“Good design goes unnoticed”, claims an unsourced quote. Nowhere else is it more true than online payments, where the user experience directly impacts conversion and revenue. The same can be said for bundling: telcos and digital merchants expect bundle partnerships to bring new subscribers to them. If the partnership fails due to service design, nobody is happy. So how to make bundle launches smooth?
In order to convert as many people as possible through bundles, telcos and merchants need to get four steps of the consumer journey right:
Discover: creating awareness about the offer
Authentication: identifying consumers to validate their eligibility to participate
Provisioning: giving consumers access to the service
Billing & termination: converting the consumer to a paid plan or terminating the offer
In order for consumers to participate in a bundle offer, they first need to know that such an offer exists. We have covered what channels telcos use for promotional campaigns in a previous blog post. We recommend merchants to request a written marketing plan from telcos with a commitment on the budget that will be spent on the promotion.
The second part of bundle discovery is where the offer is activated. The standard approach is to direct users to a (mobile) landing page where the offer details are provided, and the offer can be activated. However, additional channels can also be used depending on the telco’s subscriber base and what they are comfortable and familiar with. This means SMS, USSD, IVR based solutions can complement web channels.
Another aspect to consider is that telco employees (customer care agents, repairmen, store employees) and resellers can also be involved in marketing the offer. In such cases, it doesn’t make sense for these employees to direct the consumers to a website; instead, there should be a process in place for how the employee can activate the bundle for the subscriber after receiving their consent.
Authentication and eligibility check
Once the consumer has the bundle offer in front of them, they somehow need to identify themselves to the telco to prove that they are eligible for it. For web-based scenarios, the following authentication methods can be used:
If the user is on a mobile device, telcos can detect their phone number automatically (something called header enrichment)
If header enrichment cannot be used, the consumer instead needs to enter their phone number, after which they receive a PIN code with a text message, which they then enter onto the website
In case the bundle offers are presented in an environment where the subscriber’s identity is already known (e.g. telco self-service portal), their existing identity can be used instead
Once the subscriber is identified, it’s possible to validate whether they are actually eligible to participate in the offer. There are a number of reasons why this may not be the case: they already have activated the bundle offer, they are not a subscriber of the telco etc. If they are eligible, they are directed to the service provider to connect their telco and digital service accounts.
The goal of the next step is to link up the subscriber’s telco account and their digital service account. For this, the subscriber either needs to create a new account or sign in to their existing one.
As with activation channels (SMS, USSD, IVR), alternative provisioning solutions can also be considered. For example, if the goal of the digital service provider is to increase their app installs and have subscribers activate the offer inside the mobile app, a text message with a link to the app, combined with a unique PIN code for activating the bundle offer, can be used instead.
Once the subscriber has successfully registered or logged in to the digital service account, the two identities can now be coupled up. This means the digital merchant can give users access to the content that was promised, and in the future, it becomes possible to check the status of the bundle and whether the subscriber is still eligible for it.
Billing & termination
Eventually, merchants and telcos expect to make money out of the bundle partnership, so the last component of payments is the most critical in the consumer journey. The standard approach for converting free trials from bundle partnerships to paying subscribers is through carrier billing.
While merchants can also use card-based payments (e.g. collecting the subscriber’s credit card details during the provisioning process or once the trial is about to expire), this adds substantial friction to the flow and makes the partnership unattractive for telcos as they will not receive any revenue from card-based payments.
Carrier billing provides a seamless transition from free to paid accounts as the same identity used for activating the bundle offer can also be used to start charging the subscriber for paid access, without additional steps required by the subscriber.
If carrier billing is used, the bundle partners need to sort out who takes care of which parts of the process: who triggers charges to the subscriber’s account, who manages the notifications, what happens if the user’s phone number changes, who moves the subscriber from the free trial to paid plan, how trials or subscriptions can be terminated by the companies themselves or the consumers.
Telco bundles have shown to be an effective marketing tool for digital merchants to grow their audience and revenue: music streaming services are working together with telcos in over 60 countries and video streaming services in over 80 countries.
In the future, the segments which telcos work with is likely to grow: any digital service with a subscription-based model is suitable for bundling. The opportunities are substantial: productivity software bundled together with telco B2B packages, game passes for the younger audience or monthly bus tickets for the commuters.
What’s important is that both partners committing to the bundle deal think through how the discovery, authentication, provisioning, billing and termination processes are going to like from the consumer perspective. If any key technical features are not supported once a bundle deal is already signed, the entire process can come to a standstill. If corners are cut and easier solutions used that impair the consumer journey, the partnership can lead to lackluster results.
For merchants and telcos alike, Fortumo provides a scalable solution through our Trident Bundling Platform. Our Bundling API takes care of the missing components, whether they are on side of the merchant and the telco, and provides access to our global telco network for digital merchants looking for new channels of growth. If interested, get in touch.