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Mobile is almost an extension of your body: Michael Smith, SingTel

Michael Smith, SingTel

Michael Smith, Chief Commercial Officer, Group Digital L!fe, SingTel aptly articulated what communication professionals from across the globe view as an opportunity for the industry, when he said that unlike any other device, mobile is almost an extension of one’s body. In its series of Executive Breakfast Briefings, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Singapore has turned the spotlight on Smith to gain insights on how SingTel has focussed on developing mobile beyond a communication device to an engagement platform for its customers. Smith would be in conversation with Anthony Hearne, Regional Manager, Outbrain in this IAB Executive Breakfast Briefing, to be held on June 27.

As is known, communications group SingTel is structured around three key verticals — Group Consumer, Group Digital L!fe and Group Enterprise. Group Digital L!fe focuses on creating growth engines by delighting customers with innovative digital services beyond traditional telephony, mobile, broadband and video offerings. As consumers spend more time on their mobile devices and internet, this behaviour creates immense opportunities to develop compelling products over the mobile and digital platforms – an area that various brands and marketers view closely to truly see mobile’s transition into the medium of the future.

SingTel is amongst the players whose focus on future growth engines is showing results. The company’s business is aligned around areas such as e-commerce, m-commerce, digital entertainment, digital gaming and social communications amongst others. According to Smith, the company’s focus is driven by two factors – the first is where are the real or latent needs from customers, for example finding a place to have dinner. And the second is about identifying opportunities to commercialise. “Whilst we are interested, like all digital companies, in driving scale through active users, there is nothing quite like making money,” Smith says, in a conversation with DMA.

M-commerce, which has been gaining ground in a consumer’s life in various markets, and creating new opportunities for brands, is seeing challenges of its own in markets such as Asia. For many communication professionals, this has become an important area of deliberation. Smith sees three streams of challenges in m-commerce, the first being all about the data. He observes, “Data is increasingly used in profiling customers as they interact when out and about. Where they are, what they do with their phone, what interests them. This helps filter offers and in theory should deliver to the customer meaningful and relevant offers. Mobile truly facilitates this as unlike any other device it is almost an extension of your body. The challenge in this area is privacy and protecting customers and their information. The second challenge is trust. Increasingly this is less of an issue as socially generated content and reviews provide people with comfort but remain a hurdle for the older populous or the uninitiated. The last challenge is how you pay. It is fine if you have a credit card like in the developed economies but in developing markets the ecosystem is underdeveloped and mobile companies can play a role.”

Anthony Hearne, Outbrain

While Hearne would be grilling Smith further on these areas in the IAB Executive Breakfast Briefing, another interesting view that Smith holds is on the famous debate of technology led platforms becoming media companies. For Smith, the strength of a company such as SingTel is not in content creation but in content aggregation and then in the intelligent dissemination of that content. He remarks, “A telco, for me, is not a content generator because that is not the company’s skill. That said, we have some interesting highly aggregated information about our customers that is probably interesting content for some. Aggregating user generated content is also very powerful. The skill is aggregating content and then delivering it in the most natural way at the most meaningful moment. Our team calls this serendipity. If done in the right way, it is, as the word says, surprisingly delightful. And if you get it right, it can go viral and bring repetitiveness.”

Hearne will also discuss with Smith on what’s cooking in the Digital L!fe Kitchen, how does the large iconic local company embrace a startup culture, what is the unique proposition of SingTel Digital L!fe on the debate of where data is going and what does this data debate means for customers and other businesses.