Brands slow to meet digital challenge

13 July 2011

NEW YORK: Many brands from categories including telecoms and broadcasting are falling short in adapting their marketing and insights operations for the digital age.

The CMO Council, the trade body, polled 212 senior executives representing firms from across the entire communications sector.

Some 83% of interviewees wanted to boost their understanding of the challenges posed by increasingly demanding customers and the emerging generation of available gadgets.

Turning specifically to in-house problems, 55% named providing the necessary bandwidth as an obstacle, ahead of the support required for new devices, on 35%, and the need to introduce nuanced pricing models, with 31%.

The sheer size and diversity of the mobile audience hit 28% here, as did the desire for greater choice and "self-selection" among consumers.

Widespread social media use posted 27%, and new or converging market entrants were seen as an issue by 17% of participants.

Elsewhere, 63% of contributors said smartphones are primarily driving change, an area where tablets scored 46%, social networks recorded 31%, and apps and games registered 23%.

Another 47% of industry experts stated subscriber complexity could "spiral out of control" if it was not handled more rigorously than at present.

Further, 68% also agreed that corporate mindsets are "out of sync" with the evolving competitive environment and service delivery techniques.

An extra 72% thought the absence of clear alignment between their marketing, sales and IT teams was a big hurdle.

Moreover, 81% typically "struggled" to launch and support new services quickly and cost-effectively.

"We're relentless in our mission to spot trends early. Then we analyse the path to critical mass, when and with whom, and we try to tweak our product set accordingly," said Mark Collins, SVP, data and voice products, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets.

"We've done this in building our smartphone lineup, and today we lead the US in smartphone customers by a wide margin."

Less positively, 72% of firms lack the marketing intelligence to develop more personalised user experiences and 75% have not yet found a means of effectively integrating the data sources at their disposal.

Ahmad Abdallah, general manager, operations at MTN, trading in Africa and the Middle East, warned this activity cannot be neglected.

"We believe that a key area of success in this market is benefiting from the leverage of knowledge coming in from customers, the data page, focus groups, and segmentation," he said.

A 52% majority of the CMO panel had inadequate capabilities for segmenting deals and promotions, while 42% wanted to improve customer relationship management and tracking systems.

Similarly, 89% are unable to target individual consumers with offers and upgrades based on their past behaviour or current interests and needs.

Despite this, only 43% of respondents intend to make data management and integration a central priority going forward.

A 32% share hoped to replace declining revenues from previously core sources such as voice calls, for example by pushing out content and other over-the-top services.

"I believe that there is a shift towards hardware services and application waves," Robert Kamper, Deutsche Telekom's senior executive vice president, marketing operations, said.

"There are new players entering the market like Google TV, Apple TV and so forth … So as a former incumbent, we have to create a differentiation of our products and develop the strategy of 'connected life'."

However, just 29% of the CMO Council's sample emphasised differentiation, 28% wished to personalise marketing and CRM, and 9% were cross-selling in economically mature countries.

More broadly, 54% of firms are considering making changes to CRM or marketing programmes as a means of "addressing increasing subscriber complexity".

Data sourced from CMO Council; additional content by Warc staff