SoftBank: An overstretched telco or a unique innovator?

SoftBank’s history: How it got to where it is

The story of SoftBank’s history – first as a software distribution company, followed by its contribution to the dotcom bubble, and then a gradually expanding telecoms footprint throughout the 2000s – is important because it gives context to its current investment strategy, dubbed the Vision Fund. SoftBank has never been a traditional telco and its outside perspective helped it to shake up the Japanese telecoms market. The Vision Fund’s ambition stretches far beyond telecoms, with an aim to transform all industries through the adoption and advancement of artificial intelligence (AI). Will this unique approach enable SoftBank to weather the softwarisation of telecoms, which will likely be accelerated by the newest Japanese entrant Rakuten, better than others?

Figure 1: SoftBank’s evolution

SoftBank's evolution 1981 - 2019

Source: SoftBank Group annual report 2019

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The early days: Software distribution

Founded by Masayoshi Son in 1981, SoftBank began not as a telecoms operator but as a software distributor. Son had recognized an important niche in the Japanese market: while computer hardware manufacturers were having issues sourcing quality software to run on their machines, software makers lacked the cash to properly advertise their products. As a distributor, Son acted as a matchmaker between computer software and hardware companies. Though exclusivity agreements with Japan’s major hardware vendors, SoftBank’s monthly sales reached US$2.4 million by the end of its first year of operation.

Not satisfied with a sole focus on software distribution, just six months after starting the software business, Son branched out into the computer magazine publishing segment, eventually producing over 20 periodicals. Son used his magazines to advertise the software products SoftBank was distributing. Right from the start, he aimed to create value through exploiting synergies across different business units.

In 1990, SoftBank also branched out into trade shows, acquiring Ziff Communication’s trade show division for $200 million and then, in 1995, the COMDEX trade show from the Interface group for an eyebrow-raising $800 million, taking on $500 million in debt. Later that year, SoftBank cemented its status as a leader in computer-magazine publishing, investing $2.1 billion in Ziff-Davis Publishing, making SoftBank the largest PC magazine distributor in the world. To finance this, SoftBank Group added $1 billion in debt and issued $649 million in new shares (SoftBank having gone public on the Tokyo Stock exchange in 1995, at a $3 billion valuation). It is clear from the beginning that SoftBank was not averse to accruing sizeable debt liabilities to finance strategic acquisitions.

SoftBank’s Internet pivot

SoftBank’s defining play in the 1990s was a pivot towards Internet services. Believing that the Internet would be the next technological revolution – eclipsing the invention of the personal computer – SoftBank made a dizzying number of investments in Internet companies. Many of these investments were made indirectly through a network of SoftBank venture capital funds, mainly overseen by SoftBank Investment Corp, which managed $5.25 billion worth of funds by 2000; SoftBank itself contributed over $2 billion. The investments included big name sites in e-commerce and e-finance, notably GeoCities, Yahoo!, ZD Net, e-buy-com, E-loan and E* TRADE Group.

The dotcom bust

SoftBank was heavily invested in – and therefore heavily exposed to – Internet stocks. Moreover, with a reputation as the largest investor in the world, owning as much as 25% of cyberspace by value at its peak, SoftBank became regarded by the market as fundamentally an Internet company. At the height of the dotcom bubble in February 2000, SoftBank’s market cap soared to $180 billion, far exceeding the equity value of the stakes in its subsidiaries and affiliates.

The dotcom bubble began to burst by early March 2000. Between SoftBank’s peak market cap in late February 2000, and its low point two years later, SoftBank lost over 95% of its market value. Masayoshi Son lost $70 billion of personal wealth during the crash. Many of SoftBank’s Internet investments had to be written-off entirely, including dotcom big names such as Webvan, Kozmo.com and Global Crossing – the latter filing one of the largest bankruptcies in corporate history.

However, across the graveyard of dotcom duds, SoftBank made several investments which delivered extraordinarily high returns. One resulted from a $20 million pledge Son made to Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, in January 2000. According to Ma, Son made the investment without first inspecting Alibaba’s business model or revenue stream, but rather based on Son’s impression of Ma. The Alibaba investment would turn out to be one of the most successful in history. Moreover, SoftBank’s investment in Yahoo! was still fruitful relative to Son’s initial pledge, despite falling foul of the dotcom bust. This is testimony to the efficacy of Son’s ability to adapt US companies to meet the needs of the Japanese market, delivering growth long past the NASDAQ stock crash. It is also one of the key reasons why SoftBank was able to attract nearly $100bn of investment for its Vision Fund in 2017.

Does SoftBank’s approach work for telecoms?

SoftBank Group is deeply tied to its charismatic CEO Masayoshi Son’s grand visions about how new technologies such as the Internet, the Internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) will transform the world. Son’s ambition to play a key role in driving the development of these technologies has led SoftBank to achieve some remarkable successes – notably an early investment in Alibaba and building a successful Japanese telecoms business – and survive some major setbacks, such as the dotcom crash and, more recently, the WeWork scandal.

The key question for telecoms operators is whether SoftBank’s telecoms assets gain any competitive advantage from being a part of SoftBank Group. Since SoftBank took ownership of Vodafone KK in Japan in 2006 and Sprint in 2013, both telecoms operators have become more profitable. While SoftBank’s stake in Yahoo Japan and willingness to take risks have contributed to success, neither operator is really exceptional in the way they manage their core business.

Table of contents

  • Executive summary
  • SoftBank’s history: How it got to where it is
    • The early days: SoftBank the software distributor
    • SoftBank’s move into telecoms
  • Masayoshi Son’s 300-year plan: Sprint, Arm and the Vision Fund
    • Sprint: SoftBank’s move into US telecoms
    • Arm: Hardware and IoT are the foundations of AI
    • The Vision Fund
  • Can SoftBank pull off its grand plans?
    • Internal risks: Cracks beneath the surface
    • External risks: Rakuten goes after SoftBank’s core
  • Conclusions

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Personal data: Treasure or trash?

Introduction

This report analyses how the Telefónica Group is looking to reshape the digital services market so that both telcos and individuals play a greater role in the management of personal data. Today, most Internet users share large amounts of personal information with the major online platforms: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Tencent and Alibaba. In many cases, this process is implicit and somewhat opaque – the subject of the personal data isn’t fully aware of what information they have shared or how it is being used. For example, Facebook users may not be aware that the social network tracks their location and can, in some cases, trace a link between offline purchases and its online advertising.

Beyond the tactical deployment of personal data to personalise their services and advertising, the major Internet players increasingly use behavioural data captured by their services to train machine learning systems how to perform specific tasks, such as identify the subject of an image or the best response to an incoming message. Over time, the development of this kind of artificial intelligence will enable much greater levels of automation saving both consumers and companies time and money.

Like many players in the digital economy and some policymakers, Telefónica is concerned that artificial intelligence will be subject to a winner-takes-all dynamic, ultimately stifling competition and innovation. The danger is that the leading Internet platforms’ unparalleled access to behavioural data will enable them to develop the best artificial intelligence systems, giving them an unassailable advantage over newcomers to the digital economy.

This report analyses Telefónica’s response to this strategic threat, as well as examining the actions of NTT DOCOMO, another telco that has sought to break the stranglehold of the Internet platforms on personal data. Finally, it considers whether Mint, a web service that has succeeded in persuading millions of Americans to share very detailed financial information, could be a model for telco’s personal data propositions.

As well as revisiting some of the strategic themes raised in STL Partners’ 2013 digital commerce strategy report, this report builds on the analysis in three recent STL Partners’ executive briefings that explore the role of telcos in digital commerce:

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In pursuit of personal cloud services

For the best part of a decade, STL Partners has been calling for telcos to give customers greater control over their personal data. In doing so, telcos could differentiate themselves from most of the major Internet players in the eyes of both consumers and regulators. But now, the entire digital economy is moving in this direction, partly because the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires companies operating in the EU to give consumers more control and partly because of the outcry over the cavalier data management practices of some Internet players, particularly Facebook.

