A failure to market new 2.5G and 3G services properly is already slowing down their take-up, believes Swiss operator Swisscom Mobile. Steve Rogerson reports.
According to Florence Deluy, Swisscom Mobile's head of consumer marketing, mobile operators are plugging the technology and not what the technology can do for users.
This is the opposite to what happened with WAP, when the technology's ability was over-hyped leading to large disillusionment with mobile technology.
She said new services such as ring tones, chat, m-commerce and location-based offerings had only taken 10% of the market in Switzerland.
"The way the mobile operators are pushing these services is not customer oriented," she said. "If they are presented better, they will have more penetration."
In Switzerland, she said mobile penetration was at about 75% and of these, some 70% are using SMS. The expectation is that about 40% of users will upgrade to video phones as they become available.
But to achieve this and to boost other 3G services, she said the operators needed to change the pattern of usage of their customers.
A Swisscom survey of the country's mobile users earlier this year tried to find out why people were not using these services more. Half said there wasn't a need for them to do so, 30% said the services were too expensive and 20% said they had no access to the service.
She said to tackle the largest group meant changing the behaviour of those customers.
"That will not be easy," she said. "There are different types of customer with different types of behaviour. We have to analyse the behaviour on lifestyle and usage. We have to understand how to change the behaviour so we need to know what interests them."
Price, she said, was trickier. In a survey across Europe, she said there was no direct correlation between the use of SMS and the price of the service.
"Price per message is not the key," she said. "If you reduce the price 10%, say, you do not automatically gain 20% usage."
She said Swisscom did a survey in October 2002 that found that to increase the number of voice minutes by 20%, the price would have to be cut by 50%, which was not good business.
To increase access to the service, she said customers had to be convinced to upgrade their phones.
"It is difficult to convey we have a great new technology," she said. "Saying UMTS or GPRS is meaningless to the customers and creates barriers. It should not be about communicating on technical features but on emotional benefits."
She also said the services had to be easy to use. "If it takes a customer ten minutes to send an MMS, they might not do it again."