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May 2013

A Mobile Marketer Service: Bridging Personalization & B/OSS Flowthrough

A Managed Services Bridge for Mobile Marketers to Drive End-to-End Personalization & Flowthrough

What’s the difference between an assurance and analytics solution?  Both process large data volumes and often examine the same data sources.

So how can we distinguish the two?

Well, in common usage, “assurance” first and foremost refers to monitoring and problem discovery, I think.  Revenue assurance software detects order-to-cash operational errors; fraud assurance finds illicit usage patterns; and service assurance alarms when network/service performance data falls outside a threshold.

Now the corrective action for an assurance alert is often not obvious.  Why?  Because it’s a data anomaly in the first place -- an exception to your normal operational flow, meaning an expert generally needs to further interpret what action to take.

And that, for me, is the key difference between assurance and analytics, because analytics solutions -- at least in the marketing area -- are very prescriptive.  You analyze the data in great depth to arrive at a very specific action to take, say, to send a marketing promotion to the mobile subscriber.

But what happens after you send that message?  What then?  Can you provision the service?  Will the provisioning system know that the customer is qualified for the very specific promotion you just sent him?  And if the order goes through, how do you keep billing in the loop?

Delivering this more complete form of prescriptive action is the hallmark of Pontis, a telecom analytics firm who’s been at the game for 10 years and boasts more than two dozen mobile operator clients.

Here to explain the Pontis business model is Efrat Nakibly, the company’s Director of Corporate Marketing.

Dan Baker: Efrat, I understand the starting point of your methodology is rather contrarian.  You’re not concerned with grouping the customer into a demographic segment.  What’s that all about?

Yes, Dan, we call our system iCLM, which is individual Customer Lifecycle Management.  The solution manages a continuous engagement with each and every subscriber.  We believe the right way is look at the subscriber is as an individual, and we feel that segmenting the customer into groups is not the best strategy because it’s never that accurate.  In particular, we think operators need to focus on what’s happening with the subscriber at the current moment.  Things change over time, not only location-wise, but context-wise.  And in order to understand the current context of course one needs to look at the subscriber’s history and patterns as well.

Individual Customer Lifecyle
Management (iCLM) Architecture

Pontis Architecture

We are a marketing solution company and we provide both iCLM products and services.  Often we work in the managed services method.  In these cases we not only operate that system but also wrap our marketing services around it.  This means we tend to work very closely with the customer and have people at their location.  For instance, we have a team of around 30-40 marketing people who work together with our customers.

How are responsibilities divided between Pontis and the operator?

Well, we certainly don‘t replace the operator’s marketing people: we work with them.  Obviously, they need to know their market and if a new competitor arises, they need do examine prices and react accordingly.

But our interaction with the operator is daily: discussing their marketing key objectives and what should be the strategy and the tactics of the marketing and launching activities, monitoring activities, all the daily work of the telco marketing organization.

Today we have 30 customers and are growing quite rapidly.  Most of our customers are medium to large mobile operators reaching a total of about 250 million subscribers overall.

One of the vital things we do for their marketing team is to allow them to survey the entire lifecycle of the customer.  From the moment the subscriber joins the operator, we do a contextual welcome treatment and educate them on the different services offered.  And we continue to track the subscriber as they develop as customers, measuring their churn potential at every step of the way.  Our philosophy is that retention should start on the first day that the subscriber joins the network.

What are the points of pain for mobile marketers?

I think the first problem is that even though they collect a huge volume of information on their customers, that data lives in many siloed systems, meaning it’s really never up-to-date enough to deliver a current, holistic view of the subscriber.

Their second big pain point is typically around the logistics of marketing campaigns.  Very often great marketing ideas never see the light of day because IT complexity is such that the operator can‘t deploy things in time.

So those are the two key problems we solve with our end-to-end solution that integrates diverse data sources and analyzes that to find the right thing to do with him or with her right now.  Of course we also send the offers out and fulfill them too.

For example, if I send you a an offer to purchase the iPhone5 today with a 30% discount, that includes tracking to see that you did order the phone and were entitled to that particular promotion.  Then, of course, we fulfill the order, and because we’re integrated directly with a billing system, it’s easy for us to implement personal voice/data plans in a revenue assured way.

Why can‘t the operators do some of this work themselves?  What’s the big issue?

First of all, I don‘t think they have the technology to do it today.  Operators want to launch a very simple new voice plan.  So what do they do?  They go to IT and are told there’s a backlog of seven months before it can be worked on.  So technology is a big obstacle for the operator.  How to integrate all the data?

We have real time event processing analytics.  That’s a capability that takes a lot of time and expertise to develop.  Second, because we work with 30 operators around the world, that makes us a leader in personalized marketing which they can leverage.

We also have good trialing capabilities in our platform.  So, if there is a new idea for a marketing activity, we can trial it on a very small group of people and then in real time see if it works, tune it, and minimize the launch risk.

What about wireless broadband?  What’s your personal opinion on how that will affect the demand for analytics software like yours?

It’s a good question with several aspects to it.  Wireless broadband seems to magnify the importance of customer experience and personalization and that would certainly be a positive trend for companies like Pontis.

But there’s also the danger that when people have virtually unlimited data usage packages, the CSP could become a dumb pipe.  If that scenario plays out, there will be a decrease in the need for the specific services the operator provides.  But longer term, I think data pricing will evolve to the point where people no longer buy just a simple unlimited plan.  Increasingly, there will be application-based pricing to ensure a good QoS, which gives the carrier a way to differentiate and add value.

Personally I believe CSPs will find a way to leverage their assets such as subscriber information, location, communication channels, and billing capabilities.

What’s the next big thing for Pontis?

We continue to develop our product and add modules on top of our iCLM platform.  For example, we offer a specific 4G package that provides operators with the ability to implement very flexible data price plans, including dynamic and personalized packages.  It can be things like: application based pricing, speed boosters, and promotions based on network load.  We can also encourage usage through educational videos and messages.

Another very interesting product we recently launched is SocialCircles that we figure may be of great interest in places like North America.  The solution lets subscribers form their own micro-communities, their own group of three, four, or five people.

And that forms a social loyalty program because together they can share benefits as long as they meet specific criteria -- something as simple as a staying an active subscriber in the operator’s network.  The can even share a pool of megabytes or pool of minutes -- even tickets to the cinema, those kinds of things.  By the way, in many cases the situation today is that loyalty solutions are siloed/ disconnected from other systems that interact with the subscriber.  We believe that the right approach to loyalty programs is to manage them together and in synch with all the other data and activities.

Wow, SocialCircles sounds like a brilliant idea and really takes the concept of shared data plans to a new level.  Thanks for the nice briefing, Efrat.  One final question: I like the sound of your company name, but what’s its origin?

Actually, Pontis is Latin for “bridge” and we consider ourselves a bridge between the subscriber and the operator, between marketing and IT, and a bridge between different systems such as analysis and fulfillment.

Copyright 2013 Black Swan Telecom Journal

 

About the Expert

Efrat Nakibly

Efrat Nakibly

Efrat Nakibly is the Director of Corporate Marketing at Pontis.  She has almost 20 years of practice in taking technology-related products and services from concept to success in the marketplace.  Prior to joining Pontis, she was AVP of Portfolio Marketing at Comverse and also served at high tech firms such as Schema and Pelephone Communications.  Efrat has also worked as a consultant in the areas of marketing and product strategies.   Contact Efrat via

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