In a world in which everyone is talking about protecting personal data and privacy, is there still scope for telcos to differentiate themselves and strengthen their relationships with consumers?

In a strategy report published in October 2013, STL Partners argued that there were two major strategic opportunities for telcos in the digital commerce space:

  1. Real-time commerce enablement: The use of mobile technologies and services to optimise all aspects of commerce. For example, mobile networks can deliver precisely targeted and timely marketing and advertising to consumer’s smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions.
  2. Personal cloud: Act as a trusted custodian for individuals’ data and an intermediary between individuals and organisations, providing authentication services, digital lockers and other services that reduce the risk and friction in every day interactions. An early example of this kind of service is financial services web site Mint.com (profiled in this report). As personal cloud services provide personalised recommendations based on individuals’ authorised data, they could potentially engage much more deeply with consumers than the generalised decision-support services, such as Google, TripAdvisor, moneysavingexpert.com and comparethemarket.com, in widespread use today.

Back in October 2013, STL Partners saw those two opportunities as inter-related — they could be combined in a single platform. The report argued that telcos should start with mobile commerce, where they have the strongest strategic position, and then use the resulting data, customer relationships and trusted brand to expand into personal cloud services, which will require high levels of investment.

Today, telcos’ traction in mobile commerce remains limited — only a handful of telcos, such as Safaricom, Turkcell, KDDI and NTT Docomo, have really carved out a significant position in this space. Although most telcos haven’t been able or willing to follow suit, they could still pursue the personal cloud value proposition outlined in the 2013 report. For consumers, effective personal cloud services will save time and money. The ongoing popularity of web comparison and review services, such as comparethemarket.com, moneysavingexpert.com and TripAdvisor, suggests that consumers continue to turn to intermediaries to help through them cut through the “marketing noise” on the Internet. But these existing services provide limited personalisation and can’t necessarily join the dots across different aspects of an individual’s lives. For example, TripAdvisor isn’t necessarily aware that a user is a teacher and can only take a vacation during a school holiday.

STL Partners believes there is latent demand for trusted and secure online services that act primarily on behalf of individuals, providing tailored advice, information and offers. This kind of personal cloud could evolve into a kind of vendor relationship management service, using information supplied by the individual to go and source the most appropriate products and services.

The broker could analyse a combination of declared, observed and inferred data in a way that is completely transparent to the individual. This data should be used primarily to save consumers time and give them relevant information that will enrich their lives. Instead of just putting the spotlight on the best price, as comparison web sites do, personal cloud services should put the spotlight on the ‘right’ product or service for the individual.

Ideally, a mature personal cloud service will enrich consumers’ lives by enabling them to quickly discover products, services and places that are near perfect or perfect for them. Rather than having to conduct hours of research or settle for second-best, the individual should be able to use the service to find exactly the right product or service in a few minutes. For example, an entertainment service might alert you to a concert by an upcoming band that fits closely with your taste in music, while a travel site will know you like quiet, peaceful hotels with sea views and recommend places that meet that criteria.

As a personal cloud service will need to be as useful as possible to consumers, it will need to attract as many merchants and brands as possible. In 2013, STL Partners argued that telcos could do that by offering merchants and brands a low risk proposition: they will be able to register to have their products and services included in the personal cloud for free and they will only have to pay commission if the consumer actually purchases one of their products and services. In the first few years, in order to persuade merchants and brands to actually use the site the personal cloud will have to charge a very low commission and, in some cases, none at all.

Since October 2013, much has changed. But the personal cloud opportunity is still valid and some telcos continue to explore how they can get closer to consumers. One of the most prominent of these is Madrid-based Telefónica, which has operations in much of Europe and across Latin America. The next chapter outlines Telefónica’s strategy in the personal data domain.

Contents:

  • Executive Summary
  • Recommendations for telcos
  • Introduction
  • In pursuit of personal cloud services
  • Telefonica’s personal data strategy
  • Questioning the status quo
  • Backing blockchains
  • Takeaways
  • What is Telefónica actually doing?
  • The Aura personal assistant
  • Takeaways
  • Telefonica’s external bets
  • Investment in Wibson
  • Partnership with People.io
  • The Data Transparency Lab
  • Takeaways
  • Will Telefónica see financial benefits?
  • Takeaways
  • What can Telefónica learn from DOCOMO?
  • DOCOMO’s Evolving Strategy
  • Takeaways
  • Mint – a model for a telco personal data play?
  • Takeaways

Figures:

  • Figure 1: Telefónica’s tally of active users of the major apps
  • Figure 2: Telefónica’s view of digital market openness in Brazil
  • Figure 3: Investors’ valuation of Internet platforms implies long-term dominance
  • Figure 4: Key metrics for Telefónica’s four platforms
  • Figure 5: How Wibson intends to allow individuals to trade their data
  • Figure 6: Telefónica’s digital services business is growing steadily
  • Figure 7: Telefónica’s pay TV business continues to expand
  • Figure 8: DOCOMO’s Smart Life division has struggle to grow
  • Figure 9: NTT DOCOMO’s new strategy puts more emphasis on enablers
  • Figure 10: DOCOMO continues to pursue the concept of a personal assistant
  • Figure 11: DOCOMO is using personal data to enable new financial services
  • Figure 12: Mint provides users with advice on how to manage their money
  • Figure 13: Intuit sees Mint as a strategically important engagement tool

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Facebook: Telcos’ New Best Friend?

How Facebook is changing

A history of adaptation

One of the things that sets Facebook apart from its largely defunct predecessors, such as MySpace, Geocities and Friends Reunited, is its ability to adapt to the evolution of the Internet and consumer behaviour. In its decade-long history, Facebook has evolved from a text-heavy, PC-based experience used by American students into a world-leading digital communications and commerce platform used by people of all ages. The basic student matchmaking service Zuckerberg and his fellow Harvard students created in 2004 now matches buyers and sellers in competition with Google, Amazon and eBay (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: From student matchmaking service to a leading digital commerce platform

Source: Zuckerberg’s Facebook page and Facebook investor relations

Launched in early 2004, Facebook initially served as a relatively basic directory with photos and limited communications functionality for Harvard students only. In the spring of 2004, it began to expand to other universities, supported by seed funding from Peter Thiel (co-founder of Paypal). In September 2005, Facebook was opened up to the employees of some technology companies, including Apple and Microsoft. By the end of 2005, it had reached five million users.

Accel Partners invested US$12.7 million in the company in May 2005 and Greylock Partners and others followed this up with another US$27.5 million in March 2006. The additional investment enabled Facebook to expand rapidly. During 2006, it added the hugely popular newsfeed and the share functions and opened up the registration process to anyone. By December 2006, Facebook had 12 million users.

The Facebook Platform was launched in 2007, enabling affiliate sites and developers to interact and create applications for the social network. In a far-sighted move, Microsoft invested US$240 million in October 2007, taking a 1.6% stake and valuing Facebook at US$15 billion. By August 2008, Facebook had 100 million users.

Achieving the 100 million user milestone appears to have given Facebook ‘critical mass’ because at that point growth accelerated dramatically. The company doubled its user base to 200 million in nine months (May 2009) and has continued to grow at a similar rate since then.

As usage continue to grow rapidly, it was increasingly clear that Facebook could erode Google’s dominant position in the Internet advertising market. In June 2011, Google launched the Google + social network – the latest move in a series of efforts by the search giant to weaken Facebook’s dominance of the social networking market. But, like its predecessors, Google+ has had little impact on Facebook.

