The end of roaming charges is music to the ears of consumers but the cause of great anxiety amongst European operators. And for good reason, as Deloitte predicts that the removal of this cash cow will cost operators almost €5 billion. To add even more pressure, operators have less than 6 months to fill this financial void with definitive regulatory roaming change set for June 2017.
However, all is not bleak for the future of roaming as it presents new opportunities for operators to expand their revenue. Such opportunities lie in two predominant areas: data and relationships with third-parties. If operators are successful in monetising these two very important parts of their business, they will find the end of EU roaming charges much ado about nothing.
It’s all about data
Operators have the luxury of possessing vast amounts of data but have long failed to realise just how much they can do with the data at hand. Indeed, by analysing historical roaming data, they are able to create an accurate picture of who is travelling, to where, for how long, how often, what apps they are using and much more. Operators can then leverage this data to their advantage in two significant ways.
First, data can be packaged anonymously and sold to a number of different organisations and companies, from travel operators, airlines, hotel chains and more. These will in turn use the data to shape their marketing activities, cutting out the cost of obtaining data through primary research. Anonymised data can also be sold on to OTT (over-the-top) providers interested in assessing consumer usage and preferences when abroad. This gives operators an easy way to cash in their data assets with little effort.
Second, operators can use additional data offers to increase customer satisfaction and reduce churn through a loyalty scheme. After June 2017, loyal customers could be rewarded with additional data to ensure they do not go over their data allowance when travelling abroad. The more loyal a customer, the more they will be rewarded with extra data and/or offers – a guaranteed way to increase customer satisfaction, and coincidentally prevent churn.
Harnessing third-party relationships
Third parties also present many valuable opportunities for operators. These relationships can be built upon to make up for revenue loss as well as to increase customer loyalty, reduce churn and improve overall QoE and customer satisfaction.
Third-party companies such as online booking agencies, airlines or hotel chains can work with operators to offer additional services. Operators can team up with these companies to develop tailored offers and discounts, specifically related to travel in the EU. Alternatively, brands could also work with operators to offer gifts, vouchers or products as part of a sign-up or contract renewal.
With most EU tariffs enforcing data caps, unlimited data can be an attractive offer for customers travelling abroad. Through sponsored data, customers are able to get “free”, unlimited data, in return for an action such as watching an ad or liking a company on Facebook. Operators can partner with companies – from travel agents to food or drink vendors - willing to pay for the additional data. Take the example of a sporting event abroad: as fans congregate around a stadium, the operator benefits from a captive audience – an audience that is likely to be roaming or wanting to roam. Brands such as Coca-Cola have the opportunity to partner with these operators to offer free data in exchange for a Facebook ‘like’ or another type of ad engagement from this captive audience.
Lastly, operators’ ability to know where their customers are and at what time is a powerful asset. As soon as a customer lands in a foreign country, they will be notified of that country’s roaming charges. Operators therefore have the opportunity to use this information to generate location-based, real-time offers according to their customers’ country of destination. An example of this would be to partner with a car hire company like Hertz, which has a presence in most European countries, to ensure customers receive special offers on arrival at their destination. Harnessing these relationships with companies and organisations throughout Europe will prove fruitful for operators in the long run.
5 billion reasons to remain cheerful
While June 2017 may cause certain operators trepidation as they ponder how they will make up for the revenue loss, the opportunities which lie in their data assets and the third-party relationships to be created could see them come out the other side relatively unscathed.
Operators must also remember there is still a world out there to be explored. With travel in and outside of Europe increasing, operators need to shift their focus towards developing competitive roaming plans to encourage customers to travel to long-haul destinations.
If operators want to facilitate these lucrative, targeted and highly-personalised services, they must have the correct tools at hand, and that starts with fully agile and flexible virtualised BSS systems, complete with dynamic offer management technology. If leveraged in the right way, European operators could soon have 5 billion reasons to remain cheerful.