How To Beat Churn

Mayur Pitamber, Product Management Strategist at Openwave Systems, argues that mobile analytics is the foundation for understanding subscriber behaviour and retaining customers

Openwave Mayur After years of talk about mobile data services, the day has finally arrived where demand is close to rivalling the hype. In the last two years, weve seen Smartphones move to the mainstream, and expect continued uptake, along with the development of other mobile devices such as netbooks and PC dongles. We have also seen a number of other non-traditional players entering the mobile Internet market and sparking competition, with each one fighting for customer loyalty.
As a result, mobile operators are facing less-than-committed customers who quickly switch providers for lower cost plans, attractive introductory offers, a better user experience, or the latest in services and devices. As subscriber losses increase, revenue decreases; while at the same time the costs of maintaining networks, infrastructure improvements, and new service deployment continue to rise.

Informed decisions
Mobile operators today must make informed business decisions to meet day-to-day marketplace challenges. Yet, too often, the most appropriate information available is either lacking, or its too complex and buried within multiple series of reports. In short, data is gathered but not analyzed; reported but not understood; or shared but not acted upon.
Mobile analytics tools aggregate subscriber data so that a 360-degree view can be built. This can help operators understand what motivates customers, and as a result, offer mobile data services that will be more targeted and therefore profitable. It also allows operators to track data network usage and, using current and historical reports, model and anticipate the impact of new services or a popular website and prevent bottlenecks. It also allows them to determine how best to manage network costs and increase network performance and equip decision-makers at every level with fact-based insight, so that they can take action and make better day-to-day business decisions.
Analytics tools tend to work in one of two ways: they either reside online and monitor how specific sites or applications are being used (out-of-network), or they can reside on the mobile phone and monitor all mobile Internet usage. By contrast, an in-network mobile analytics solution deployed at a central point in the mobile operator network captures all on-deck and off-deck mobile Internet traffic. This means that operators have a complete, holistic view of consumer surfing habits, rather than only seeing how users are interacting individually with a limited number of sites.
As out-of-network web analytics are usually web-based solutions deployed outside the mobile operator network, they are adequately suited for content publishers and website owners who are most concerned with user behaviour on a much more limited basis (their own properties or those adjacent sites in a given browsing session). The data provided by these solutions, however, is generally inadequate for mobile operators seeking a holistic view of their user segments, because they only capture tagged mobile Internet pages using JavaScript or cookies. Pages that are not tagged are not captured, so there is no clear picture of what users are doing.

The whole picture
By contrast, an in-network mobile analytics solution deployed at a central point in the mobile operator network captures all on-deck and off-deck mobile internet traffic, giving operators the whole picture of consumer surfing habits.
In order to make the most of these capabilities, operators need to identify business goals, such as targeting niche groups, reducing customer churn, or increasing subscriber retention. The maturity of the market in which the operator is competing can affect the goals for improving business performance. For example, in growing markets, the focus of operators is usually on mass customer acquisition, with a strong emphasis on pricing. In mature markets, the focus is typically on customer service, proactive outreach, loyalty programmes, and subsidised services.
As part of the analysis process, mobile operators need to determine how subscribers should be segmented, and what the ultimate goal is. They then need to develop measurement metrics and define what reports will be most impactful.
There are a number of reporting categories, such as Data Traffic, Devices, Destinations, Visitors and Applications. In each of these categories, various reports can be generated, e.g. device reports, which provide a breakdown of handsets by vendor and model and are useful when determining the most popular handsets that subscribers are using to access the Internet. There are also subscriber-based reports, which group subscribers into bands, based on how long they have been browsing the mobile web. Time-based reports can be used to track the performance of a particular campaign over a period of time, while more advanced reports, such as those measuring the data volumes, help in determining the amount of data be generated on networks, and can be useful in capacity forecasting and planning.
Operators can use these reports to develop a holistic picture of customer behaviour, and in doing so, target customers with relevant services, which is crucial for developing a long term relationship with their subscriber base, increasing revenue and managing long term investments in their network.