While sorting through my teaching case study folder last week, I re-discovered an article which right now seems extremely pertinent to my own experiences. The article Talking Telecoms, was published in Marketing in January of this year. In it “telecoms marketers and agency experts discussed brand loyalty in a price-driven market”. My recent attempts at trying to find a new mobile contract and more modern phone have proven just what the article was predicting, that networks are “a pipe”, that add little value to the mobile phone proposition.
Moreover the article predicted that the phones on offer will become so expensive that they are simply unaffordable. There are seemingly no ‘deals’ to be had right now and the consumer love-in with iPhone has meant that for many, it has out-priced itself from the market- I certainly don’t want to be tied-in to a 24 month contract at £45 a month.
Indeed over the last year the mobile market has become less about the networks and more about the phones. I’ve been with O2 for about 7 years and found them to be, well…fine. And I think that’s part of the problem- they’re just ‘fine’; not ‘great’ or even ‘rubbish’; just fine. So when I’m on the hunt for better value and a better piece of hardware, why would I remain loyal to a supplier that is merely fine? Like many consumers, I’ll go to the network that can offer me the phone I want at a price I am willing to pay, and will not stay with a provider simply because of the relationship. I would question if there was even a ‘relationship’ there in the first place.
So what do the networks need to do to rebuild the connection (excuse the pun) with consumers and add value to the market? They need to work out what exactly they offer that we can’t get directly from the phone manufacturer. Tesco mobile are some way towards achieving this with their 12 month contract and maybe this will enable them to grow market share. However, is this strategy enough? Network providers need to get better at communicating what it is that would make us choose them and deliver on the interactions that would make us loyal to the end.