Sell smartphones to older users: Deloitte

Sell smartphones to older users: Deloitte

SINGAPORE - Mobile phone carriers should step up marketing to older consumers as smartphone penetration among the 18-to-44 age bracket is almost at saturation levels in developed markets, said management consultancy Deloitte.

It also noted that efforts up to now have not been effective, with little attempt to meet the preferences of these older users.

They like to read on larger screen smartphones, for example, so mobile carriers should consider this when marketing to them, said the report, which surveyed online more than 38,000 mobile customers in 20 countries, including Singapore, Japan, China, France, South Korea and Spain, between May and July.

But older users may need to be taught how to use the devices, such as navigating smartphone icons and accessing the Internet.

"As wealth increasingly concentrates in older generations, mobile carriers should examine how they can drive revenues (from them)."

The report, released yesterday, suggests family-related packages like "allowing older generations to gift air time, data and perhaps even upgrade points to younger family members" to drive revenue. It also highlighted that instant messaging services like WhatsApp, which consume a lot of data, are so popular that there are concerns that they will undermine text messaging or SMS.

Instant messaging is usually free, while SMS is a paid service. Mobile carriers had feared that consumers would use instant messaging exclusively and so reduce the carriers' revenue from SMS. However, Deloitte believes that the two technologies will co-exist as mobile carriers find ways to offer value-added services to instant messaging that will increase their revenues.

The report also noted that carriers will have to share their networks if they are to offer sustainable nationwide LTE (long-term evolution), also known as 4G, coverage.

"LTE users consume larger-than-average quantities of data, putting a further strain... on backhaul infrastructure," the report said.

"By 2016, LTE is forecast to carry more data traffic than 3G globally. The imperative for carriers will be to build coverage and capacity as quickly and economically as possible."

That suggests that network-sharing should be considered.

However, an M1 spokesman noted that Singapore already has a built-up mobile infrastructure.

"We're unlike large countries like Malaysia and Thailand. Telcos will find rolling out fibre backhaul for their LTE networks expensive, so sharing is a good option."

Sharing networks also has its disadvantage, he added. For example, if a carrier wants to offer priority data plans for premium customers, a shared network would not be able to do this.

The spokesman said carriers no longer fear that instant messaging will cannibalise SMS.

When the mobile carriers replaced the all-you-can-eat data plans with smaller packages of 2GB, 3GB and 4GB, the more instant messages sent, the more data consumers will consume, which is good for the carriers, he added.

Local telcos have special plans for older consumers as well. StarHub, for example, launched Appvisor last year which makes app searches on Google Play easy for mobile users, including seniors.

Rather than look for a keyword match, Appvisor allows people to describe what they want and returns apps that match their needs.

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