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Archive for the ‘Social Commerce’ Category

OpenRate – Charge like Vodafone, American Airlines, Amazon AWS or Salesforce for free…

July 23, 2012 4 comments

Ever wondered how it is that two people make a similar call, fly next to one another on a plane, rent the same type of virtual server or use the same SaaS application but end up paying totally different bills. Big companies have understood since a long time that rating and charging is the key to making more money for the same service. As long as the user can be convinced that they are paying more because of some valid reason (e.g. prepaid contract, same-day return flight, on-demand vs reserved instance, monthly vs yearly subscription, etc.), a similar service can be sold at different prices.

For a long time it was expensive to do advanced rating and charging. Licensing could easily be millions. That day has changed. After a very productive discussion, OpenRate has decided to offer again a free GPL version of their open source rating and mediation solution.

Why is an open source rating and mediation solution so important?

Online charging, rating and mediation used to be something that only the most diehard telecom experts could really grasp. There was no need for it outside of the telecom and some other major industries.

However P2P, Mobile Apps, Cloud Computing, M2M, Social Networks, Online Games, Big Data, etc. have brought us VoIP for P2P, In-App Micro Payments & Subscriptions, mCommerce, IaaS, SaaS, PaaS, sensor network event subscription, social commerce, fire hose subscriptions, virtual goods purchases, data set per-event access fees, etc. All of these technologies are exploring new ways of generating money. Unfortunately none is able to afford a €1-€5/license per user per month for a professional solution. At least not from day one. With OpenRate developers, marketers, product managers, etc. are able to explore new frontiers in monetization without any upfront risk. Subscriptions, one-time-fees, pre-paid, real-time charging, discounts, etc. it is all possible now. OpenRate is a very flexible framework in which developers can use what they need.

So if you are incubating a SaaS offering that wants to push the limits of prepaid and subscriptions, an online game with a catalogue of virtual goods, a social network with a cashflow problem, an M2M platform in need of money, an IaaS seller with a large set of configurable parameters, etc. you should be looking at how rating and charging can make you more money…

Of course if you are new to the rating and charging market and want training, consultancy or need a support contract, be sure to check out the OpenRate Commercial Offering. OpenRate is a freemium company that wants to understand your specific needs in order to offer the best possible solutions, so get in contact with them on the OpenRate Linkedin Community Site.

It would be good to see OpenRate be integrated with other Open Source and Freemium solutions, e.g. open source commerce solutions, like OpenCart, could use an advanced SaaS subscriptions and discount management extension, etc. This is an open invitation for developers to let their imagination flow and share it with the rest of us…

Social Niche Marketplaces and SaaSification

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Google App Marketplace was the first marketplace for SaaS. However there has lately been an explosion of SaaS marketplaces. Unfortunately most of them are eCommerce sites that support subscriptions and resell Microsoft 365, some cloud backup and 3 to 5 things more.

Operators that are considering such a me-too marketplace should try harder

There is nothing like an average enterprise customer. Each customer is looking for a unique mix of services. You have innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards. You have self-employed, micro, small, medium and large companies. You have industries. Users are working on different functions within a company (finance, operations, sales, etc.).

However never has it been easier to personalize product portfolios according to market segments, industries, adoption likelihood, usage, etc. Operators should not set-up one marketplace but instead set-up intelligent personalized niche marketplaces. Users can tell you which industry they belong to, what their company size is, what their function is and if they are more eager to use the latest and greatest or if they want a full eco-system with a market leading product. This means that a highly personalized portfolio can be shown instead of a bunch of generalist products.

Why sell different products via different channels?

If you have customers segmented, then ideally all relevant products are presented in one personalized marketplace. Ranging from phones, tablets, mobile apps, SaaS, on-site equipment, advanced consultancy services, support, etc.

Bringing in intelligence and social commerce

The next step is to increase the likelihood of selling a product and cross-selling products. Users like product reviews and ratings. However users love product reviews and ratings from people they trust. What if each product in addition to a general section on product reviews and ratings also has a social review section. The social review section would be like:

  • these contacts from my linkedin network have bought this service
  • these contacts have bought these alternative services
  • their ratings are
  • in addition they also bought these services

How to go from 0 to 1.000.000 products?

