Internet Activity Analytics: The Activation of a Stranded Asset

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1 1 Internet Activity Analytics: The Activation of a Stranded Asset The Impact of Over-the-Top Services on Service Provider Growth Subscriber adoption of Over-the-Top (OTT) services is materially impacting the financial viability of service providers on a global basis. Revenue cannibalization associated with the rise of OTT services from the perspective of communication service providers is not limited to loss of sales as subscribers utilize services such as Skype for voice or Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video for video content. The data-centric nature of OTT services also results in increased data traffic and utilization of the service provider s infrastructure. This is a particularly vexing problem as data services continue to deliver lower margin contribution compared to legacy voice and SMS services (an issue directly related to the utilization of some OTT services such as on-demand video). After surveying 64 major telecom operators, Ernst & Young published a study that found that average data margin contribution was between 20-30% - much lower than other services such as voice (45% margin contribution) and SMS (70% margin contribution). In other words, the adoption of OTT services not only provides consumers with a competitive service offering but also lowers the margins of service providers as a result of the increased demand upon the data network infrastructure. The adoption of OTT services not only provides consumers with a competitive service offering but also lowers the margins of service providers. Analysts expect data traffic and associated revenue to continue to rise, but at considerably different rates. The same Ernst & Young study predicts global data revenues in the mobile market to increase from 20% of total revenues in 2008 to 36% of total revenues by In a related development, analysts also expect data traffic to increase at annual triple-digit rates. This increased reliance on data revenues by service providers typifies the predicament as the industry becomes increasingly reliant upon lower margin data services for a larger percentage of total revenues, resulting in bottom-line contraction. Early Adopters of Internet Activity Data Business Models With stagnating revenues and a higher concentration of lower margin data services comprising the industry s total revenue, service providers have been exploring diversification strategies in an attempt to identify new sources of revenue. The most well established managed services

2 2 introduced by service providers include a variety of security-centric offerings, network services solutions and cloud computing services. These types of managed services compliment service providers primary service delivery businesses and are a natural extension of their core business. Yet, another opportunity exists by virtue of the infrastructure inherent in the communications service provider s network and its unique position in the internet economy. The utilization of Internet Activity Analytics (IAA) for commercial purposes is, only now, being seriously considered as an additional revenue stream within this industry. At this early stage, a wide variety of programs are under development as the industry attempts to identify the data-centric business model with the greatest promise. Given the number of initiatives and the influence of the earliest adopters in this realm within the industry, it may be only a matter of time before the industry has found an innovative business model that disrupts the existing digital data, marketing services and advertising markets and leverages their data business to establish new revenue streams. Industry stalwarts that have publicly announced innovative, data-centric business models include the following: Verizon (Precision Marketing Insights), Sprint (PinSight), Telefonica (Telefonica Digital Dynamic Insights), Comcast, Deutsche Telecom (via a T-Systems initiative), NTT Docomo, Telenor and many others in every region of the world. An Overview of the Consumer Data & Marketing Services Market Many of the world s largest communications service providers have long-standing relationships with data and marketing services companies with the goal of increasing customer acquisition and satisfaction, encouraging adoption of complimentary services and decreasing subscriber churn. The ability of marketing services companies to deliver on such lofty goals is directly correlated with their ability to collect data and extract actionable intelligence from that data. Consumer data can unobtrusively be utilized to inform marketing campaign creation prior to publication as well as measure campaign effectiveness during and after a marketing campaign is published. In this way, marketing services companies boast of a closed-loop approach that, ideally, results in the continual improvement of an organization s marketing efforts without raising privacy concerns, if executed properly. It may only be a matter of time before the industry has found an innovative business model that disrupts the existing digital data, marketing services and advertising markets. Due to recent technological advances in the ability to collect data and extract valuable insights from previously unwieldy volumes of data, the adoption of data-fueled marketing activities has increased along with the financial value of structured and unstructured data. In the parlance of the marketing services industry, the following are the 4 stages of insight available via data analysis:

