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EDITOR’S BLOG 10-07-15 The time is now: innovate or die

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Hello and Happy Friday! Or Hello and Sad Friday if you are working in voice-based PRS. The annual state of the industry report from Phonepay Plus out this week makes grim reading – for some.

It describes a world where voice PRS services are dropping off and, more troublingly, putting consumers off with (often wrongly inferred) price issues and a general lack of desire to use them.

The report – conducted for PPP by Mobile Squared – does point out that its not all doom and gloom, however. PRS billing on mobile and charge to mobile are doing really well and, potentially, could do even better. The whole PRS sector, the report says, is worth more than £600million annual, but it is dropping each year (remember when we were a billion pound industry?).

Nothing in this report should – nor does – come as a surprise to anyone in the industry. Voice services are in decline – though they are still very healthy right now really, they just aren’t growing – because they increasingly don’t fit in to the user habits of the young demographic that has smartphones. To these people talk isn’t cheap, its free so why would they pay for any sort of voice service?

Also, we live now in a world of videos and selfies: image is everything. More than 50% of social media traffic on twitter this week is photo or video based. The world is changing and PRS needs to catch up.

Of course, there is still a market for some voice services, but betting the farm on it isn’t the way forward. Eventually no one will pay for voice and these services will die.

So we have to look, as an industry, at how to leverage what we know and what we own to do a better job elsewhere. And that brings us back, as ever, to payments. The world is going to go mobile payments mad any day now: it will happen, we just don’t know when. And charge to mobile (mobile carrier billing) is one of many convenient ways to make this happen. More effort needs to be made to push it out there beyond the traditional markets that we usually target.

I have said it many times before, but the PPP state of the industry report paints a stark picture. Whether you chose to believe it or not is your business, but you can already see that consumer habits are now changing very rapidly away from the sorts of services we have delivered in the past. And it is this – and this alone – that is changing the industry. We have to act now to save what we can and we have to innovate now – and be much more outward looking – if we are to survive.

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