Building a digital service storefront: it's simpler than it sounds

Building a digital service storefront: it's simpler than it sounds

The role of telcos is changing: from selling telecommunications devices and services to being a channel of digital entertainment for their subscribers. This means that for customers, subscribing to Spotify or Netflix should be as simple as recharging their SIM card or buying a new phone.

Opening up almost any telco homepage gives you options to easily buy the card or phone, but not digital services. 3rd party offerings are usually kept hidden under separate “Deals & Offers” or “Entertainment” categories. Every additional step it takes for to reach the activation window means a growing number of subscribers never reaching it.

For telco digital teams, this can be frustrating. The integration is complete, the partnership is launched but subscribers are not activating the service. Furthermore, with several different partnerships in place, the subscriber has no simple way of viewing all of them and deciding which one they want to purchase.

The solution is a digital storefront. This digital storefront should consolidate information on all available bundled and reselling services, enable subscribers to quickly get an overview of their features and activate them on the spot. A growing amount of telcos (such as Globe, Indosat and Singtel) have such solutions available. But what should those who don’t yet have such a storefront available keep in mind when building it?

What to avoid before you start?

When mapping out feature requests for a digital storefront, things can escalate quickly. Contextual recommendations, automated discounts based on business intelligence and scalable partner onboarding sound like great features in theory. As a result, the expected storefront RFP becomes bloated and will include many features that will go underused.

For example, even the biggest telcos usually don’t have more than 3-5 partnerships in each major content category: music, video, gaming, sports, security, kids. If all the offers available to the subscriber can be viewed on one page, does it make sense to invest in creating a contextual recommendation engine that accounts for the subscriber’s profile and past spending? Probably not.

Most third party partnerships need to be configured only once. If the deal content changes, for example with a follow-up campaign, these changes usually require minor tweaks. Instead of building a complex and expensive product right off the bat, the digital storefront should have an MVP approach.

This leaves the door also open for when future digital partnerships are different from existing ones. Most major digital service providers have their own user eligibility and activation logic and API-s, so developing too many complex features can instead limit integration capabilities with these providers.

Digital storefront: discovery, authentication and payments

Creating a great digital storefront for mobile subscribers requires the following:

  • Easy findability of the storefront and simple navigation between offers in the storefront
  • Seamless UX for subscriber authentication and eligibility validation
  • Simple transition to paying for the service

For promoting the storefront itself, many of the same tactics can be used as for individual bundle campaign promotions. Features of the storefront for discoverability should include:

  • Services consolidated into categories: music, video, games, security, sports and kids
  • Dedicated pages for each service: value proposition, features, pricing and FAQ-s
  • Capability for the subscriber to activate the service directly from the offer page
  • Responsive design that works well for both desktop and mobile users
  • Analytics solution for evaluating the conversion funnel of subscribers

There also needs to be a mechanism to identify the user. Identification can be done through:

  • Another service (e.g. if the user is already logged in to the self-service portal, their identity can be used for the storefront)
  • Header enrichment on mobile devices
  • Broadband account, if the user is on their home network
  • SMS PIN-code based authentication
  • MO SMS/USSD based authentication
  • OAuth or GSMA Mobile Connect based services

Finally, while most third party offers include a fixed discount period for the service, the goal is to get the user to convert to a paying customer. The consent for charging can be acquired when the user is identified and either charged directly to their (mobile or broadband) invoice or alternatively, direct carrier billing can be used. In order to motivate the customer to buy the service through telco channels, an additional incentive can be provided, such as an extended trial or a discount.

The portfolio of services should be periodically reviewed and new categories included. While today streaming services are still the main bundle partners for telcos, it’s worth evaluating all services that are consumed through smartphones. These could include productivity tools (Office365 or DropBox subscriptions), communication apps (Viber or WhatsApp credits) and transportation (Uber or Taxify credits).

In summary…

When OTT partnerships are already launched, the goal is to maximize the value from the work already done. Creating a digital storefront that is easily accessible through the telco website means customers become more aware of the offers available to them, and thus more likely to purchase them. For bundle and reselling integrations done through Fortumo’s Trident bundling platform, the authentication, eligibility and payments part is already solved which means all the services can be directly plugged into the storefront.