3 3 Data Type Reports Description Single data stream without context Multiple data streams correlated to provide context Analysis of multiple reporting and diagnostic data to predict future behavior Analysis of reporting, diagnostic and predictive data resources to support complex decision-making Geographic or locational data, such as information derived from an individual s mobile phone, are examples of reporting data. For example, a service provider will know a user of their network is currently located in San Francisco at a single moment in time. Diagnostic data provides insight based on historical trends. A single data point would be considered reporting data while multiple data points are considered diagnostic data. For example, understanding a person is in San Francisco at a single point-in-time is valuable. Yet, understanding a person commutes from San Francisco to Redwood City five days/week (and, via locational data, that person is consistently located in Redwood City during traditional work week hours) is much more valuable to the marketing services industry. Data is valuable, but data in context is treasured. Predictive data leverages reporting and diagnostic data to extrapolate future behavior and insight from previous actions. An understanding of a consumer s typical commuting pattern combined with the intelligence of the recommendation engine of a retailer located on the commute route offers the retailer the ability to proactively target the consumer with products that may be of interest to this single consumer based on their prior buying patterns and expected location. A retailer with a location on our example consumer s commute between their home in San Francisco and their workplace in Redwood City would be willing to pay for this insight, essentially purchasing the ability to proactively send offers and coupons to a qualified sales prospect. When viewed within this context, service providers have historically failed to utilize the full extent of their inherent data resources. Prescriptive data, the most valuable data resource, enables decisionmaking on a wider scale. Predictive data relates to a single decision, while prescriptive data contributes to the establishment of rules or norms regarding more complex decision-making processes. Prescriptive data is utilized for such applications as demand planning, sales forecasting and, of course, marketing campaign enablement. In the example of locational data, a retailer may analyze a variety of data sources such as the number of mobile users driving past a retail location, the frequency of that traffic and the known purchasing patterns of that set of individuals to determine pricing and sales campaigns.

4 4 Service providers are utilizing locational data derived from mobile phone usage to participate in the data economy. When viewed within this context, service providers have historically failed to utilize the full extent of their inherent data resources. Although service providers and marketing services companies have worked together to optimize the marketing efforts of service providers, the insights were derived from static and, at times, aged subscriber demographic data such as billing and service type information. Data the industry generally considers reporting data. The opportunity exists for service providers to provide the type of predictive and prescriptive data marketing services companies and, ultimately, their brand/advertiser customers are seeking. By leveraging the internet activity data of their subscribers, service providers would not only be fulfilling a market need but also would be improving the prospects of their own business while, potentially, developing a new source of revenue. In fact, a number of the industry s highest profile companies are pursuing new and innovative data-centric business models designed to activate the stranded asset of their subscriber s Internet activity data. Communication Service Providers: Internet Activity Analytics (IAA) Initiatives As to be expected when a new market opportunity is identified and pursued by multiple companies within a single industry, significant differences are found when examining the publicly announced data initiatives within the communications service provider market. As each organization attempts to establish a business model customized for their own customer base, lessons and insight are available as other companies within the industry access the market opportunity associated with the commercialization of subscriber data. Of course, a slew of variables unique to every service provider - such as corporate, regional, and regulatory data privacy norms and sensitivities introduce complexity to the process of determining the appropriate approach. A number of the industry s highest profile companies are pursuing new and innovative data-centric business models designed to activate the stranded asset of their subscriber s Internet activity data.

5 5 The factors to be considered include the following: The type of data to be commercialized The purpose of the data commercialization effort Internal marketing efforts to cross-sell/up-sell a service provider s own offerings 3rd party data sales to support the marketing efforts of other brands/advertisers The utilization of the data in the initiative Data sales to augment the existing digital data and advertising ecosystem The integration of a service provider sponsored advertising platform to serve ads based on internally generated data insights The industry has debated and discussed these considerations. It s clear a consensus has not been reached as the industry continues to examine the various market opportunities and refine the business models designed to address such opportunities. As an example of how these considerations have been addressed in practice, service providers are utilizing locational data derived from mobile phone usage to participate in the data economy. For example, Sprint partnered with mobile advertising publishing platform Amobee to launch PinSight Media an advertising platform that leverages Sprint s locational data to serve mobile ads. NTT Docomo has launched an initiative to share the locational data of the 2.3 M subscribers using their map navigation application with 3rd parties and monetizing this data without serving any ads themselves. Other initiatives are leveraging the Internet activity data extracted from the network either via DNS data analytics or deep packet inspection techniques to deliver value to the marketplace. For example, Bell Canada recently announced a program to utilize their subscriber s Internet behavior to serve ads more relevant to their interests compared to the seemingly arbitrary ads now being served. Other initiatives are leveraging the Internet activity data extracted from the network either via DNS data analytics or deep packet inspection techniques to deliver value to the marketplace. A number of service providers are initially exploring the opportunity to leverage subscriber data in aggregate to assist advertisers in further defining consumer preferences. For example, the Precision Insight initiative by Verizon Wireless offers business intelligence and analysis of the Verizon Wireless customer base in aggregate to marketers, such as outdoor media companies and sports venues, for improved consumer profiling effectively providing augmenting data based on the unique insights derived from their mobile network.

