Friday 19 November 2010

Is O2 More finally living up to its name?

Mobile operators are in a unique position.

They hold a wealth of information about your mobile usage which means that, as consumers increasingly use their mobiles for more and more, they are subsequently able to derive greater insight into the individual, their habits, and preferences than ever before.

Typically this information is jealously guarded by the mobile operators - it is, after all, one of their key differentiators in an ecosystem where they are being squeezed by device manufacturers such as Apple and Nokia on the one hand and service providers such as Google (and Apple again) on the other.  In the era of the smartphone and tablet; the hyper-connected world of social-networks, apps and data services, carriers cannot afford to sit back and watch as they become little more than dumb pipes.  Mobile ISPs.

Indeed, I am sure that it is with this in mind that they consider the outlay that they would need to make in order to implement the next generation of mobile networks, LTE, as without an increase in mobile bandwidth the clamour for, and use of, WiFi with mobile devices will rise - resulting in their networks being bypassed and the data available to them being reduced.

Network logos

Of course, the carriers have recognised that they need to share some data in order to help to stimulate the market.  Without the insights for media planning that is provided by GSMA Mobile Media Metrics, the pooling of mobile browsing data from the five UK carriers, it would be difficult to convince media planners of the viability of the medium.  However, it is important to note, that this information is completely anonymised, meaning that insights are aggregated to a level well away from the individual.

Which means that the carriers retain their differentiator.  Consumer data.

And so some of the carriers are turning this information into a revenue stream by using it, and any explicit preferences that have been provided, in order target marketing messages to their subscribers - indeed, this was the founding premise behind the MVNO Blyk when it was launched in 2007 (although this turned out not to manage to sustain them well enough).  It is important to note that carriers are not "selling" their subscriber's data, they are offering brands and advertisers the opportunity to market to their base with defined defined targeting parameters (e.g. males, in London, who have indicated that they like sport).  In addition, such programs are opt-in and contact rules are applied to prevent any bombardment of messages.

Beyond Blyk, the notable programs are those run by Orange (Orange Shots) and O2 (O2 More).  Now, having been an O2 subscriber since I first had a mobile phone in 1999 - of course it was BT Cellnet in those days - I cannot comment on the consumer experience for Orange Shots so in this post I'll restrict myself to comment on O2 More, to which I signed up in December 2009.

Dressed up as a service for consumers "about giving you offers we know you'll love", up until the last week or so, I have been decidedly unimpressed with what I have been sent.  The messages have been sent patchily, one per day for 3-4 days and then nothing for a fortnight, and pretty much all of the offers irrelevant (although of course that could be blamed on the preferences that I selected).  The absolute nadir of my experience came when I was sent an offer for maternity wear (I certainly didn't opt in to that!).  To be fair I was sent an apology message, but was then sent the same message again.

Twice.  A week or so later.

However, the previous three offers that I have been sent in the last fortnight have all been notable - not only because of the brand and the nature of the offer, but also because of the their executions and two of them for good reasons...:

1. Starbucks

Firstly, this was the first MMS that I received from O2 More.  It wasn't great - a simple static image that was not tailored to my device, but it was ok.  The offer was a discount on a drink, their Via product, and the impressive element was that this utilised location.  The MMS didn't just tell me about the offer, it also told me address of the nearest Starbucks from where I could redeem the voucher.


Now this wasn't the nearest one to my house - but the nearest one to where I was when I received the MMS (if you're interested, it utilised the behind-the-scenes pull nature of MMS to calculate my location from the network cell I was connecting to and customise the MMS text accordingly).

Location has become one of the hot-topics of mobile in recent months so it is great to see this leveraged for more than display advertising and search.  A push offer that becomes all the more compelling by telling me where I could redeem it.

Unfortunately, the main criticism that I have of this is that the voucher included a generic redemption code, meaning that apart from measuring the volume of response, and being able to make some inference based on the locations at which the redemptions were made, there is little post-campaign insight that can be made.

2. Tesco Direct

I blogged while ago about the work that Tesco is doing in mobile, in many respects setting a benchmark for other retailers.  It was reported on the 8th Nov, that they have launched an mCommerce mobile-optimised site for their non-food division Tesco Direct.  Again, it's not the prettiest of sites, but it's there and it works.

Clearly they are supporting this launch with activity to drive traffic as I was sent an SMS via O2 More, with an offer of £5 off a basket of £25 or more.  The mechanic was straight-forward - a link in the SMS, driving me through to the Tesco Direct mobisite.

What pleased me about this, besides the simplicity of the offer and mechanic, was that it was completely trackable - the offer required me to use a voucher code at the checkout.  I cannot be certain but I would hope that this code was unique to me and so means that O2 are able to learn as much as possible about who redeems the code, when they do it and maybe even what they bought.  It sounds a bit creepy but it is the lack of post-campaign insight that is the failing of far too many pieces of mobile activity (Starbucks included).

3. Gap  

And finally, just this Wednesday, I was sent another SMS from O2 More - this time for Gap.  A whopping 30% off anything at any Gap store.  To be honest, other than the brand, the only thing of note about this was negative...

Firstly, it only included a generic voucher code.  Your typical Gap discount that often does the rounds on email and serves only to drive footfall in store, with the only measure being general uplift and offer redemption.

And secondly, the voucher was to be accessed via a link in the SMS clicking through to a mobisite.  But to redeem it, I had to print it out and take it in-store.  From my mobile...  Now, I may be able to work out a way of doing that, but I'm not convinced your average O2 subscriber would.  This mechanic may work for email vouchers, which you receive on your PC and so are connected to a printer, but it is either laziness or stupidity (and perhaps both) not to recognise that the mechanic would need to be adjusted for mobile.  Did the campaign manager at O2 not read the SMS copy and think to point out that you can't print direct from a mobile?

It does a real dis-service to the channel to use such a mechanic that is bound to under-perform and so risk alienating a brand from mobile as a result!

So I guess that for completeness, I should complete this post by answering the question posed in the title.  Is O2 More living up to it's name?  Is it offering consumers and advertisers, something that it advantageous to both?

Well, in theory, one should lead to the other - the more attractive the service is to advertisers, the more offers will be available and so it is more likely that consumers will be provided offered that are relevant to them.

Clearly, as brands' recognition that mobile is a viable (significant) channel increases, as will their need to advertise in the medium.  And so it is then, that its capabilities begin to be utilised fully.  With the location-relevant message from Starbucks; and the trackable and (potentially) immediate journey from offer to purchase from Tesco we get a glimpse at how mobile could be used in both an engaging and effective way for push marketing.

So given this, I guess my answer is: maybe.

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