By Graham McInnes, Proposition Marketing Manager, Acision.
In today’s society, we are obsessed with communication and mobile technology, making the telecommunications industry to date a very profitable one - smartphone sales have been up this year, with over 31.8 million shipped globally in the second quarter of 2009, according to Canalys.
This natural obsession means we are never far from our mobile phone, with voice calls being the major revenue driver. In fact, today 82% of global operator’s revenue comes from voice, making this a very lucrative area if the current decline in Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) can be addressed.
The most prominent revenue leak currently derives from missed call completion, for example when I call you but you are not there to answer my call and we do not ‘complete’. This is a huge area of loss for operators and finding ways to prevent such leakages is of upmost priority.
One tool that encourages call completion is voicemail, which people either love or hate. Until recently voicemail has remained virtually unchanged, that was until the iPhone came to market.
With it, voicemail received a make-over and visual voicemail gained considerable consumer attention. Visual voicemail provides the subscriber with a list of their voicemail messages within an inbox and gives users the freedom to select which messages they would like to listen to and when.
For the operator, visual voicemail holds a potential cure for persistent call completion woes, benefitting the operator’s bottom line and the consumer.
The experience in accessing voicemail has changed substantially since its first introduction, when user interaction was lengthy and complicated
In today’s telecoms market there are a number of innovative solutions that provide a more personal, interactive experience and the popularity of services such as visual voicemail are growing. With visual voicemail, the user’s voicemail messages are displayed in a fully integrated, easy-to-use, graphical multimedia interface, much like an email inbox.
Many handset manufacturers have recently launched their own visual voicemail solution, which highlights the popularity of the service. However, this produces a dilemma for operators as they are limited to one solution for each handset, not one for all.
To ensure success, operators want to be able to choose the solution that is right for them and their customers, while also working across all handset manufacturers.
What is the consumer benefit?
Visual voicemail allows you to easily manage your voice messages, showing you instantly who has left a message, what time the message was left and whether or not you have replied to it.
On the flip side, this also means that the voice messages you leave for other people are more likely to be retrieved. Visual voicemail works directly with the handset’s contact list, which makes it easy for you to forward messages without the frantic scribble of a pen or veined attempt of memorising. Visual voicemail can also be used to send someone a voice message without ever having to call them directly.
What is the operator benefit?
As discussed previously, call completion is a valuable source of revenue for operators. Competition in the mobile world is rife and the market is overwhelmed by unlimited voice and data plans. Because of this, voice revenue is declining, but the number of voice minutes used is increasing.
Visual voicemail offers the operator an opportunity to try to bring back some of this revenue, as it provides a variety of options to encourage subscribers to return a phone call and therefore complete the circle of communication. In fact, we have found that through visual voicemail the feedback cycle improved the usage of voicemail in some cases by as much as 300%.
What is the marketing potential for visual voicemail?
Visual voicemail leads the way for more exciting types of voicemail, which in turn leads to valuable advertising and marketing space becoming available, this could be used for voice-to-text, emails, voice SMS and voice MMS.
Converting voice to text has been around for a number of years, most notably with SpinVox. The technology is incredibly innovative and if accurate enough has massive consumer appeal. The key to take-up of this technology is to make it free or part of a monthly bundle, adding value to any operator’s offerings.
From an advertiser’s point of view, the voice to text message space leaves lots of scope for adverts and marketing campaigns at the top or bottom of the message.
Operators and advertisers could work together to make this service free to the end user or part of an ad-funded model.
Subscribers are much more likely to act on a voice to text message then a traditional voice message, with a proven uplift of both 7% in voice traffic and 17% in SMS traffic – great news for the operator and marketer.
On the same token, voice to MMS has a variety of additional advertising opportunities thanks to the multimedia aspect of the technology. Advertisers can now add video and sound to their advertisements and subscribers have an additional way of listening to their voice message, perhaps via a preview message.
For example, the operator could send a clip (preview) of the voice message instead of the entire message and allow the subscriber to call back and retrieve the complete message. This gives a variety of advertising options either within the MMS and/or before the playback of the voice message.
Visual voicemail opens up a variety of options to the end user. We firmly believe that the future of telecoms is not just the operator or the marketer, but the consumer with their choices and decisions shaping the future of the marketplace.
Visual voicemail allows the user to decide how, when, what format and to which device all their voice messages will be sent. Operators can take advantage of this by using a solution that can reach all handsets and give their user the most flexibility.
This approach will positively impact their Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), as it goes some way towards addressing revenue leakage and the call completion dilemma.
Finally, marketers need to look at visual voicemail as another viable path for them to reach out to the end-consumer by creating innovative campaigns to generate revenue from this currently untapped market.
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