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Monetizing subscriber data – some valuable lessons from the OTTs & Enterprises

Knock knock. Who’s there? Your subscriber. Subscriber who?

OK, that’s a bad knock-knock joke! Yet that is the approach some mobile operators take when it comes to managing the identity of their subscribers. Apart from the basic, rudimentary information that is required to make the mobile service work (eg phone number, services subscribed) and bill for them (name, address etc), network operators lack insightful information about their subscribers. Why? There are a few reasons, but mainly it is because operators fail to see the monetization opportunity that subscriber identity offers. They also do not realize the impact a good central identity solution can have on user experience, churn reduction, and reduction in overall capital and operational costs.

Many network operators see subscriber data/identity management as an operational or capital overhead that is required to run their network. Thus it is often left as a feature of network elements like HSS, HLR or PCRF. A focussed centralized approach to managing subscriber data, Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM), as it is known in the industry, is regarded an “extravagance”. For some network providers it is the difficulty of managing and integrating their customer data that keeps them from using centralized subscriber identity solutions. More often than not operators have multiple data silos and legacy technology that prevents them from gaining a single view of all their data.

Show me the money!

The mobile industry can learn a lot from the internet and enterprise sector. Internet businesses have embraced customer identity technology and put it to good use. The best known example? Amazon. Its customer-tailored offerings are today the stuff of legend. Amazon’s success shows that consumers are happy for businesses to collect their information so they can be offered a personalized service that delivers real benefits. Google’s business model is built around better understanding their customer’s needs, context and monetizing it by offering personalized content and relevant ads.

Customer Identify Management is becoming mission critical to businesses as it is central to building great customer experience, securing data and protecting customer privacy. Investors recognize the value it creates and bets are being placed in this area. For example, UnboundID, a provider of highly scalable user directory solutions, got acquired by Ping Identity to complete their Identity solution. LDAP directory solutions are foundational building blocks of Identity Management solutions. Directory solutions, such as Openwave Mobility’s Subscriber Data Management suite, that have telco grade scalability, high availability, real time performance characteristics and impenetrable security are a requirement for building mission critical CIAM solutions.

Knocking on SDM’s door

A number of operators have been deploying SDM and CIAM solutions and see it as an enabler to drive revenues. It is keeping them one step ahead of the competition and there are a number of innovative monetization use cases it can enable, operators can: offer value to publishers who are struggling in the face of ad-blocking; forge partnerships with retailers to minimize abandoned shopping carts; collaborate with financial institutions to launch micropayment solutions - the use cases go on and on.

Identity should not be the preserve of Over The Top (OTT) players who have guarded it zealously. OTTs know the power - and value - it can deliver. The old adage rings true: knowledge is power. It is now time for mobile operators to monetize the most important asset they have - their subscribers.