Mobile Content Retail

The mobile content consumer has many options when it comes to sourcing content; their preferred method is based on downing via a PC. This is both the cheapest (free) and most convenient in terms of finding what they want. Therefore, when presenting a retail solution to the user, the mobile operator must consider the value added they provide over and above the free Web solution. What are the required features?

Content – The key aspect of content retail is to provide both the block buster titles as well as the long tail ‘niche’ titles. This can be both time consuming as you deal with so many titles but also confuses the consumer portal. Most mobile operators act as ‘corner shop’ highly priced with a limited selection, whereas they should aim to be a supermarket with a large selection of both premium and low cost products.

Search – With a small screen and a large portfolio of content the user finds it hard to acquire the content they desire. The ability to search within a genre adds a great deal of value and saves time and data charges.

Profiling – Knowing what the user has purchased before and using selected personal details us to present a more suitable content catalogue for that user. This provides increased revenue per user.

Loyalty – The greatest retailers are the supermarkets and they over a 50 year period have devised some of the best inceptives to maintain customer loyalty. The most successful is the loyalty card which gains points that can be redeemed within the store.

Recommendations – People like to share experiences and the ability to recommend content provides benefits for both the sender and receiving party. We have seen that 24% of users, who receive a recommendation to purchase content, follow these instructions. After-all, if one of your friends finds it interesting then why shouldn’t you?

Community – Forming a community around the retail solution benefits the retailer as they get a great deal of information, thoughts and general requests. They also create a sense of belonging which the user formulates as ownership.

One Button Process – The success of On-Device-Portals to provide a 100 to 500% increase in sales is based on the fact that they can find, purchase and download content using one button. The user interface allows them to

Open Retailer – Once you have provided these features, you have to deal with a hard question? What happens if the recommendation goes to user of another network? Again if we ask the Supermarkets, they provide a clear answer. If the person can pay sell to them. This mean you open up the retail solution to all users within the country of operation, which adds an additional aspect to above features.

Churn Engine – This ability to profile users from other networks and then offer a ‘subscription plan’ based on this knowledge, will lead to an increase your number of subscribers. Using this method you can make offers to users who you want based on usage and the community of users around them.

I guess the key question to the mobile operator is? Do you want to run a corner shop or be a supermarket?

Selling anything to mobile operators is hard

Selling anything to mobile operators is hard at the best of times, competition for their attention, catering for operator whims and the changing tide of handsets reduces the probability of success. Therefore, when I saw the pulling down of 3’s walled garden and now the provision of ‘all you can eat’ data packages, I thought utopia had arrived for the mobile services developer. But has it?

The evolution of the mobile web/services has followed that of the internet, currently tracking about 10 years behind. The key elements in the development of the internet based services were, in order of importance, stable OS, highly compatible browser, subscription broadband, ability to search for content across the web and finally the ability to pay for goods and services securely.

In the mobile world these elements are not in place to the same standard as the internet and therefore we see a number of new entrants.

Mobile operating systems are fragmented with the majority of phones using proprietary solutions. Symbian, Microsoft Mobile and Linux account for such a small amount (approx. 2%) of the total shipments that the open OS is still yet to make it self felt. This is important for many reasons but the major one is the ability to provide and control processing power to multiple applications, thus allowing feature rich content and services. However, the industry has two options, reduce the expensive of the open OS or finally Standardize the implementation of J2ME across all manufacturers.

The mobile browser has its own problems. For every phone model we have up to 10 browser versions and identities. The capability to read standard xhtml on the mass market phones is so fragmented that and entire industry is required to enable it the general public to browse. The best solution currently comes from Opera and allows a browser to work across multiple phones and manufacturers. Technologies such an AJAX and Widgets are playing an important part in moving the functionality forward.

The ability to search the mobile web is also in its infancy. Google has entered the market with a mobile version which provides results based on IP address of the user. However, what is required is a collaborative effort to geo-locate the services offered by the webmaster with that of the user’s location, enabling a ‘find’ service. In other words we need truthful webmasters and free/cheaper location services from the mobile operators. This requires an update in the business model used by the web and Google is leading this with their mobile network alliances and applications.

Payment via mobile is currently centered on premium rate SMS. The major issues with this are the granularity of payment values and the percentage taken by the mobile operators. If a solution was using PSMS was made available across all operators for payments from 1p to £ 100 and only creamed off 3% then I believe that this would be an instant success. However we are presented with many solutions with varied complexity and security that the end user will never enter this domain without a great deal of incentives. Paypal (US) accounts for around 25% of online transactions and has just lunched its own mobile solution. The public has a great deal of trust in Paypal and therefore this may be the default solution we have all been waiting for.

The payment solution is critical for the growth of mobile services as the relationship between the service/content provider and end user needs to be generated on a trusted solution which can be expanded to numerous suppliers.

All these elements still need to be in place before the sector can successfully move forward. The surprising part is that the solutions may not be coming from those who are in the mobile industry; it is coming from those who gained the customers trust in other industries and see our broken world as an opportunity.

Mobile companies are bad, Internet companies are good

Mobile companies are bad, Internet companies are good seems to be the flavour of the day but I think everyone is after the same thing. Profit! One of the most interesting points about Skype is that they are owned by eBay and also funded Fon ( www.fon.com ). Fon and Skype share a great deal of technology through their founders who started off with Kazaa. This technology fundamentally allows people to communicate directly via IP. Fon has develop one of the largest Wifi networks in the world through ADSL links in people’s homes. I have not been able to find out how many base stations they have but I know it’s more than 75,000. I guess Google started down this road as mobile operators put up walled gardens and didn’t want anything to do with the Internet. However this amount of wireless access provides a great deal of unused resources. What will they do with it? Google has a better chance of success as they implement a series of mobile/wireless applications (which I think will end as a toolkit for mobile advertisers and search engines) which sits on the device, providing the best possible user experience. Competition is good and therefore adding Google into the mobile pot will help drive additional services and business models into our world. However, I don’t see anyone saying “Google is the antichrist!”.