All this user data, so much to do and so little done

The entry of online service providers (OSPs) into the mobile world has been a widely discussed topic, focusing on the new competition that mobile operators face in the VAS business: media downloads, games and navigation, but even messaging and voice calls. What is less visible is what enables these companies to serve mobile users: Not only do they benefit from the wave of more capable and open devices, they are also sitting on vast amounts of user data; often provided by users themselves, voluntarily: Through just a simple check of the Facebook friend list of a Northstream consultant, it turned out that more than 60% of the people on the list had given Facebook their mobile phone number, without being required to do so.

OSPs understand that user data is a fundamental asset to their business – but we see that many mobile operators still appear to regard user data management (UDM) as a cost item or a necessity. Over the last few years, industry analysts have highlighted the potential of UDM for operators, such as improved service delivery, lower churn and new B2B revenues through 3rd party APIs. But so far, we’ve seen very few that have an explicit UDM strategy.

In a recent trial, employees of the German IT publisher Heise were able to buy prepaid SIM cards of six different MVNOs without producing identification at the point of sale; the cards were activated online using fake personal data, with no problems. This indicates a perception that cost savings outweigh UDM revenue potential – a consideration that may be short-sighted because the initial sale may be the only moment when subscriber identification can be done at acceptable cost.

At the end of the day, it’s fair to believe that much of the future revenue opportunities in saturated market will centre around UDM in one way or another, so it would seem to us that it’s a no-brainer to establish a user data management strategy and to focus more on how to better explore existing user data (let alone not losing it…) both in terms of monetization and service innovation. Or someone else will for sure.

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