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Exploding world of mobile use means re-thinking ways of connecting with customers

19 December 2011


Vodafone is developing a future business strategy based on evolving from a provider of mobile connectivity to a provider of business solutions, and transport is at the heart of its thinking, the Travel 2020 event heard.

Max Croot, Vodafone Global Enterprises M2M business development manager, told the Travel 2020 conference that the company’s current business model would rapidly become outdated. Future business strategy would be based on developing data mining capabilities based on its ability to track customer movement trends and patterns. This would enable it to offer business intelligence and value added services to a complete range of industry sectors, with transport an important target market. Future Vodafone products would include data analytics, capacity management, and supply chain integration. Billing services would also be provided when NFC technology enables widespread use of phones as e-wallets, he added. Croot said that Vodafone may choose to provide that facility itself rather than partner with an established financial services provider.

“I’ll probably get shot for saying it, but in 10-15 years voice and data will be free, the trend is there,” he said. “The value to us is actually extracting intelligence from the data – data mining.”

In transport terms, an early application could mean alerting people if services from a bus stop they were planning on using become congested or delayed and suggesting alternative routes. The company has also started work on a journey management service which would integrate transport and other services and offer the ability for transport operators to upsell their products.

Vodafone has already launched first generation business intelligence services, making use of its knowledge of customer profiles and tracking devices in mobile phones which show where its customers are and what they are doing at any point in time. For example, Croot said Vodafone had recently been able to alert one of its clients that hundreds of 18-24 year-old men were on Oxford Street at a time when a store was launching a new computer game. The client immediately dispatched mobile marketing teams with products aimed at that demographic and arranged for electronic boards to display targeted advertising.

 “That’s the tip of the iceberg,” Croot said. “We can tell when people are coming to a place or to use a service and tie it to loyalty products and personalised marketing”.

Ultimately, he foresees Vodafone not only building business intelligence solutions and value added services for different sectors, but “cross- fertilising the intelligence from different industries to crack problems”.

Mobile technology specialist Masabi is also embracing the new world of data and customer expectation with fresh approaches to eticketing delivery through NFC channels that are “still slow and fragmented”, CEO Ben Whitaker told a session on payments technology. With the right system, barcode/mobile eticketing  could be achieved across the UL rail network in one year with no government subsidy, he said.

Apart from reducing the cost of sales, eticketing incentives he outlined for transport operators included opportunities for capturing more detailed passenger data (from both searches and purchase, and including pre-stored information from regular users), researching and creating new product types, and inceasing revenue through up-selling (eg of on-board upgrades, food and drink) and cross-selling (eg of taxi pick-ups, hotels, car hire, entertainment and dining reservations). They could also positively encourage modal shift through down-selling.

On public acceptance, he warned that “people normally only try a new technology if the old way of doing it is painful enough to make them try. That is the moment to offer them a better way”.

In the smartcard arena, West Yorkshire Metro Director of Passenger Services John Henkel claimed the West/South Yorkshire Yorcard as “the most complex ITSO-compliant scheme in the country. It is the only one issuing and accepting commercial products, and the only one with integrated and interoperable smart products”.

He stressed the “huge complexity” of installing touch-of touch-off (TOTO) capability, which was delivered in just over six months following a 12-month-plus pilot running with touch-on capability only. There remained, he said, technology challenges for small operators.


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