For telecom providers and most sectors in the market, Gen Z continues to be the primary target audience. They evaluate a brand or service against speed and convenience as the cornerstones. However, business incentive programmes must offer more than just “earn more, gain more” value. To help strengthen business performance, disruptive technologies are impacting the way marketers leverage data for personalised and timely offers.
“ML opens new horizons for sets of information, creating models that can add a new dimension to decision-making. The iterative aspect of machine learning is particularly important because as models are exposed to new data, they can independently adapt. They learn from previous computations to produce reliable, repeatable decisions and results,” said Akash Koul, Director of Growth & Loyalty at Etisalat UAE.
According to him, telecom operators are moving away from being just “dumb pipes” that just send packets of data across their networks to now being able to identify the data, segregate it and monetise it.
Excerpts from the interview:
What are customers looking for in a loyalty programme from their telecom provider? How can brands nurture loyal customers and reduce churn?
At this juncture, loyalty programmes are a dime a dozen, and the lines are blurred if we focus only on “quantity.” You can launch a loyalty programme for the sake of launching it, but it is difficult to become “The loyalty programme” instead of just another “earn more, gain more” scheme. We all should agree that in-today’s world, where moments captured in the form of snippets of data are immense, telecom operators, if they become digital, are far better equipped to create and nurture a customer based on the mountain of data and interactions between the customers and their operator every day.
So, the recipe for success is these four points;
1. Listen and know your customer well – Gone are the days when marketers used to segment the base into cohorts and expect that all the customers would have a similar likability index, thus launching a similar kind of campaign to that segment. Customer opinions are “stronger than ever,” and thus, personalisation to the tune of N=1 is necessary; this is possible when marketers use a blend of ML-driven tailored campaigns and chiselled communications across the channel in which your customer is interacting the most to achieve success.
2. Choices – Build choices in your programme, giving the power back to the customer. In the telecom world, marketers cannot expect the customer to only want “data, minutes or bundles” as a reward mechanism. I could want a PS5 in the game “Blaster Gun” while someone else could want a discount on the next “grocery order” or on a “spa.” Hence, giving the power of options in the hands of customers keeps them coming back for more.
3. Learn from your customers every single day – Engage with customers on social media, call them, ask them for app reviews and be part of online forums to gather feedback about their experiences with your loyalty programme. Use this feedback to continuously grow and improve the programme.
4. Be relevant – Customers’ attention spans are dropping, and with a multitude of options to choose from, they are becoming more demanding. In an Instagram Reel, a music background becomes a trend for a week and then dies a natural death. Keeping the freshness in the loyalty programme, gamifying interactions and finally communicating in a lingo customer understands is paramount for your programme to be successful.
How are CDPs evolving, and how is AI leading this change? What kind of impact do you see for the marketer community?
Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are evolving rapidly, driven by the increasing need for businesses to collect, manage, and analyse vast amounts of data. We see it more than anyone else as telecom operators sit on large amounts of zero- and third-party data generated every millisecond. AI is playing a significant role in this evolution, enabling organisations to make more informed decisions, improve customer experience, and increase the effectiveness of their marketing strategies. ML opens new horizons for sets of information, creating models that can add a new dimension to decision-making. The iterative aspect of machine learning is particularly important because as models are exposed to new data, they can independently adapt. They learn from previous computations to produce reliable, repeatable decisions and results. Doing so is a science that’s not new but one that has gained fresh momentum.
Some of the key ways in which AI and ML can lead the change:
1. Enhanced data collection and integration with better quality: AI helps in collecting and integrating data from various sources, including online and offline channels, CRM systems, and social media platforms. This enables CDPs to create a unified, 360-degree view of each customer, making it easier for marketers to understand customer behaviour and preferences Plus, AI- and ML-powered CDPs can automatically identify and correct data inconsistencies and errors, ensuring that marketers have access to clean, accurate, and up-to-date information.
2. Advanced segmentation and personalisation: AI enables CDPs to analyse customer data and identify patterns, trends, and preferences. This information can be used to create more targeted marketing campaigns using journey builders to deliver personalised content and develop tailored product recommendations.
3. Predictive analytics and insights: ML-driven CDPs can generate predictive insights that help marketers understand customer behaviour and anticipate their future needs and preferences. This allows businesses to proactively engage with customers and deliver relevant marketing messages at the right time.
4. Automation and efficiency: AI can automate many marketing tasks, such as audience segmentation, campaign management, and performance analysis. This not only saves time and resources but also enables marketers to focus on more strategic initiatives.
The impact of AI-driven CDPs on the marketer community is significant, with potential benefits including enhanced customer understanding, improved campaign performance, data-driven decision-making, increased efficiency, and competitive advantage.
Which emerging technologies do you see impacting the way the telecom industry does business in the near future?
More and more telecom operators are moving away from being just “dumb pipes” that just send packets of data across their networks to facilitate communication to now being able to identify the data, segregate it and monetise it.
ML-based decisioning is increasingly being used to identify the new interaction every customer has with its telecoms service provider every day. For instance, you started a gym membership today and paid for it using the “Add to Bill” feature or downloaded the latest game; these are moments. In short, a huge variety of data must be converted from unstructured to structured in near real-time. A persona must be created for each customer and then overlaid with machine-learned algorithms to adjudicate which products the customer could buy next, generating the next best offer most likely to lead to customer satisfaction, which in this case, could be a “Spotify Premium” or an “avatar” in the game. There is a gold mine of information at hand that can deliver commercial success, but only if the right data monetisation processes are in place.
SHN or self-healing networks: The goal of a self-healing/optimising network is to monitor the network in real-time, identify and rectify potential faults before they occur, and, in case a cell site is faulty, load optimisation for minimal disruption.
5G networks and IOT: The next generation of mobile networks, 5G, promises faster download and upload speeds, lower latency, and more reliable connections. This is enabling new applications and services, such as autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, and smart cities. As IoT devices continue to proliferate, the telecom industry is now managing the increased network traffic and providing the necessary infrastructure for seamless connectivity.
Blockchain and AR/VR: Telecom operators are now developing blockchain-based reward exchange programmes under their loyalty programmes, called Internet of Loyalties, which enhances the experience of both customers and loyalty programme providers by facilitating fast, easy and secure points exchanged from a single platform via a smart contract. Virtual worlds built on AR- and VR-based immersive technologies are expected to grow in popularity and thus require high-speed, low-latency networks to deliver seamless experiences.
What are the expectations of the Gen Z customer from telecom companies?
Gen Z has grown up in an era of rapid technological advancements, making them digital natives. As such, their expectations from their service provider are often shaped by their reliance on technology, desire for instant connectivity, and the value they place on seamless communication.
Some key expectations include high-speed connectivity, affordable pricing, flexibility with customisation, seamless digital experience, instant customer support, social and environmental responsibility, data security and privacy and innovative technology.
Koul will take the stage at the Vibe Martech Fest at Address Dubai Marina, Dubai, UAE, on 13-14 September 2023 as part of a panel discussion: Using Data to Go Further with Your Loyalty Programme.