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Moving beyond the dumb pipe with Big Data

With voice profits stagnating, wireless carriers need to determine how to best generate new revenue from the potentially lucrative data boom. 

Carriers have access to vast amounts of data, though have never positioned themselves as value creators. Historically, carriers have assumed the roles of enablers for information flow, with surprisingly little visibility into data content. 

With the explosion of mobile data across networks, carriers are now uniquely positioned to gain valuable insights into customer behavior and demographics, which can help them market more effectively, create more profitable pricing plans, upsell services and determine how to best target their advertising activities for a greater ROI. 
The challenge facing carriers is adapting their business models to better understand how data can be used and applied within the business for more efficient operations, and how deploying new technology will enable them to extract timely insights from this data deluge for increased revenue.
Going where the money is
Using analytics, carriers can identify their most profitable customers and segment them according to where they live, their favorite devices and their most consumed services. 

This information gives carriers a complete picture of whom they should be targeting and which specific campaign to use. 

By knowing more about their customers, carriers can create highly targeted marketing campaigns to ensure their messages reach the right people, at the right time and in the right context: the Holy Grail of marketing.
This information is not only useful for internal customer acquisition and upsell opportunities, but can also help to open completely new revenue streams by allowing carriers to partner with third parties to create value-added services for customers. 

Let us say that a CSP is launching a new service, such as accelerating adoption of a new mobile TV service. By identifying users with the right devices and segmenting these users according to their content interest, the CSP could analyse past behavior and usage to determine which channels and messages would work best.
Unearthing the ultimate upsell opportunity
With the increasing use of OTT services and heavy volumes of data on networks, carriers need to be sure that they are optimising their pricing plans to ensure that revenues do not stagnate. 

Understanding usage is critical to identifying upsell opportunities and introducing more profitable tiered pricing. Once again, analytics come into play. 

Using the segmenting techniques outlined above, carriers can identify complementary offerings relevant to individual customers, and create pricing plans that ensure tariffs are aligned with usage, without cannibalizing existing services.
For example, if someone has a 4G-enabled phone, she may be interested in upgrading to a 4G network. 

Or, if someone is a heavy data user, or a less profitable customer, the carrier can offer different rates that either move users onto network connections that are more in line with what she is paying for, or charge her an adjusted price premium to use faster connections. 

Alternatively, if someone is on a prepaid plan, CSPs can assess usage to create incentive packages to help move him onto post-paid contracts.
Advertising acrobats
Advertising and marketing campaigns can be something of a leap of faith. 

While marketers will have researched their target market and tested out theories, they can never know if a campaign will be successful until it is launched, and then they have to wait until the campaign is over to analyse the data to determine its success.
By having analytical capabilities to monitor audience reactions in near real-time, marketers can dynamically make tweaks and necessary improvements to ensure the best returns. 

Having this agility makes marketing dollars more accountable and gives marketers the hard data to adjust their investments accordingly.
Positioned for success 
Carriers have a golden opportunity to provide a whole new generation of data-led marketing and service offerings. 

Once in place, packaged and sold to third parties, this new approach will enable carriers to create new revenue streams. 

For carriers to take advantage of this opportunity, they need to act now and change the way they view and interact with their data. 

Not only will this help with customer acquisition, retention and increased revenues in the short term, it will also provide a model for data-led marketing that will enable carriers to carve a position for themselves, not as dumb pipes, but as innovative market-leaders in a data-rich economy.

Louis Brun is Montreal, Quebec-based senior vice president of product strategy and marketing at Guavus. Reach him at