2012-2013 – the paranoid years

Although Facebook shrugged off the challenge from Google+, the rapid rise of the mobile Internet did cause the social network to wobble in 2012. The service, which had been designed for use on desktop PCs, didn’t work so well on mobile devices, both in terms of providing a compelling user experience and achieving monetisation. Realising Facebook could be disrupted by the rise of the mobile Internet, Zuckerberg belatedly called a mass staff meeting and announced a “mobile first” strategy in early 2012.

In an IPO filing in February 2012, Facebook acknowledged it wasn’t sure it could effectively monetize mobile usage without alienating users. “Growth in use of Facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently display ads, as a substitute for use on personal computers may negatively affect our revenue and financial results,” it duly noted in the filing.

Although usage of Facebook continued to rise on both the desktop and the mobile, there was increasing speculation that it could be superseded by a more mobile-friendly service, such as fast-growing photo-sharing service Instagram. Zuckerberg’s reaction was to buy Instagram for US$1 billion in April 2012 (a bargain compared with the $21 billion plus Facebook paid for WhatsApp less than two years later).

Moreover, Facebook did figure out how to monetise its mobile usage. Cautiously at first, it began embedding adverts into consumers’ newsfeeds, so that they were difficult to ignore. Although Facebook and some commentators worried that consumers would find these adverts annoying, the newsfeed ads have proven to be highly effective and Facebook continued to grow. In October 2012, now a public company, Facebook triumphantly announced it had one billion active users, with 604 million of them using the mobile site.

Even so, Facebook spent much of 2013 tinkering and experimenting with changes to the user experience. For example, it altered the design of the newsfeed making the images bigger and adding in new features. But some commentators complained that the changes made the site more complicated and confusing, rather than simplifying it for mobile users equipped with a relatively small screen. In April 2013, Facebook tried a different tack, launching Facebook Home, a user interface layer for Android-compatible phones that provides a replacement home screen.

And Zuckerberg continued to worry about upstart mobile-orientated competitors. In November 2013, a number of news outlets reported that Facebook offered to buy Snapchat, which enables users to send messages that disappear after a set period, for US$3 billion. But the offer was turned down.

A few months later, Facebook announced it was acquiring the popular mobile messaging app WhatsApp for what amounted to more than US$21 billion at the time of completion.

In 2014 – going on the offensive

By acquiring WhatsApp at great expense, Facebook alleviated immediate concerns that the social network could be dislodged by another disruptor, freeing up Zuckerberg to turn his attention to new technologies and new markets. The acquisition also put to rest investors’ immediate fears that Facebook could be superseded by a more fashionable, dedicated mobile service, pushing up the share price (see the section on Facebook’s valuation). In May 2014, Facebook wrong-footed many industry watchers and some of its rivals by announcing it had agreed to acquire Oculus VR, Inc., a leading virtual reality company, for US$2 billion in cash and stock.

Zuckerberg has since described the WhatsApp and Oculus acquisitions as “big bets on the next generation of communication and computing platforms.” And Facebook is also investing heavily in organic expansion, increasing its headcount by 45% in 2014, while opening another data center in Altoona, Iowa.

Zuckerberg also continues to devote time and attention to Internet.org, a multi-company initiative to bring free basic Internet services to people who aren’t connected. Announced in August 2013, Internet.org has since launched free basic internet services in six developing countries. For example, in February 2015, Facebook and Reliance Communications launched Internet.org in India. As a result, Reliance customers in six Indian states (Tamil Nadu, Mahararashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Telangana) now have access to about 40 services ranging from news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information.

Zuckerberg said that more than 150 million people now have the option to connect to the internet using Internet.org, and the initiative had, so far, succeeded in connecting seven million people to the internet who didn’t before have access. “2015 is going to be an important year for our long term plans,” he noted.

The Facebook exception – no fear, more freedom

Although it is now listed, Facebook is clearly not a typical public company. Its massive lead in the social networking market has given it an unusual degree of freedom. Zuckerberg has a controlling stake in the social network (he is able to exercise voting rights with respect to a majority of the voting power of the outstanding capital stock) and the self-confidence to ignore any grumblings on Wall Street. Facebook is able to make acquisitions most other companies couldn’t contemplate and can continue to put Zuckerberg’s long-term objectives ahead of those of short-term shareholders. Like Amazon, Facebook frequently reminds investors that it isn’t trying to maximise short-term profitability. And unlike Amazon, Facebook may not even be trying to maximize long-term profitability.

On Facebook’s quarterly earning calls, Zuckerberg likes to talk about Facebook’s broad, long-term aims, without explaining clearly how fulfilling these objectives will make the company money. “In the next decade, Facebook is focused on our mission to connect the entire world, welcoming billions of people to our community and connecting many more people to the internet through Internet.org (see Figure 2),” he said in the January 2015 earnings call. “Similar to our transition to mobile over the last couple of years, now we want to really focus on serving everyone in the world.”

Figure 2: Zuckerberg is pushing hard for the provision of basic Internet services

Source: Facebook.com

Not all of the company’s investors are entirely comfortable with this mission. On that earnings call, one analyst asked Zuckerberg: “Mark, I think during your remarks in every earnings call, you talk to your investors for a considerable amount of time about Facebook’s efforts to connect the world, and specifically about Internet.org which suggest you think this is important to investors. Can you clarify why you think this matters to investors?”

Zuckerberg’s response: “It matters to the kind of investors that we want to have, because we are really a mission-focused company. We wake up every day and make decisions because we want to help connect the world. That’s what we’re doing here.

“Part of the subtext of your question is that, yes, if we were only focused on making money, we might put all of our energy on just increasing ads to people in the US and the other most developed countries. But that’s not the only thing that we care about here.

“I do think that over the long term, that focusing on helping connect everyone will be a good business opportunity for us, as well. We may not be able to tell you exactly how many years that’s going to happen in. But as these countries get more connected, the economies grow, the ad markets grow, and if Facebook and the other services in our community, or the number one, and number two, three, four, five services that people are using, then over time we will be compensated for some of the value that we’ve provided. This is why we’re here. We’re here because our mission is to connect the world. I just think it’s really important that investors know that.”

Takeaways

Facebook may be a public company, but it doesn’t worry much about shareholders’ short-term aspirations. It often behaves like a private company that is focused first and foremost on fulfilling the goals of its founder. It is clear Zuckerberg is playing the long game. But it isn’t clear what yardsticks he is using to measure success. Although Zuckerberg knows Facebook needs to be profitable enough to ensure investors’ continued support, his primary goal may be to bring hundreds of millions more people online and secure his place in posterity. There is a danger that Zuckerberg’s focus on connecting people in Africa and developing Asia means that there won’t be sufficient top management attention on the multi-faceted digital commerce struggle with Google in North America and Western Europe.

Financials and business model

Network effects still strong

Within that wider mission to connect the world, Facebook continues to do a great job of connecting people to Facebook. Fuelled by network effects, Facebook says that 1.39 billion people now use Facebook each month (see Figure 3) and 890 million people use the service daily, an increase of 165 million monthly active users and 133 million daily active users in 2014. In developed markets, many consumers use Facebook as a primary medium for communications, relying on it to send messages, organize events and relay their news. As a result, in parts of Europe and North America, adults without a Facebook account are increasingly considered eccentric.

Figure 3: Facebook’s user base continues to grow rapidly

Source: Facebook and STL Partners analysis

Having said that, some active users are clearly more active and valuable than others. In a regulatory filing, Facebook admits that some active users may, in fact, be bots: “Some of our metrics have also been affected by applications on certain mobile devices that automatically contact our servers for regular updates with no user action involved, and this activity can cause our system to count the user associated with such a device as an active user on the day such contact occurs. The impact of this automatic activity on our metrics varied by geography because mobile usage varies in different regions of the world.”

