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EDITORIAL Why the ‘as-a-service’ model needs to be handled with care

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The move towards a more platform as a service-based model for the telecoms industry is gathering pace. We have talked a lot in recent weeks about how many telemedia players are starting to look at how they can package up the range of services they offer – content, aggregation, billing, traffic, marketing and more – and sell it in chunks as a service to telcos, brands and anyone else wanting to rapidly deploy digital services to a hungry consumer base.

This move is accelerating, with Coolwave Communications becoming the latest firm to look at how to transform its operations to cater to what it sees as a massively growing demand from carriers for platforms as a service.

The roll out of 5G, the pandemic and its lockdowns and increasing use of OTT channels to deliver content and marketing – and the potential to make them shoppable – is all driving this shift with carriers and brands realising that they need to have coherent offerings of content, services and billing that they can deploy on these channels quickly and easily.

The idea of handing that all off to someone else to manage makes sense, but it does mark a massive departure for operators, who usually hold on tightly to that sort of thing themselves.

Could it be that operators are starting to see that the glacial pace that they usually move at just won’t hack it and, with brands, social media sites and more all looking to do the same, they need to act quick? I hope so.

It is also interesting to note just how central some telemedia players are likely to become in this new world order. Creating the platform offerings that can be offered as PaaS is the easy bit – many were already effectively doing this. Getting MNOs and brands to buy into the idea has been harder.

However, it is now bearing fruit. Centili for one is leading the way on this, creating a really rather robust set of services that are bundled up into the CPaaS model. 2021 will also see Centili offer solutions to facilitate conversational commerce for digital merchants looking to enhance their services.

Already established in markets such as SE Asia, Europe and MENA, Centili is launching a plug and play solution that takes care of the end to end technical delivery of conversational commerce from communication to payment. The pandemic has seen a huge uplift in conversational commerce in all markets as businesses look to better connect with customers, as customers experience the benefit of this richer digital experience, Centili will support businesses as this approach becomes the expectation.

The downside is that the industry now must tread very carefully. This nascent model for offering services to all these high-profile, consumer-facing entities can’t go wrong.

The players that are in this market are doing an excellent job of offering just what the brands and MNOs want and need, as well as making sure that consumers are getting a good deal – not least also offering customer service to mop up any problems that do arise. Where care needs to be taken is in other players not rushing to market and offering a lesser standard. That would, in a swoop, kill this new and most-welcomed avenue for the telemedia industry.

Service providers, MNOs and brands also have to be careful not to bombard consumers either. Rolling out too many push-message services or clogging up people’s WhatsApp feeds with shonky offers and duff content is also going to kill this off rapidly.

There is a huge opportunity here, but it needs to be managed with great care. While many may eye this as the next big thing, rushing into won’t work.

If the industry continues to handle this right, they all will be good. It will also lead to a raft of mergers and acquisitions, as the industry finds itself looking to team up to create holistic offerings to take to market. Interesting times lie ahead as this develops.

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