Many operators offer services for “the average customer”. The product catalog is relatively small. Few have more than a couple of niche products per industry. Setting up a social niche marketplace is no good if you do not have a large catalog of personalized services to sell.

SaaSification to the rescue. Every industry has a lot of small companies that have build niche products. Most of these products require on-site installations. This means a lot of CAPEX. Often more is spend on buying the hardware, base software, services to maintain the data center, support services, etc. than on the actual software. By offering these small companies a SaaSification solution whereby they can migrate their on-site solution to an operator-hosted SaaS solution, the product catalog can be quickly extended with thousands of niche products. Offering tools to make single-tenant solutions multi-tenant and to make web solutions mobile-enabled, will substantially improve your chances to attrack ISVs.

New SaaS will move from the innovators towards the early adopters, early majority, etc. Early majority products will be niche market leaders, have strict SLAs, a support eco-system, etc. Leading products can be identified by the market. Operators can spot those niche market leading products and offer special deals, even co-branding. This strategy will allow a personalized long tail strategy without the long tail costs…

Thinking differently about monetizing telecom services

January 12, 2012 2 comments

Free, the disruptive French telecom operator and ISV, is changing the rules. Via Femtocell and via controlling the WiFi access points of its customers, Free is planning to offload a lot of mobile traffic via its fiber network. This is translated into very sharply priced mobile calling and data plans. Free’s Founder is telling the telecom industry they should no longer try to make money with communication but focus on identity and payment services.

Free is right to change the rules of the game instead of waiting for non-telecom disruptive players to do so. However what else could Free do to generate extra revenues?

Social Mobile Graph

Facebook is talking about social commerce in which friends, family and colleagues are taking an active role in your buying behaviour. At the moment social networks are either for business reasons, e.g. LinkedIn, or for pleasure, e.g. Facebook. However both need a lot of maintenance effort in which you need to send or accept invites from people who you might have known 20 years ago.

What if your calling and messaging behaviour could take away a lot of this burden? If you call somebody mostly during business hours then this person is likely to be a business contact, especially if other business contacts of yours have the same behaviour. Your addressbook and linkedin could be automatically updated. However you could go a lot further and see which restaurants your direct business contacts call more often. Anonymizing this information and creating public APIs and a marketplace for app developers could lead to a lot of innovative services that can be monetized.

Numbering Plan Apps

The numbering plan is probably one of the most under-used operator assets. However everybody knows how to dial a number. Why not let other people make new numbers, e.g. based on non-existing country codes or using the # or * combinations? People would be able to make premium services for everything from voting, surveys, competitions, money transfers, etc. Putting *120* in front of your number could mean that the caller is paying you 1,20 euros per minute to call you. It is up to you to redirect your number to an application that makes people want to call you. You might have a large numbering app market to choose from. Add a # and a number at the end and you could have thousands of applications behind one number. The operator would get a revenue share.

Call Center as a Service

Call centers are mainly used by large corporations. However small groups of ad-hoc people could benefit from them as well. Ad-hoc software support hot lines in which experts can be freelancers could be of interest to some. But it could even be as simple as housewives that can help you with recipes. As long as rating the participant’s value, dynamic joining and leaving of participants, paying participants a revenue share, configurable participant selection rules, etc. are provided, the applications are limitless.

A lot more

These are just ideas but there are a lot more possibilities that you can implemented. Especially if you can control both the mobile device as well as people’s access point. However the past has shown that trying to get a few people pay a lot of money for a service and operator’s trying to do it all by themselves, have not been successful. Innovation is not only needed in the product domain but also in the business domain. Models that should be explored are:

  • Freemium, whereby most do not pay but get the traffic to your service and only a minority pay for advanced usage. Many examples in the web 2.0, e.g. LinkedIn, Zynga, etc.
  • Long Tail, whereby not only a couple of high paying  groups are targeted but instead thousands of niches are targeted via the use of a general platform or third-party eco-system, e.g. Google Adwords, Facebook Apps, etc.
  • Revenue Share, whereby others get the bulk of the revenue because they take the risk and the operator gets a small share but gets it from a large group of revenue sharers, e.g. Apple’s App Store
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