This automatic polling of Facebook’s servers by mobile devices makes it difficult to judge the true value of the social network’s user base. Anecdotal evidence suggests many people with Facebook profiles are kept active on Facebook primarily by their smartphone apps, rather than because they are actively choosing to use the service. Still, Facebook would argue that these people are seeing the notifications on their mobile devices and are, therefore, at least partially engaged.

 

  • Executive Summary
  • How Facebook is changing
  • A history of adaptation
  • The Facebook exception – no fear, more freedom
  • Financials and business model
  • Growth prospects for the core business
  • User growth
  • Monetisation – better targeting, higher prices
  • Mobile advertising spend lags behind usage
  • The Facebook Platform – Beyond the Walled Garden
  • Multimedia – taking on YouTube
  • Search – challenging Google’s core business
  • Enabling transactions – moving beyond advertising
  • Virtual reality – a long-term game
  • Takeaways
  • Threats and risks
  • Facebook fatigue
  • Google – Facebook enemy number one
  • Privacy concerns
  • Wearables and the Internet of Things
  • Local commerce – in need of a map
  • Facebook and communication services
  • Conclusions
  • Facebook is spread too thin
  • Partnering with Facebook – why and how
  • Competing with Facebook – why and how

 

  • Figure 1: From student matchmaking service to a leading digital commerce platform
  • Figure 2: Zuckerberg is pushing hard for the provision of basic Internet services
  • Figure 3: Facebook’s user base continues to grow rapidly
  • Figure 4: Facebook’s revenue growth has accelerated in the past two years
  • Figure 5: Facebook’s ARPU has risen sharply in the past two years
  • Figure 6: After wobbling in 2012, investors’ belief in Facebook has strengthened
  • Figure 7: Despite a rebound, Facebook’s valuation per user is still below its peak
  • Figure 8: Facebook could be serving 2.3 billion people by 2020
  • Figure 9: Share of digital advertising – Facebook is starting to close the gap on Google but remains a long way behind
  • Figure 10: The gap between click through rates for search and social remains substantial
  • Figure 11: Social networks’ revenue per click is rising but remains 40% of search
  • Figure 12: Facebook’s advertising has moved from the right column to centre stage
  • Figure 13: Facebook’s startling mobile advertising growth
  • Figure 14: Zynga’s share price reflects decline of Facebook.com as an app platform
  • Figure 15 – Facebook Connect – an integral part of the Facebook Platform
  • Figure 16: Leading Internet players’ share of social log-ins over time
  • Figure 17: Facebook’s personalised search proposition
  • Figure 18: Facebook’s new buy button – embedded in a newsfeed post
  • Figure 19: The rise and rise of Android – not good for Facebook
  • Figure 21: Facebook and Google are both heavily associated with privacy issues
  • Figure 22: Facebook wants to conquer the Wheel of Digital Commerce
  • Figure 23: Facebook’s cash flow is far behind that of Google and Apple
  • Figure 24: Facebook’s capital expenditure is relatively modest compared with peers
  • Figure 25: Facebook’s capex/revenue ratio has been high but is falling

 

Apple Pay & Weve Fail: A Wake Up Call

Mobile payments: Now is the time

After many years of trials, pilots and uncertainty, the mobile industry is now making a major push to enable consumers to use their mobile phones to complete transactions in stores and other merchant venues. This year is shaping up to be a pivotal year with a number of major launches of commercial mobile payment services involving device makers, mobile operators, the payment networks and retailers.

Crucially, Apple’s move to add Near Field Communications (NFC) – a short-range communications technology – to iPhone 6 has vindicated the telecoms industry’s ongoing push to make NFC a de facto standard for mobile proximity payments. Although sceptics (including Apple executives) have previously derided the cost and complexity of the technology, Vodafone, Orange, China Mobile and other major telcos have continued to develop digital commerce propositions based on the technology.

Apple’s U-turn on NFC has changed the sentiment around the technology dramatically and given the industry a clear sense of direction. Just a year ago, research firms, such as Gartner and Juniper, scaled back their forecasts for the use of mobile handsets to complete transactions in-store, primarily because Apple didn’t include a NFC chip in the iPhone 5.

The widespread use of NFC in stores will add fuel to the mobile payments market which is already growing rapidly.  Some analysts are predicting mobile phones will be used to make transactions totalling more than US$721 billion worldwide by 2017 up from US$235 billion in 2013 (see Figure 1). Note, these figures include both remote/online and proximity/in-store transactions.

Figure 1: Global mobile payment transaction forecasts

Figure 1 - Global mobile payment transaction forecasts

Source: Gartner; Goldman Sachs (via Statista)

Although most consumers are happy paying in store using either cash or payment cards, there are two major reasons why mobile payments are gaining momentum in an increasingly digital economy:

  • Consumers will want to be able to receive and redeem offers, vouchers and loyalty points using their smartphones. A mobile payment service would enable them to do this in a straightforward way.
  • Mobile payments will generate valuable transaction data that could and should (with the consumer’s permission) be used to make highly personalised recommendations and offers.

In other words, mobile payments are an essential element of a compelling integrated digital commerce proposition.

The role of telcos

Although the big picture for mobile payments is improving, telcos are in danger of being side-lined in developed countries in this strategically important sector. (NB See the STL Partners Strategy Report, Digital Commerce 2.0: New $50bn Disruptive Opportunities for Telcos, Banks and Technology Players for a detailed study of how telcos could disrupt the key digital commerce brokers: Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook.) In recent weeks, telcos’ efforts to lead the development of the mobile payments market suffered two major setbacks. Firstly, Apple’s fully formed mobile payments solution, called Apple Pay, effectively cuts telcos out of the mobile payments business in the Apple ecosystem.

Secondly, it emerged that Weve, the ground-breaking mobile commerce joint venture between U.K. mobile operators, has pulled back from plans to facilitate payments (in addition to its existing role of delivering targeted offers to UK mobile users).  As a rare example of a well thought through collaborative venture between mobile operators, Weve had been a promising initiative that could provide a playbook for collaboration among mobile operators in other developed markets. But Weve’s change of course suggests that mobile operators are still struggling to collaborate effectively in the digital commerce market.

Rewriting the Mobile Payments Playbook

The Apple Pay proposition

Unveiled along with the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch in September, Apple Pay is an end-to-end mobile payments proposition developed by Apple. On the device side, the basic technical architecture is similar to that advocated by major telcos via the industry group the GSMA – the short-range wireless technology Near Field Communications (NFC) is used to transfer payment data from the device to the point of sale terminal, while a secure element (a segregated memory chip) is used to protect sensitive information from being hacked or corrupted by third-party apps. However, rather than using telcos’ SIM cards as a secure element, Apple has added its own dedicated piece of hardware to the iPhone 6 and bolstered security further with a fingerprint scanner.

Already used to organise boarding passes, tickets, coupons and other collateral, Apple’s Passbook acts as the primary interface for the Apple Pay service. In other words, Passbook is now a fully-fledged mobile wallet. Thanks to its iTunes service, Apple already has hundreds of millions of consumers’ credit and debit card details on file. These consumers can add a compatible payment card stored on iTunes to Passbook simply by entering the card security code. Alternatively, they can use the iPhone camera to scan a payment card into a handset or type in the details manually. If the consumer stores more than one card, Passbook allows them to change the default payment card that appears when they are about to make a transaction.

 

Figure 2: Apple has made it easy to add payment cards to Passbook

Figure 2 - Apple has made it easy to add payment cards to Passbook

Source: Apple

To make a payment in a store, the consumer simply holds their iPhone next to a NFC-enabled reader (attached to a point of sale terminal) with their finger on the handset’s Touch ID – the fingerprint reader embedded into the latest iPhones (see Figure 3). Unlike some mobile payment solutions, the consumer doesn’t need to open an app or enter a PIN code. The iPhone vibrates and beeps once the payment information has been sent. In this case, the payment information is protected by three layers of security: More than any existing mainstream mobile payments solution, including the SIM-secured NFC payments touted by telcos. These three layers are

  • Rather than transferring actual payment card details, Apple Pay transfers so-called tokens: a device-specific account number, together with a one-time security code.
  • These tokens are encrypted and stored on a secure element inside the iPhone – memory that is ring-fenced from access by any app other than Passbook. They aren’t stored on Apple’s servers, so are protected from online hacking.
  • The payment only happens if the Touch ID system recognises the consumer’s fingerprint, proving the consumer’s was in the store.

