Ahead of the 2018 Total Telecom Congress, Total Telecom caught up with Will Gibson, Vice President of Marketing & Amplifier at Maplewave. Will will be speaking at the conference with a presentation on day 1 entitled ‘From Retail to “Me-tail”: The customers of tomorrow are here – and they’re changing everything’.
1. What trends are you noticing developing in the industry at the moment?
The hottest topic in telco right now is Digital Transformation. When you buy a cellphone, there are a number of systems that you must interact with in order for that to happen. Point of sale, billing systems, credit check systems, just to name a few – there are a lot of moving pieces.
For many telcos, these systems are outdated and don’t talk to each other. To process a sale, a representative may have to swivel between several different systems in order to sign a customer up for a new phone and plan. It’s inefficient, and it takes a lot of time for what should be a simple transaction. And some parts of the process, like signing the contract, still happen on paper!
Ultimately, this negatively affects the customer experience, which is becoming the most important aspect of retail interactions for young customers. Fortunately, telcos are finally recognizing how important of an issue this is, but there are still a few don’t even have digital transformation on the radar.
2. How are younger consumers redefining the services that telcos provide?
Telco’s youngest customers are literally changing everything. In the past, customers were very purchase-driven. They wanted a new phone, so they came to the store to learn about what was available, and ultimately would make a purchase. But today’s customers live their entire lives online, and that extends to shopping, and research. Before they set foot in a telco store, they already know everything about what they want to buy.
Young customers want to come to a store to have an experience. Big device manufacturers, like Apple and Samsung, are ahead of the game on this. Their flagship stores are not focused on device sales; instead, they create incredible experiences that support their products. They host concerts, virtual reality demonstrations, and more. They understand that today’s customers are driven by interaction instead of transaction.
3. How are younger consumers changing sales approaches for telcos?
As I mentioned, today’s customers are living their lives online – and they want to shop there too. Telco is one of the latecomers to online shopping. Fortunately, that’s changing. Today’s customers want to interact with their carrier on their terms, and self-care apps are going to be a huge offering for telcos. Customers will be able to use the app to buy new devices, manage their accounts, pay bills – basically everything that they normally would have to go in store for. At Maplewave, this is going to be one of our most important product offerings in the next few years.
Another aspect that’s changing is advertising. With so much competition for attention, telcos are going to have to leverage advertising methods that find their customers. A really hot trend right now is location-based advertising. Basically, when a customer walks by a store, they receive an ad on their device. It’s new strategies like this that will be necessary to get the attention of a media-bombarded generation.
4. How can telcos evolve to better meet the needs of their younger clientele?
As I mentioned earlier, experiential stores and self care apps will be a huge part of this. But generation Alpha, the kids who are 8 years old and under, are going to bring additional wants to the table. For them, retail will be all about personalization. They are going to want everything they buy, and all of their interactions, to be as personal to them as possible.
Telcos are going to have to think of ways to incorporate personalization into their stores. This could be as simple as having a station where customers can design and print their own phone case, to redefining the role of a salesperson to be more like a “vision coach”, or store concierge, who can provide a dedicated experience that is tailored to the customer’s passions. Telcos can no longer view their stores as a means to an end.
5. What predictions do you have for the industry over the next 12-18 months
We will see the current M&A trend continue, with the big telcos consolidating in markets to form powerhouses who can leverage synergies and cut costs from the business. Owning and providing content is a big draw, so providing converged mobile offerings for fixed and cable providers is a must, as is delivering content and OTT services for the mobile only players. This drives value to the end consumer through bundling, but also reduces churn and increases basket size for the telco. This breadth of offering is harder to sell across the board in retail stores though, so expect to see a divergence appearing in store estates – experiential flagships and city centre behemoth stores, versus very targeted neighborhood pop up stores and mobile retail based around events and experiences. THIS is how retail will be re-invented, the future is not evenly distributed nor a cookie cutter approach to layout or services offered. The best telcos are already starting this journey, and of course, our connected approach in easy-to-use systems and gathering and using data is critical to this strategy.
6. Anything else to add?
If you haven’t started your digital transformation yet, I’m sorry to say you’re already behind. But the good news is – it’s not too late to get started. There are two key things telcos can do to catch up right now – replace your old infrastructure with connected, end-to-end systems, and enlist a telco retail consultant to help modernize your in-store experience. This is a great starting place that will provide an immediate return on investment.