Why 'fast data' is just as vital as big data for the survival of CSPs

Big data isn't enough on its own

David Peters is CEO and Founder of Emagine International

2014 was all about big data. For us, 2015 is going to be all about "fast data". Fast data isn't just about the insight and context of big data, it's about using it in real-time. And for marketing activity, that can be absolutely key – the difference between retaining or losing a customer to the competition.

In part one of this two part series, we're going to look at fast data opportunities for Communication Service Provider (CSP) marketing strategies, before going on to explore how they can be realised in part two (which will be published tomorrow).

Standing out in a competitive environment

CSPs today are under enormous margin and growth pressure, needing to constantly stay on top of network services to ensure call quality and data speeds and keep up with the competition, while protecting their customer relationships from the threat posed by over the top (OTT) players.

While brand marketing strategies outside of the telecoms space are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they target and interact with the consumer, operators need to catch up, leveraging the vast stores of data that they have access to – and quickly, in a way that directly impacts on customer actions.

In the highly competitive CSP environment, the ability to capture event triggers as they happen on the network and easily communicate corresponding offers as they occur will be fundamental to revenue streams and churn rates. Delivering a personalised message while the customer device is still in their hand could be the difference between an extra data bundle sale, or even an incumbent mobile service provider and a competitor.

Customer expectations

This need to achieve 'in the moment' interactions isn't just a CSP requirement – customers themselves have grown to expect more. A new generation of digitally savvy consumers have come to expect the CSP's services and interactions to be as compelling as the many OTT apps that populate their screens. They want CSPs to engage with them in real-time, with a user experience at least rivalling that delivered on their smart devices.

The mantra of 'know your customer well and deliver what your customer needs' has therefore never been more true, especially in today's highly competitive telecommunications landscape. Luckily, CSPs are ideally positioned at the heart of their customers' digital lives to live up to that mantra.

Unlocking customer data

With large customer bases, new data is generated every time a call, text or chat is made or received, a notification appears, or when an app is used, a comment is posted, liked, tweeted, or the web is browsed. This data provides the CSP with unparalleled information about where the customer is, who they called, which apps were used or what sites were visited.

Not only that, but the CSP network data provides additional valuable information about the customer experience of their service in real-time. Whether the customer experiences network latency when downloading an app, a dropped call when speaking with a friend, or runs out of a data bundle whilst viewing a popular YouTube video; all are detectable by the CSP as they happen.

By linking this real-time information with more traditional customer insights such as customer profiles, device type, tariff plan and billing and recharge patterns, CSPs have all the information necessary to build an unparalleled understanding of their customers, in the moment.

This data can be used to determine the most appropriate interaction with a customer at any moment in time. Whether that be a tailored product or service, a personalised pricing plan, or delivering a relevant user experience at the right location and at exactly the right moment. There is therefore a major opportunity for operators to harness customer data, to build tailored services and interactions that are personalised, relevant and engaging, and to do so in real-time.

Achieving "real" real-time data

The journey time from event to decision to action, however, is critical. Processing billions of records in real-time and reacting within milliseconds can be the make or break for a CSP in this new fast data world. Actions resulting from data insight need to be achieved within the same split second as it occurs; within 250 milliseconds. This is the sort of real-time interaction that customers receive from Google, or a variety of OTT players, and they are increasingly expecting from CSPs.

Our benchmarking results at Emagine show that processing billions of records per day, making intelligent personalisation decisions, then communicating or fulfilling an offer, is achievable in under 250 milliseconds, end to end.

Achieving the reality of fast data

However, to achieve this goal, CSPs will need to redesign their businesses to enable them to personalise the customer experience as it's taking place. They need to adopt architectures that enable them to capitalise on the vast quantity of data available to them in real-time, evolving their strategies from big data only, to also include fast data.

To do so, CSPs need to address three key challenges: Tapping into "real" real-time data, identifying "moments of truth" in real-time, and achieving agility and flexibility for the business team. We will go into more detail concerning these challenges in part two – tune in for that tomorrow.

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