaging network, which they can innovate upon to engage customers with new offerings such as Rich Communication Services.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Mobile messaging can be tapped to help telcos build and retain customer loyalty as well as generate new revenue streams, amid growing competition from over-the-top (OTT) players.

Jorgen Nilsson, CEO of Acision, said telcos had an opportunity to engage their customers through innovative messaging services and reward models to gain loyalty.

One way is to "create stickiness" by building a profile of customers in order to offer things they are interested in or offering loyalty rewards, Nilsson said during a media briefing here Friday.

Chris Jenkins, managing director for Asia-Pacific at Acision, said an operator, for example, could partner a supermarket to offer a location-based promotion.

"They could send a message to say, 'come within six hours to Cold Storage supermarket and get a 25 percent discount'," Jenkins said. A profile can then be built to further engage customers based on their interests and consumption habits.

He added that this form of "cross fertilization" with the retail sector would help deliver more value-added services to customers. The partnership could be further expanded such that the retailer could sponsor free messages or other services.

Nilsson said customer retention is essentially a recurring operating expenditure, so it would worth looking at any effort to help cut down such costs.

Rich Communication Services the way forward
Despite the rising competition posed by OTT players, the CEO said it was still not too late for Rich Communication Services (RCS) to take off, referring to the industry effort which focuses on enabling enhanced services on existing network infrastructure via the use of IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS).

It is touted to allow telcos to enable enhanced services such as instant messaging, video sharing and file transfers, without the need for additional software. This included group messaging, which Nilsson identified as a growing trend RCS could support.

Although many benefits of RCS were already provided by OTT players, he said there was still growing relevance for its adoption, partly because not every user had Internet access--necessary to access OTT services--and mobile data cost would likely increase.

He said some operators had been "smart and tactical" in acquiring these OTT companies, but believed they had not figured out a way to really leverage these buys.

Telcos were already innovating new models on RCS services, according to Jenkins, who forecast telcos in the region will begin coming out with new offerings within the next six to nine months.

However, one obstacle that will hold back the deployment and adoption of RCS will be the lack of handsets which support the technology, especially with older feature phones, Nilsson said.

To address this, he said Acision was working on a project called Smart Text, which would enable older phones to offer richer functionality on existing networks--giving a similar user experience of RCS. He added details from the project would be revealed early next year.

The CEO also pointed out telcos would need to stop seeing each other as rivals and work together to drive RCS compatibility between their networks.

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