Industry Blog

Forget Google and Facebook – you can do better!

How many times have you seen ads on the web for that item you just purchased?

What’s the point in showing people ads for stuff they already bought? Those ads follow you around like a hungry dog.

One day earlier this year, I purchased a set of blue T shirts, for corporate use, and a large clothes drying rack for household use. This was a big mistake. For the past eight weeks, I have been relentlessly stalked by ads trying to get me to buy even more identical blue T-shirts, and defying all commonsense and logic, yet another huge clothes dryer. Either the big data analytics of Facebook and Google really do know more about me than I do, and they are prophetically offering me the same stuff “they know” I will need again; or this system doesn’t work.

And yet, since the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica story broke some days ago, everyone is talking about how Facebook mastered the art of harvesting personal data to deliver perfectly targeted, personalized ads.

Personal data is the new oil

If you are not paying for an internet service, remember YOU are the product

These sayings have been quoted over and over in the mainstream media these past two weeks. They are not new sayings in our industry. Most of us have grown accustomed to them over the past few years as we have watched the sudden rise of Over the Top (OTT) services which rely on harvesting and selling consumer data. But to see these lines quoted repeatedly on CNN, FOX, BBC, and in many of the newspapers is new… completely new. Suddenly our spouses, parents and kids all realize: “Hey Facebook is using my personal data!”

This realization is a good thing.

It’s a wake-up call that means people are wising up to the idea that there even is such a thing as “personal data,” and the idea that it has real value. But it’s an especially good thing for the mobile operator. Why? Because …

Google and Facebook are not trusted – you are trusted more

Even before the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica news, we were seeing definitive signs that in this ultra-digital age, consumers trust mobile operators more than social networks; more than search engines; and when it comes to younger consumers, even more than their online bank.

Look at this chart – one of several data points that came out of a 2017 survey of 2,000 consumers across the US and UK, carried out by market research firm Censuswide.

This is also a good thing!

Consumers trust their mobile operator. They really do. The relationship between mobile operator and consumer is a historical, foundational and unique relationship which other organizations cannot easily replicate. Trust counts for a lot.

So, what are the options now?

The world is waking up to the idea of personal data. Personal data means a more convenient life – and for the clear majority of people it’s worth sacrificing a little privacy to make purchases a bit easier and finding things they want a bit quicker.

And they are also realizing that personal data is an incredibly valuable asset. It’s the reason that Facebook and Google (who are breathing sighs of relief that the axe did not fall on them) are worth trillions of dollars. Facebook is under huge pressure from shareholders to grow their business, and every quarter must show increased revenues from the quarter before. Their business model is heavily reliant on harvesting personal data alone. Our data is their business. And when your business is so reliant on a single asset, it’s easy to make mistakes – and they have done.

Our data is their business

OTTs such as Google and Facebook have been infringing on mobile operators for a while now. In three years they drained operators’ voice revenues, and in two years they mopped up messaging. But now Facebook and Google are falling short of the task and that means there is opportunity.

The power of data is immense. Mobile operators can do more with their data to deliver better services, boost subscriber Quality of Experience and improve overall service efficiency. It’s important to remember these key points:

  1. People want to offer their personal data in exchange for a more convenient lifestyle.
  2. When it comes to managing personal data, Facebook and Google have been found wanting.
  3. People trust their mobile operator with this personal data.

So, as the mobile operator, what are you going to do …?