Figure 3: The consumer is authenticated via iPhone’s fingerprint scanner

Figure 3: The consumer is authenticated via the iPhone's fingerprint scanner

Source: Apple

If the consumer is using an Apple Watch, which also has a NFC chip and a secure element, they hold the face of the watch near the reader and double-click a button on the side of the watch. As the range of NFC is just a few centimetres, consumers will have to hold the face of their watch against the reader. This step doesn’t sound very intuitive and may cause confusion in stores.

Again, a vibration and beep confirm the transfer of the payment information. Note, the watch needs to have been linked to an iPhone with a compatible payment card stored in a Passbook app. Although Apple Watch isn’t equipped with the Touch ID fingerprint scanner in the iPhone, it does have alternative security mechanisms built in. Apple Watch is equipped with a biosensor that can detect when the watch is taken off and lock its payment function, according to a report by NFC World. Apparently, consumers will have to enter a code to re-enable the payment function when they put the handset back on.  These extra steps suggest making payments using Apple Watch will be more cumbersome and potentially less secure than using an iPhone 6 to make a payment.

 

Figure 4: You double-click a button to confirm a payment with Apple Watch

Figure 4 - You double-click a button to confirm a payment with Apple Watch

Source: Apple

Apple Pay can also be used to make online payments in compatible apps and this is how many consumers are likely to try the service initially. Apple said that several merchants, including Disney, Starbucks, Target and Uber, have adapted their apps to accept Apple Pay transactions (see Figure 5). In this case, the consumer selects Apple Pay and then places their finger on the Touch ID interface. Note, enabling online payments is an area that has been neglected by many telcos in developed countries targeting this market, but support for remote payments is an essential component of any holistic digital commerce solution  – consumers won’t want to use different digital wallets online and offline.

 

Figure 4: Various apps allow consumers to make payments via Apple Pay

 

Figure 5 - Various apps allow consumers to make payments via Apple Pay

 Source: Apple

If a consumer loses their iPhone, then they can use the Find My iPhone service to put their device into “lost mode” or they can opt to wipe the handset. The next time the iPhone goes online, it will be frozen or wiped, depending on the option the consumer selected. Note, this feature negates one of the advantages of using a SIM card, which can also be wiped remotely by a telco, as a secure element.

Although the consumer’s most recent purchases will be viewable in Passbook, Apple says it won’t save consumer’s transaction information. This is in stark contrast to the approach taken by Apple’s own iTunes service and Amazon, for example, which uses a consumer’s transaction history to make personalised product and service recommendations. With Apple Pay, it seems a consumer will only be able to check historic transactions by looking at their bank statements.

The big guns in the U.S. financial services industry are supporting Apple Pay – consumers can use credit and debit cards from the three major payment networks, American Express, MasterCard and Visa, issued by a range of leading banks, including Bank of America, Capital One Bank, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo, representing 83% of credit card purchase volume in the US, according to Apple, which says additional banks, including Barclaycard, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC Bank, USAA and U.S. Bank, are also planning to sign up. This is a much greater level of participation than that achieved by Softcard (formerly known as Isis), the mobile commerce joint venture between U.S. telcos AT&T Mobile, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA (see next section for more on Softcard).

Apple says that more than 220,000 bricks and mortar stores will accept Apple Pay transactions. Some of the participating retailers include leading brands, such as McDonalds, Stables, Subway, ToysRUs and Walgreens. However, the retailers in the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) consortium, which is developing its own mobile commerce proposition, have not signed up to accept Apple Pay. These retailers include major players, such as WalMart, Best-Buy, 7-11, Gap and Sears. (See next section for more on MCX). Although only a handful of apps are supporting Apple Pay today, that number is likely to grow rapidly, as many consumers will find it easier to press the Touch ID than to type in a password.

To access the rest of this 28 page Telco 2.0 Report in full, including…

  • Introduction
  • Executive Summary
  • Mobile payments: Now is the time
  • Rewriting the Mobile Payments Playbook
  • The Apple Pay proposition
  • Will Apple Pay be a success? 
  • The implications of Apple Pay for telcos
  • The Weve U-Turn
  • How Weve broke new ground
  • Weve’s shareholders break ranks
  • Weve pulls back
  • Conclusions and recommendations

…and the following report figures…

  • Figure 1: Forecasts for the value of mobile proximity payments in the U.S 
  • Figure 2: Apple has made it easy to add payment cards to Passbook
  • Figure 3: The consumer is authenticated via the iPhone’s fingerprint scanner
  • Figure 4: You double-click a button to confirm a payment with Apple Watch
  • Figure 5: Various apps allow consumers to make payments via Apple Pay
  • Figure 6: MCX’s approach to security
  • Figure 7: Apple’s shrinking share of the global smartphone market
  • Figure 8: The Softcard wallet enables consumers to filter offers by their location
  • Figure 9: The virtuous circle Weve was aiming to create
  • Figure 10: Everything Everywhere’s Cash on Tap app is clunky to use

 

Mobile Marketing and Commerce: the technology battle between NFC, BLE, SIM, & Cloud

Introduction

In this briefing, we analyse the bewildering array of technologies being deployed in the on-going mobile marketing and commerce land-grab. With different digital commerce brokers backing different technologies, confusion reigns among merchants and consumers, holding back uptake. Moreover, the technological fragmentation is limiting economies of scale, keeping costs too high.

This paper is designed to help telcos and other digital commerce players make the right technological bets. Will bricks and mortar merchants embrace NFC or Bluetooth Low Energy or cloud-based solutions? If NFC does take off, will SIM cards or trusted execution environments be used to secure services? Should digital commerce brokers use SMS, in-app notifications or IP-based messaging services to interact with consumers?

STL defines Digital Commerce 2.0 as the use of new digital and mobile technologies to bring buyers and sellers together more efficiently and effectively (see Digital Commerce 2.0: New $Bn Disruptive Opportunities for Telcos, Banks and Technology Players).  Fast growing adoption of mobile, social and local services is opening up opportunities to provide consumers with highly-relevant advertising and marketing services, underpinned by secure and easy-to-use payment services. By giving people easy access to information, vouchers, loyalty points and electronic payment services, smartphones can be used to make shopping in bricks and mortar stores as interactive as shopping through web sites and mobile apps.

This executive briefing weighs the pros and cons of the different technologies being used to enable mobile commerce and identifies the likely winners and losers.

A new dawn for digital commerce

This section explains the driving forces behind the mobile commerce land-grab and the associated technology battle.

Digital commerce is evolving fast, moving out of the home and the office and onto the street and into the store. The advent of mass-market smartphones with touchscreens, full Internet browsers and an array of feature-rich apps, is turning out to be a game changer that profoundly impacts the way in which people and businesses buy and sell.  As they move around, many consumers are now using smartphones to access social, local and mobile (SoLoMo) digital services and make smarter purchase decisions. As they shop, they can easily canvas opinion via Facebook, read product reviews on Amazon or compare prices across multiple stores. In developed markets, this phenomenon is now well established. Two thirds of 400 Americans surveyed in November 2013 reported that they used smartphones in stores to compare prices, look for offers or deals, consult friends and search for product reviews.

