By Allison Cerra, Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications, Alcatel-Lucent
Allison Cerra, Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications, Alcatel-Lucent
Witnessing a tour de force of mobile networking gear and gadgetry at Mobile World Congress last week, we were reminded just how intrinsic communications technology is to the world around us. As the ITU points out, the number of mobile connections is fast approaching that of the global population.
Our Digital Footprints
The numbers are telling — not only in the sheer volume of subscribers, but it says that more and more of our lives are being lived out on the network. Consider that every step a person takes on these networks leaves behind a “footprint” that forms a consumer personality, affecting how others see them – whether it’s online friends, followers or retailers. As we expose more about ourselves through these networks and devices, our digital footprints are establishing a consumer behavior, with information that can be either used to our advantage or potentially, to harm us.
It’s not only an issue of privacy but more about identity: how users see themselves attached to the network, and when they cross the line between empowerment and exploitation. This is the new battleground in the war for the mobile consumer. It is no longer “ownership” of the customer that matters, but “ownership” of the coveted trust position that enables new value chains to be created.
What’s love got to do with it?
Research by Alcatel-Lucent confirms the importance of trust as the new currency: the degree to which a user trusts a particular brand is strongly correlated to his willingness to pay for a new identity service. Other factors, such as how much the brand is loved or hated, for example, have virtually no impact on the same. For service providers, navigating the trust fault line is the opportunity of the networked age in which we now live. These operators hold the keys to unlocking the hearts and wallets of the consumers once telecom networks are leveraged as application development platforms. Among some of the more interesting APIs across most audiences: the combination of contextual APIs – such as a user’s presence, profile or location – which make up a user’s likes, dislikes and behaviors.
However, it also can raise eyebrows among privacy-conscious consumers and advocacy groups. When asked which entity users were more likely to favor in sharing said sensitive information – the service provider or application developer – it was the service provider that earned nearly three times the number of “trust” votes. And that raises an interesting question: Do service providers occupy a coveted trust position with users precisely because most have not shared this valuable customer information or does the trust relationship give them permission to do so?
As networks grow ever more efficient and intelligent, the potential windfall for service providers is great, as we saw first-hand at MWC last week – but only for those who understand and respect the consumer at the center of the debate. After all, only he or she can cast the winning vote with their heart, mind and wallet.
Allison Cerra is Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications for Alcatel-Lucent, and co-author of Identity Shift: Where Identity Meets Technology in the Networked-Community Age.