Can you imagine anybody saying “If I had a choice, I would stay away from my mobile?” Well, that is the common response from Indians in the first year of using a mobile phone, according to my team’s PwC-IIM (A) customer value study released later this month. This response is popular across all the consumer segments covered in the study, covering 2,100 Indians in six locations around the country.
Once that first year has passed, doing without one’s mobile becomes close to impossible. Just look at the diagram below, and note how dynamic the shift is towards mobile dependency during year 1. Productivity, social standing, access to knowledge all become more valued from year two onwards. Not surprisingly, parting from one’s mobile becomes undesirable.
I recall an IBM study years ago which announced that people would rather allow their homes to be repossessed than give up their mobile. The headlines were brilliant: “Europeans ready to go homeless before giving up the handset.” Though true, the question of course didn’t prove that a mobile phone is more valuable than a roof over the head. (It only turned out that way because a mortgage might cost 1,000 Euro a month, whereas a mobile might cost 50 Euro. Even if forced to give up a mortgage payment, few would ever be hard up enough to have to give up a phone.)
But despite how much we love our phones, disappointingly, once consumers have become mobile-dependent, there seems to be little additional utility they derive from years of continued use. Look again at the diagram, and how our utility from various aspects of mobile usage remain stable over the years. Mobile users become creatures of habit: they get used to a set of services, and keep using them rather than explore and discover more.
Herein lie challenges and an opportunity for mobile operators and applications service providers. How can I convince new users to discover more at the start, and, when they mature, how can I keep encouraging them to find more and more utility?
Marketers certainly could do more to educate new users at the outset. At present, marketing seems to start and end at selling a SIM card and putting someone onto a price plan! Operators could offer programmes to educate new users to learn more about services such as mobile money transfer, video downloads, or buying music. They could offer special starter rates and higher connectivity speeds to new joiners. For example, why not offer a 2G user a 3G speed connection for free for two weeks, or sign someone onto mobile money when they are registering for a new SIM.
Whilst the telecoms industry clamours for a rise in data services and per user expenditure (ARPU), on the marketing and innovation side there simply isn’t enough going on. As a result, we are a generation of stunted mobile users – we discovered something special, got hooked, and then, stopped growing. We could gain so much more utility from mobile, yet are stuck on a plateau of consumption that is tinkered with occasionally through tariff offers to do a lot more for a little bit more money.
Attention all marketers: we are not just numbers to deliver you a few more “minutes of use.”: We are real people who are truly empowered by connectivity. Could you cater to us please?
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