At the same time, the combination of Internet and mobile technologies, embodied in the smartphone, is enabling businesses to adopt new forms of digital marketing, retailing and payments that could dramatically improve their efficiency and effectiveness. The smartphones and the data they generate can be used to optimise and enable every part of the entire ‘wheel of commerce’ (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: The elements that make up the wheel of commerce

The elements that make up the wheel of commerce Feb 2014

Source: STL Partners

The extensive data being generated by smartphones can give companies’ real-time information on where their customers are and what they are doing. That data can be used to improve merchants’ marketing, advertising, stock management, fulfilment and customer care. For example, a smartphone’s sensors can detect how fast the device is moving and in what direction, so a merchant could see if a potential customer is driving or walking past their store.

Marketing that makes use of real-time smartphone data should also be more effective than other forms of digital marketing. In theory, at least, targeting marketing at consumers in the right geography at a specific time should be far more effective than simply displaying adverts to anyone who conducts an Internet search using a specific term.

Similarly, local businesses should find sending targeted vouchers, promotions and information, delivered via smartphones, to be much more effective than junk mail at engaging with customers and potential customers. Instead of paying someone to put paper-based vouchers through the letterbox of every house in the entire neighbourhood, an Indian restaurant could, for example, send digital vouchers to the handsets of anyone who has said they are interested in Indian food as they arrive at the local train station between 7pm and 9pm in the evening. As it can be precisely targeted and timed, mobile marketing should achieve a much higher return on investment (ROI) than a traditional analogue approach.

In our recent Strategy Report, STL Partners argued that the disruption in the digital commerce market has opened up two major opportunities for telcos:

  1. Real-time commerce enablement: The use of mobile technologies and services to optimise all aspects of commerce. For example, mobile networks can deliver precisely targeted and timely marketing and advertising to consumer’s smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions.
  2. Personal cloud: Act as a trusted custodian for individuals’ data and an intermediary between individuals and organisations, providing authentication services, digital lockers and other services that reduce the risk and friction in every day interactions. An early example of this kind of service is financial services web site Mint.com (profiled in the appendix of this report). As personal cloud services provide personalised recommendations based on individuals’ authorised data, they could potentially engage much more deeply with consumers than the generalised decision-support services, such as Google, TripAdvisor, moneysavingexpert.com and comparethemarket.com, in widespread use today.

These two opportunities are inter-related and could be combined in a single platform. In both cases, the telco is acting as a broker – matching buyers and sellers as efficiently as possible, competing with incumbent digital commerce brokers, such as Google, Amazon, eBay and Apple. The Strategy Report explains in detail how telcos could pursue these opportunities and potentially compete with the giant Internet players that dominate digital commerce today.

For most telcos, the best approach is to start with mobile commerce, where they have the strongest strategic position, and then use the resulting data, customer relationships and trusted brand to expand into personal cloud services, which will require high levels of investment. This is essentially NTT DOCOMO’s strategy.

However, in the mobile commerce market, telcos are having to compete with Internet players, banks, payment networks and other companies in land-grab mode – racing to sign up merchants and consumers for platforms that could enable them to secure a pivotal (and potentially lucrative) position in the fast growing mobile commerce market. Amazon, for example, is pursuing this market through its Amazon Local service, which emails offers from local merchants to consumers in specific geographic areas.

Moreover, a bewildering array of technologies are being used to pursue this land-grab, creating confusion for merchants and consumers, while fuelling fragmentation and limiting economies of scale.

In this paper, we weigh the pros and cons of the different technologies being used in each segment of the wheel of commerce, before identifying the most likely winners and losers. Note, the appendix of the Strategy Report profiles many of the key innovators in this space, such as Placecast, Shopkick and Square.

What’s at stake

This section considers the relative importance of the different segments of the wheel of commerce and explains why the key technological battles are taking place in the promote and transact segments.

Carving up the wheel of commerce

STL Partners’ recent Strategy Report models in detail the potential revenues telcos could earn from pursuing the real-time commerce and personal cloud opportunities. That is beyond the scope of this technology-focused paper, but suffice to say that the digital commerce market is large and is growing rapidly: Merchants and brands spend hundreds of billions of dollars across the various elements of the wheel of commerce. In the U.S., the direct marketing market alone is worth about $155 billion per annum, according to the Direct Marketing Association. In 2012, $62 billion of that total was spent on digital marketing, while about $93 billion was spent on traditional direct mail.

In the context of the STL Wheel of Commerce (see Figure 3), the promote segment (ads, direct marketing and coupons) is the most valuable of the six segments. Our analysis of middle-income markets for clients suggests that the promote segment accounts for approximately 40% of the value in the wheel of digital commerce today, while the transact segment (payments) accounts for 20% and planning (market research etc.) 16% (see Figure 5). These estimates draw on data released by WPP and American Express.

Note, that payments itself is a low margin business – American Express estimates that merchants in the U.S. spend four to five times as much on marketing activities, such as loyalty programmes and offers, as they do on payments.

Figure 5: The relative size of the segments of the wheel of commerce

The relative size of the segments of the wheel of commerce Feb 2014

Source: STL Partners

 

  • Introduction
  • Executive Summary
  • A new dawn for digital commerce
  • What’s at stake
  • Carving up the wheel of commerce
  • The importance of tracking transactions
  • It’s all about data
  • Different industries, different strategies
  • Tough technology choices
  • Planning
  • Promoting
  • Guiding
  • Transacting
  • Satisfying
  • Retaining
  • Conclusions
  • Key considerations
  • Likely winners and losers
  • The commercial implications
  • About STL Partners

 

  • Figure 1: App notifications are in pole position in the promotion segment
  • Figure 2: There isn’t a perfect point of sale solution
  • Figure 3: Different tech adoption scenarios and their commercial implications
  • Figure 4: The elements that make up the wheel of commerce
  • Figure 5: The relative size of the segments of the wheel of commerce
  • Figure 6: Examples of financial services-led digital wallets
  • Figure 7: Examples of Mobile-centric wallets in the U.S.
  • Figure 8: The mobile commerce strategy of leading Internet players
  • Figure 9: Telcos can combine data from different domains
  • Figure 10: How to reach consumers: The technology options
  • Figure 11: Balancing cost and consumer experience
  • Figure 12: An example of an easy-to-use tool for merchants
  • Figure 13: Drag and drop marketing collateral into Google Wallet
  • Figure 14: Contrasting a secure element with host-based card emulation
  • Figure 15: There isn’t a perfect point of sale solution
  • Figure 16: The proportion of mobile transactions to be enabled by NFC in 2017
  • Figure 17: Integrated platforms and point solutions both come with risks attached
  • Figure 18: Different tech adoption scenarios and their commercial implications

Digital Commerce 2.0: Disrupting the Californian Giants

Introduction

In this briefing, we analyse the Digital Commerce 2.0 strategy and progress of the incumbents – the big five Internet players in this market – Amazon, Apple, eBay/PayPal, Facebook and Google.

STL defines Digital Commerce 2.0 as the use of new digital and mobile technologies to bring buyers and sellers together more efficiently and effectively. Fast growing adoption of mobile, social and local services is opening up opportunities to provide consumers with highly-relevant advertising and marketing services, underpinned by secure and easy-to-use payment services. By giving people easy access to information, vouchers, loyalty points and electronic payment services, smartphones can be used to make shopping in bricks and mortar stores as interactive as shopping through web sites and mobile apps.

This executive briefing considers how the rise of smartphones and the personal data they generate is disrupting digital commerce, and explores the mobile commerce strategies of the big five, their strengths and weaknesses and their areas of vulnerability.

Digital Commerce Disruption

Today, California is undoubtedly the epicentre of digital commerce. Amazon, Google, eBay/PayPal, Facebook and Apple are the leading brokers of digital commerce between businesses and consumers in most of the world’s developed economies. Each one of them has used the Internet to carve out a unique and lucrative role matching online buyers and sellers.

