Before any of the monetising can be done, telcos have to fix the trust issue which, as we know, has been knocked back a few steps of late because of the activities of the NSA. It’s not that telcos have come out of the information-gathering disaster any worse than anyone else. Everything and everyone involved in gathering/storing info is now suspect. But in some ways telcos score well and it’s thought that with a bit of preening they can be made to appear even better.
The objective is to get the telco accepted as the one you trust; the organisation that will stick to its word when it comes to taking care of customer information and carefully making it available, only with customer permission, to brand owners who want to market to highly-targetted groups.
Syniverse wants to make itself a key player in the middle of all this future information exchange by being a sort of information aggregator and broker. The problem is that telco customer information is fragmented as each telco only has information on its own set of customers. As things stand telcos can and do sell information on a bilateral basis to brand owners. These in turn make offers to their customers based on the profiles the telco data is able to build up. But according to research that Syniverse has undertaken, the mobile context profiles that could be generated are worth way more when the information from all the telcos in a territory is aggregated together.
According to Mary Clark, chief marketing officer at Syniverse, the value of end-user context data when aggregated (so it can properly cover a geographical area - like a country) is worth $44 billion to mobile operators every year.
The obvious way forward is to develop a business model around what Syniverse calls a ‘platform market’ where all the mobile context data is aggregated and put up for sale in the sort of ongoing auction used to sell Google’s Adwords. Syniverse wants to provide the platform. The brand-owners, who want to do the marketing bit, bid for access to the telcos' customers by geo segment (country or region).
What about the users, I hear you cry. Well it’s back to trust. Users are tempted to tick the box by being promised access to just the offers that are likely to appeal to them, and they do it relaxed in the knowledge that the operator is playing clean with their data. That’s the plan.
I suggest that there’s a long way to go on both the trust and the technical side. Mary agrees that this will be a longish game. But mobile context is not just about raw brand marketing. There’s highly useful information that mobile context can generate for users too - the ability to channel travel information at the right time to the right individual could be seen as worth a small fortune, for instance.