Mobile wireless network operators (MNOs) have a big opportunity to unearth device user insights and deliver innovative data services that can advance socio-economic value, democratic participation, and entrepreneurial vitality among a vast population of one billion consumers in the region.
For telcos, whose current revenue streams are drying up in light of disruptive over-the-top services, the ability to offer new, life-enhancing data services will seem like an oasis in the arid Sub-Saharan desert. Over half of telco marketing executives in Africa believe that real-time customer and operational data are essential to boosting performance through personalization.
This is a key finding in a new Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council report, in partnership with Huawei, entitled “Exploring Mobile Ingenuity in Africa’s Dynamic Community.” The report looks at how communications service providers (CSPs) are poised to leverage the wealth of mobile consumer data in their possession. Since Africans are some of the heaviest mobile users in the world, telco subscriber data has the unique ability to portray a person’s digital life, both personal and at work.
The report is based on a CMO Council survey of marketing leaders at communication service providers, mobile network operators and digital media companies in Africa, as well as from in-depth interviews with executives from MTN, TelkomSA, Vodafone, Cell C, Accenture and AT Kearney.
Be forewarned: Transforming data into lucrative data services won’t be easy for telcos. The CMO Council report highlights some of the challenges CSPs face across the multi-cultural landscape, diverse markets, limited digital infrastructures, and disparate technical terrain of Africa. Here’s recommendations from the report on how to overcome these challenges:
Seek inspiration that sparks a big idea in customer value and experience delivery. This will be difficult for a regulated and monopolistic industry not known for innovation. It will likely mean striking up partnerships with valued data sources and service providers in education, healthcare, agriculture, entertainment, sports, retail, financial services, media, and other sectors.
Even more daunting, the big idea should appeal to an incredibly diverse market. “Africa as a whole is rising,” said Mmathebe Zvobwo, Executive of Enterprise & Supplier Development at TelkomSA. “But you must also have an innovation that somehow solves a common, or pervasive problem in all 54 distinctly different countries.”
Sift, sort and select data assets to prioritize. This is the proverbial elephant in the room. Telcos must navigate a maze of cross-border data complexity, availability, accessibility, quality, timeliness, incompatibility, etc.
“The challenge is accessing and unifying that data, because we have multiple systems that do not talk to one another,” said Grace Mothusi, Senior Marketing Leader, Enterprise Segment at MTN. “For clean, in-depth data, we require a system that can cater for both Mobile and ICT and a CRM tool that can be used by both sales and marketing.”
Move quickly before adjacent companies get there first. Farming equipment manufacturer John Deere, for instance, already offers data services that advise African farmers when to plant and harvest crops in relation to the rainy season. Telcos, on the other hand, tend to rest on their laurels — that is, their monopoly on mobile voice-and-data services — thus putting them at risk of commoditization.
“The cost of switching is low and Telcos in the pre-paid market currently have very little customer loyalty,” said CEO of Accenture in Africa, Vukani Mngxati. “It’s not uncommon to find a person with SIM cards of three different telcos in one country. If telcos want to drive customer loyalty, they must ensure that the customer experience is one of the highest priorities in the business.”
Telcos should take the last piece of advice to heart, given competitive pressures on their business. Nearly half of the survey respondents in the CMO Council study cited as top threats the proliferation of mobile applications, streaming content and digital services, followed by complexity and multi-dimensionality of today’s digital ecosystem.
“Between the proliferation of mobile applications and the decline of communications as a revenue driver, along with digital natives leapfrogging innovation, telcos realize they must look outside of their core business strategies to create value,” notes Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council.
The report is now available for a complimentary download from the CMO Council at https://cmocouncil.org/thought-leadership/reports/mobile-ingenuity-in-africas-dynamic-community