Mobile telecommunications companies worry that their business model of moving everyone onto data-connected smartphones will erode their traditional revenues. We saw at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week that some of these companies are not just lying awake at night, but actually creating new ways of generating revenue.
For example, AT&T was talking about their home management service which facilitates control of all the connected appliances in your home to manage energy usage and security. To take advantage of the service, you don't even need to be an AT&T subscriber, and they are selling the service to other telecommunications companies globally.
In 2013, there will be more mobile phone subscriptions than people on earth and the industry is already showing signs of changing its focus from connecting people to connecting objects.
Telefonica was demonstrating their insurance telemetrics product, which promises to reduce insurance premiums for teenage drivers by up to 40% with a permanent monitoring device installed in the car. The device assesses whether you speed or regularly brake too hard, and evaluates your urban and night-time driving to derive your insurance premium. There may be privacy concerns for many but the savings are already enticing customers. Telefonica is making this product available to insurance partners in other markets. The product name in Spanish is "Pago Como Conduzco" ("Pay By How I Drive").
The industry is moving quickly, and you need to jump in to take advantage of the eagerness of mobile communications companies to build joint ventures and partnerships.
Here are some best practices emerging from what we saw at the Congress:
1. If you don't have domain knowledge, find a partner who does. Ford is embracing this wholeheartedly with their SYNC platform by both allowing developers to build apps directly into their car and by making the platform available for other manufacturers to use.
2. Mass personalization is seeping into our culture as companies seek to utilize the data generated by mobile technologies and use it to add value around products or create new ones like Telefonica's insurance product.
3. People do not instantly become uniform in their expectations when using mobile services. McCann's "Truth about Connected You" research launched at the Congress illustrated that as mobile users we are not one big homogenous group. We have different needs and respond differently to messaging and content. Do you need to cater to more than one in your marketing? Discover your mobile personality here.
4. Mobile services and utility are obvious avenues to communicate with your customers, but be sure to think about entertaining them on mobile as well. For example, Qualcomm was demonstrating broadcast capabilities for sports venues that provide game coverage to phones. That's a great opportunity for brands to associate themselves with excellent content. Also at the show was GoPro, the mountable sports camera company who provided the cameras for Felix Baumgartner's space jump. GoPro's wifi-enabled cameras allow anyone with $400 dollars to become a live broadcaster. If you have been skiing this year you will know how popular these cameras are. How can your brand support these amateur producers and gain great content in return?
5. Paying with a mobile phone is getting more common. Think about how this may affect your business, or your marketing. Ebay brought a number of their products together to give businesses of all sizes the opportunity to allow "showrooming" and respond to it instore, as well as facilitate check-out away from the point of sale. Are you making your SKUs available to partners like this?
Many non-tech companies were among the 72,000 Mobile World Congress attendees, looking for a place in the mobile ecosystem. I expect many more will be there next year. Luckily the new venue has plenty of space so it shouldn't be too much of a crush.