To drive social networking and loyalty on mobile, look to the SIM
The humble Subscriber Identity Module or more commonly known as the SIM, has for too long been pushed to the backburner in mobile , as newer cutting edge services such as instant messaging, social networking and mobile advertising have all taken hold of the limelight. Article by Andrew Grill, general manager, sales and marketing at Seeker Wireless.
As a tool that securely manages a subscriber’s identity, the SIM is arguably the only remaining element of the mobile an operator actually owns. The way in which an operator chooses to use the SIM could offer huge potential to drive revenues from the next generation of mobile applications.
It was not too long ago that the SIM was credit card sized – designed to fit rather large ‘hand phones’. At the time, a typical SIM was around 16 KB in capacity size. Now, whilst the chip has grown smaller in size, it has increased in capacity and has the ability to hold numerous messages, images and even videos.
Some operators already have in place a 1GB SIM that is able to hold full feature length films and even has the potential to run an entire portal off the SIM. It is clear that the SIM has the ability to expand and develop larger capacities; but can it add real value to an operator’s service?
It is hoped that larger capacity SIMs could help to drive customer retention and include applications that attract new customers. So far, the applications include mobile banking and phone book back up, which is predominantly intent on building loyalty between an operator and a subscriber.
At a time when most operators face high levels of churn, the importance of building a strong relationship with subscribers is paramount. Some operators have introduced software similar to the O2 Bluebook and Vodafone’s Zyb which copy information from the SIM, such as contacts, messages and photos and store them safely online. It is unlikely that a subscriber would want to part with a service that has backed up years of contacts, messages and photos. Loyalty and retention is crucial to any successful business model.
Today, an increasing number of phone applications and services can be found online and social networking sites like Facebook and bebo attract millions of users. With flat rate tariffs subscribers are increasingly using their mobiles to go beyond the walled garden to explore the web on their handsets. Yet, most users access their favourite social networking sites over the ‘traditional’ internet – the version available on the mobile is much more scaled down with poor user experience. So, can operators get subscribers to use their mobiles instead of a standard PC, at least when travelling, to access a site like MySpace by offering an enhanced service?
It is the SIM that holds the answer. To enhance the way a person uses social networking on their mobile, location technology delivered on the SIM could play a pivotal role. By introducing the long held desire of real-time subscriber location, operators could energise social networking sites and offer users an enhanced and a more contextualised service that most PCs could not offer. On a handset, this could include status updates about a person’s location or presence, give an alert if friends were in close proximity to each other or alternatively provide location specific information when signing in to the account.
The humble SIM that sits on each mobile phone has the capability to offer next generation applications to users and deliver a remarkably different user experience. What is even more remarkable is that operators can use the existing SIM cards to achieve this.
Operators should not just look at social networking but also at other services such as traffic and weather services to utilise the data available on the SIM and to secure the additional revenue streams. Providing a higher level of user experience will drive customer retention and gives the operator the opportunity to differentiate the service from other competitors.
For too long has the discussion surrounding SIM been kept to one side – away from the forefront of the mobile industry. With SIM able to run Java code and with the mobile web already growing in popularity, operators can and should incorporate the best of the web with the SIM to enhance the applications already available. The humble SIM needs to be looked at more seriously as the tool to unlock revenues and build customer relationships. SIM is arguably the industry’s best kept secret.