But digital commerce is changing fast, forcing these incumbents to innovate rapidly both to keep pace with each other and fend off a new wave of challengers seeking to take advantage of the disruption resulting from the widespread adoption of smartphones, and the vast quantities of real-time personal data they generate. Smartphones with touchscreens, full Internet browsers and an array of feature-rich apps, are turning out to be a game changer that profoundly impacts the way in which people and businesses buy and sell: Digital commerce is moving out of the home and the office and on to the street and in to the store.

As they move around, many consumers are now using smartphones to access social, local and mobile (SoLoMo) digital services and make smarter purchase decisions. This is not a gradual shift – it is happening extraordinarily quickly. Almost 70% of Americans used their mobile devices to look up information while in retail stores between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2012, according to a survey of 6,200 people by customer experience analytics firm ForeSee.

At the same time, the combination of Internet and mobile technologies, embodied in the smartphone, is enabling bricks and mortar businesses to adopt new forms of digital marketing, retailing and payments that could dramatically improve their efficiency and effectiveness. The smartphones and the data they generate can be used to optimise and enable every part of the entire ‘wheel of commerce’ (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: The elements that make up the wheel of commerce

Digital Commerce 2.0 Wheel of Commerce

Source: STL Partners

The extensive data being generated by smartphones can give companies real-time information on where their customers are and what they are doing. That data can be used to improve merchants’ marketing, advertising, stock management, fulfilment and customer care. For example, a smartphone’s sensors can detect how fast the device is moving and in what direction, so a merchant could see if a potential customer is driving or walking past their store.

Marketing that makes use of real-time smartphone data should also be more effective than other forms of digital marketing. In theory at least, targeting marketing at consumers in the right geography at a specific time should be far more effective than simply displaying adverts to anyone who conducts an Internet search using a specific term.

Similarly, local businesses should find sending targeted vouchers, promotions and information, delivered via smartphones, to be much more effective than junk mail at engaging with customers and potential customers. Instead of paying someone to put paper-based vouchers through the letterbox of every house in the entire neighbourhood, an Indian restaurant could, for example, send digital vouchers to the handsets of anyone who has said they are interested in Indian food as they arrive at the local train station between 7pm and 9pm in the evening. As it can be precisely targeted and timed, mobile marketing should achieve a much higher return on investment (ROI) than a traditional analogue approach.

Although the big five – Amazon, Google, eBay/PayPal, Facebook and Apple – are the leading brokers of “traditional” online commerce, they play a far smaller role in brokering bricks and mortar commerce: Their services are typically used to provide just once element of the wheel of commerce. Consumers shopping in the physical world tend to use a mix of services from the leading Internet players, flitting between the different ecosystems. As they shop, they might use Google Maps to locate a store, Facebook to canvas the opinion of friends and Amazon to read product reviews or compare in-store prices with those online. They might even use Apple’s Passbook to redeem a voucher or PayPal to complete a transaction at point of sale.

Although they are all involved to a greater or lesser extent, none of the big five has yet secured a strong strategic position in this new form of digital commerce. Each of them risks seeing their position in the broader digital commerce market being disrupted by the rise of SoLoMo services that seek to meld merchants online and offline sites into a coherent proposition. As the digital commerce pie grows to encompass more and more bricks and mortar commerce, the big five may see their power and influence wane.

As it becomes clear that smartphones and personal data will transform the consumer experience of bricks and mortar shopping, the leading internet companies are being challenged by telcos, banks, payment networks and other companies racing to sign up merchants and consumers for nascent commerce platforms. In most cases, these new entrants are focusing on digitising traditional commerce, but will inevitably also have to compete with Amazon, Google, eBay/PayPal, Facebook and Apple in the online commerce space – consumers will want to use the same tools and platforms regardless of whether they are in the armchair or walking down a street. Similarly, a merchant will want to use the same platform to support its marketing online and in-store, so their customers can redeem vouchers, for example, digitally or in person.

The internet giants are, of course, expanding their SoLoMo propositions to cover more of the wheel of commerce. Amazon, for example, is pursuing this market through its Amazon Local service, which emails offers from local merchants to consumers in specific geographic areas. Google is combining its Search, Maps, Places, Offers and Wallet services into a local commerce platform for merchants and consumers. But global Internet companies based on economies of scale can find it hard to develop commerce services that take into the account the vagaries of local markets.

There is much at stake: Merchants and brands spend hundreds of billions of dollars across the various elements of the wheel of commerce. In the U.S., the direct marketing market alone is worth US$ 139 billion (more than three times the U.S. online advertising market, according to some estimates (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: A breakdown of the U.S. direct marketing and advertising market

Digital Commerce 2.0 US Direct Marketing and Advertising Market

Source: STL Partners

Another way to view the strategic opportunity is to consider the vast amount of money that is still spent on paper-based marketing in local commerce – householders still receive large numbers of flyers through their door, advertising local businesses. Moreover, many merchants still operate crude loyalty schemes that involve stamping a paper card.

Closing the loop: The importance of payments

One of the most important battlegrounds for the big five is the transact segment of the wheel of commerce. Although this segment is only half the size of the promote segment in terms of revenues, according to STL’s estimates (see Figure 5), it is strategically important. Merchants and brands want to know whether a specific marketing activity actually led to a sale. By bridging the online and offline worlds, mobile technologies can close that loop. If a consumer uses their smartphone to research a product and then pay at point of sale, the retailer can see exactly what kind of marketing results in transactions.

Note that payments itself is a low margin business – American Express estimates that merchants in the U.S. spend four to five times as much on marketing activities, such as loyalty programmes and offers, as they do on payments. But Google and Facebook, as leading marketing and advertising brokers, and some telcos, are moving into the payments space to provide merchants with visibility across the whole wheel of commerce.

In general their approach is to roll out digital wallets that can be used to complete both online transactions and point of sale transactions (either using a contactless technology, such as NFC, or a mobile network-based solution). The term digital wallet or mobile wallet generally refers to an application that can store debit and credit card information, loyalty points, electronic vouchers and value. A digital wallet can reside in the cloud or on a specific device or a combination of the two. The big five each have their own digital wallet.

Although Apple and Facebook have only enabled the use of their wallets within their online walled gardens, they are both gradually extending their transact propositions into bricks and mortar commerce.

Figure 5: The relative size of the segments of the wheel of commerce

Digital Commerce 2.0: Segments and Sizes

Source: STL Partners research drawing on WPP and American Express data

Digital wallets could be the key to unlock a broader and much more lucrative digital commerce proposition. Instead of asking merchants to pay per click, a digital commerce broker could ask them to pay per transaction – a no-risk and, therefore, very attractive proposition for the merchant.

Typically designed to support approximately half of the wheel of commerce (the promote, guide and transact segments), the digital wallet is widely-regarded as an important strategic platform. The theory is that digital wallet suppliers will be well-positioned to interact with consumers while they are shopping, brokering targeted offers and promotions.

Three of the big five – PayPal, Amazon and Apple – have each already signed up tens of millions of users for their online wallets, primarily because they reduce the number of keystrokes and clicks required to complete a transaction online. These Internet players are now weighing up how best to deploy these wallets at point of sale in physical stores. The leading online digital wallet, PayPal, faces increasing competition from leading players in the financial services industry, including Amex and MasterCard (see Figure 6), as well as innovative start-ups, such as Square.

Each of these players is taking a different approach, using different technologies to enabling transactions in store. They are also having to compete with other wallets from companies outside the financial services sector, such as Google, telcos and even retailers.

Figure 6: Examples of financial services-led digital wallets

Digital Commerce 2.0: Financial Services Wallet Examples

Source: STL Partners

In the transact segment, Google, the leading broker of search-related advertising, is scrambling to catch up, rolling out Google Wallet both to compete with PayPal online and enable payments at point of sale using Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. But the software has been through several iterations without gaining significant traction. At the same time, telcos, such as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile in the U.S. (the partners in the Isis mobile commerce joint venture), are developing mobile-centric wallets that use NFC to enable payments at point of sale, supported by the SIM card for authentication. Major retailers are also rolling out digital wallets either individually or as part of a consortium. Figure 7 compares three of the mobile-centric wallets available in the U.S. market.