6 6 Other service providers have announced initiatives to integrate an advertising platform with their networks to enable the companies to serve targeted ads to their subscribers based on consumer profiling fueled by Internet Activity Analytics (IAA). In the Asia-Pacific region, SingTel recently acquired Amobee for this purpose. Since the acquisition, SingTel has announced that the Amobee PULSE ad platform will not only serve ads for the SingTel network but will also integrate with a number of other networks that are subsidiaries or partners with SingTel. To this point, Optus (Australia/New Zealand), Globe (Philippines) and Telkomsel (Indonesia) have announced plans to utilize the Amobee ad platform on their networks granting advertisers and publishers access to a combined subscriber base of 200M users. Consumers have demonstrated a willingness to actively participate in the commercialization of their own Internet activity data if they perceive they are receiving sufficient value in exchange. In regions across the globe and via both fixed and mobile networks, communications service providers are utilizing a variety of different business models to unlock the value inherent in their subscriber s Internet activity data. Most importantly, these data-centric initiatives are effectively increasing the value and the margin contribution of service providers historically lower margin data services business units. The Data Monetization Market Opportunity: Secure New Revenue & Establish Goodwill Historically, service providers have hesitated to commercialize the Internet activity data of their subscribers due to privacy concerns and the expectations of their customers. Yet, significant shifts in the marketplace as well as subscriber sentiments about the use of this data over the past decade justify the development of data-centric business models based on subscriber s Internet activity data only if subscriber concerns are properly anticipated and proactively addressed. Consumers have demonstrated a willingness to actively participate in the commercialization of their own Internet activity data if they perceive they are receiving sufficient value in exchange. The business models of the Internet s most successful companies Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Spotify are just a few examples of an extensive list rely on the commercialization of their user s data for advertising purposes. Given the widespread adoption of these organizations services, consumers are tacitly accepting the utilization of their digital data in exchange for a free account, the ability to develop digital social networks or access to large amounts of free music. This presents an opportunity for service providers to disrupt the prevailing narrative within the data market by effectively communicating their intentions to utilize subscriber data for commercial use. Yet, consumers are not explicitly agreeing to this arrangement. In fact, many consumers are not entirely aware that an agreement has been brokered. They re simply taking advantage of free, or nearly free, services. This presents an opportunity for service providers to disrupt the pre-

7 7 vailing narrative within the data market by effectively communicating their intentions to utilize subscriber data for commercial use. Not via the currently accepted and intentionally obtuse methods typified by lengthy terms-and-conditions agreements routinely modified by Internet titans, but by easy-to-comprehend and accessible messaging and the development of incentives for subscribers to encourage participate through data-centric compensation plans. In order to meet this goal, service providers should consider the following suggestions as tactics to support their efforts to expand their participation in the consumer data and marketing services market. Solicit input from subscribers, industry analysts and privacy/advocacy groups proactively before implementation Embrace a policy of transparency that discloses the type of data collected and analyzed, the purpose of the data program, all 3rd parties involved in the initiative and the locations where the data is transported/stored Provide reassurances to alleviate privacy concerns by enabling subscribers to easily request their personal data file to ensure widespread understanding of the initiative Implement easy-to-use and accessible opt-out procedures Acknowledge the commercial value of each subscriber s unique data set and commitment to provide fair compensation to subscribers By establishing an expectation of transparency and introducing the concept of compensation based on a subscriber s unique data set, service providers have the opportunity to reimagine the foundation of the data economy while introducing criteria that encourage participation from individual subscribers. Instead of the current paradigm of obfuscation, service providers can meet the market need for relevant and recent data in a manner that considers the concerns, and contributions, of each stakeholder. In this way, service providers will establish a new source of revenue but also strengthen their relationships with their subscriber base, increase the value of their organization s brand and generate goodwill in the marketplace. By establishing an expectation of transparency and introducing the concept of compensation based on a subscriber s unique data set, service providers have the opportunity to reimagine the foundation of the data economy. To learn more about how Nominum can help your organization activate your stranded data assets, visit The author, Matthew Madden, can be contacted via at

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