Supply and demand is the most important relationship between operators and users. It is also a relationship that is now undergoing a profound change because of one single development: the fact that today’s users are always connected to a smartphone or tablet.
As well as being “always on”, users are also making increasingly complex and varied demands on operators. Users not only require connectivity; they also want to be connected everywhere and at all times. Furthermore, they expect a high level of efficiency and are impatient if they cannot get what they want within seconds.
For the operator, that means a good user experience is paramount. This is not only to ensure the retention of users, but also to prevent those users from relaying any bad experiences via the multiple channels now available to them. The trick now is to prevent those poor customer experiences from happening in the first place.
However, the problem facing operators today is that they are unable to fulfil customer requirements with their traditional services. More common now is the provision of multiple services by different players from across various industries. For the operator, the task is to offer a whole spectrum of services to the end-user that extend far beyond communications, adding texture and colour to the more basic services they are more commonly associated with today.
Thus it is more important today than ever before that operators maintain an open-door policy to channel partners. The new mantra for operators and their partners should be “all for one, and one for all” in order to benefit from these reciprocal arrangements.
The strategy that operators should be adopting is to build what I call a demand loop and a supply loop. Within the demand loop, also known as the customer loop, operators should think about providing as many services as possible. The services should include certain characteristics such as connectivity, the ability to share with other users and sustainable popularity levels. Ultimately, operators should shift away from putting the product first to putting the user first.
A variety of digital services and excellent customer experience will serve to increase the confidence customers have in the operator. Once the customer loop grows, sustainable revenue will be easier to develop. In addition to this, operators will need to add new abilities such as e-commerce, logistics and payment functionality as well as advancements such as a unified electronic ID based on the phone number, for example.
In this highly competitive market, it is difficult for traditional operators to survive. Those that turn themselves into digital operators with such enhanced abilities will be the ones that stay relevant in the marketplace.
The supply loop, or partner loop, is developed by integrating with other partners, such as over-the-top service provides, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications companies and more. By exploiting their own resources and abilities, operators could build a “digital life enabler platform”, providing users with a rich seam of services. There is no doubt that operators will play the key role in this value chain.
It will not be possible to achieve such a rich and comprehensive set of services if operators and partners are not receptive to one another. The challenge is to remain open to all possibilities when it comes to forming potential partnerships.
Finally, the importance of branding should not be underestimated. Operators can make use of co-branding collaborations to impress users with various featured offerings, in turn strengthening their own brands. Users will then increasingly regard the operator as a provider of new and innovative digital services.
I call it the loop economy. You could also describe as a win-win situation for all the different players along the entire value chain, with the operator placed firmly at the centre. The opportunity to impress the user is there for the taking!