Figure 7: Examples of Mobile-centric wallets in the U.S.

Digital Commerce 2.0: Mobile Centric Wallets

Source: STL Partners

Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction: Digital commerce disruption
  • Closing the loop: The importance of payments
  • Internet players’ mobile commerce strategies
  • Amazon – impressive interconnected flywheels
  • Apple – slowly assembling the pieces
  • eBay and PayPal – trying to get mobile
  • Facebook – the rising star of mobile commerce
  • Google – try, try and try again in transactions
  • Conclusions
  • Mobile commerce is still up for grabs
  • Competition from telcos and banks
  • Areas of vulnerability

 

  • Figure 1: The mobile commerce strengths and weaknesses of the Internet players
  • Figure 2: The unfulfilled gap in the digital commerce market
  • Figure 3: The elements that make up the wheel of commerce
  • Figure 4: A breakdown of the U.S. direct marketing and advertising market
  • Figure 5: The relative size of the segments of the wheel of commerce
  • Figure 6: Examples of financial services-led digital wallets
  • Figure 7: Examples of Mobile-centric wallets in the U.S.
  • Figure 8: Google’s big lead in mobile Internet ad spending
  • Figure 9: Google handles one third of all digital advertising
  • Figure 10: The mobile commerce strategy of leading Internet players
  • Figure 11: How the fundamental Amazon flywheel increases working capital
  • Figure 12: How the Amazon Payments flywheel has evolved
  • Figure 13: Deals on display in the Amazon Local app
  • Figure 14: Apple’s Passbook app stores vouchers and loyalty cards
  • Figure 15: Facebook’s daily active users continue to grow
  • Figure 16: Facebook’s mobile daily active users
  • Figure 17: How consumers can redeem a Google Offer
  • Figure 18: Who is best placed to win in facilitating local commerce?
  • Figure 19: Google Wallet no longer needs to work directly with banks
  • Figure 20: The mobile commerce strengths and weaknesses of the Internet players
  • Figure 21: The unfulfilled gap in the digital commerce market
  • Figure 22: Internet giants and start-ups best placed to be infomediaries
  • Figure 23: How Telefónica compares with leading Internet players

 

Digital Commerce 2.0: New $50bn Disruptive Opportunities for Telcos, Banks and Technology Players

Introduction – Digital Commerce 2.0

Digital commerce is centred on the better use of the vast amounts of data created and captured in the digital world. Businesses want to use this data to make better strategic and operational decisions, and to trade more efficiently and effectively, while consumers want more convenience, better service, greater value and personalised offerings. To address these needs, Internet and technology players, payment networks, banks and telcos are vying to become digital commerce intermediaries and win a share of the tens of billions of dollars that merchants and brands spend finding and serving customers.

Mobile commerce is frequently considered in isolation from other aspects of digital commerce, yet it should be seen as a springboard to a wider digital commerce proposition based on an enduring and trusted relationship with consumers. Moreover, there are major potential benefits to giving individuals direct control over the vast amount of personal data their smartphones are generating.

We have been developing strategies in these fields for a number of years, including our engagement with the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Rethinking Personal Data project, and ongoing research into user data and privacy, digital money and payments, and digital advertising and marketing.

This report brings all of these themes together and is the first comprehensive strategic playbook on how smartphones and authenticated personal data can be combined to deliver a compelling digital commerce proposition for both merchants and consumers. It will save customers valuable time, effort and money by providing a fast-track to developing and / or benchmarking a leading edge strategy and approach in the fast-evolving new world of digital commerce.

Benefits of the Report to Telcos, Other Players, Investors and Merchants


For telcos, this strategy report:

  • Shows how to evaluate and implement a comprehensive and successful digital commerce strategy worth up to c.$50bn (5% of core revenues in 5 years)
  • Saves time and money by providing a fast-track for decision making and an outline business case
  • Rapidly challenges / validates existing strategy and services against relevant ‘best in class’, including their peers, ‘OTT players’ and other leading edge players.


For other players including Internet companies, technology vendors, banks and payment networks:

  • The report provides independent market insight on how telcos and other players will be seeking to generate $ multi-billion revenues from digital commerce
  • As a potential partner, the report will provide a fast-track to guide product and business development decisions to meet the needs of telcos (and others) that will need to make commensurate investment in technologies and partnerships to achieve their value creation goals
  • As a potential competitor, the report will save time and improve the quality of competitor insight by giving a detailed and independent picture of the rationale and strategic approach you and your competitors will need to take


For merchants building digital commerce strategies, it will:

 

  • Help to improve revenue outlook, return on investment and shareholder value by improving the quality of insight to strategic decisions, opportunities and threats lying ahead in digital commerce
  • Save vital time and effort by accelerating internal decision making and speed to market


For investors, it will:

  • Improve investment decisions and strategies returning shareholder value by improving the quality of insight on the outlook of telcos and other digital commerce players
  • Save vital time and effort by accelerating decision making and investment decisions
  • Help them better understand and evaluate the needs, goals and key strategies of key telcos and their partners / competitors

Digital Commerce 2.0: Report Content Summary

  • Executive Summary. (9 pages outlining the opportunity and key strategic options)
  • Strategy. The shape and scope of the opportunities, the convergence of personal data, mobile, digital payments and advertising, and personal cloud. The importance of giving consumers control. and the nature of the opportunity, including Amazon and Vodafone case studies.
  • The Marketplace. Cultural, commercial and regulatory factors, and strategies of the market leading players. Further analysis of Google, Facebook, Apple, eBay and PayPal, telco and financial services market plays.
  • The Value Proposition. How to build attractive customer propositions in mobile commerce and personal cloud. Solutions for banked and unbanked markets, including how to address consumers and merchants.
  • The Internal Value Network. The need for change in organisational structure in telcos and banks, including an analysis of Telefonica and Vodafone case studies.
  • The External Value Network. Where to collaborate, partner and compete in the value chain – working with telcos, retailers, banks and payment networks. Building platforms and relationships with Internet players. Case studies include Weve, Isis, and the Merchant Customer Exchange.
  • Technology. Making appropriate use of personal data in different contexts. Tools for merchants and point-of-sale transactions. Building a flexible, user-friendly digital wallet.
  • Finance. Potential revenue streams from mobile commerce, personal cloud, raw big data, professional services, and internal use.
  • Appendix – the cutting edge. An analysis of fourteen best practice and potentially disruptive plays in various areas of the market.

 

Digital Commerce: Time to redefine the Mobile Wallet

Summary: The ‘Mobile/Digital Wallet’ needs to evolve to support authentication, search and discovery, as well as payments, vouchers, tickets and loyalty programmes. Moreover, consumers will want to be able to tailor the functionality of this “commerce assistant” or “commerce agent” to fit with their own interests and preferences. Key findings and next steps from the Digital Commerce stream of our Silicon Valley 2013 brainstorm. (April 2013, Executive Briefing Service, Dealing with Disruption Stream.)

Who is best placed to win in local commerce April 2013

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Below are the high-level analysis and detailed contents from a 35 page Telco 2.0 Briefing Report that can be downloaded in full in PDF format by members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing service and the Dealing with Disruption Stream  here. Digital Commerce strategies and the findings of this report will also be explored in depth at the EMEA Executive Brainstorm in London, 5-6 June, 2013. Non-members can find out more about subscribing here, or to find out more about this and/or the brainstorm by emailing contact@telco2.net or calling +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

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Introduction

Part of the New Digital Economics Executive Brainstorm 2013 series, the Digital Commerce 2.0 event took place at the InterContinental Hotel, San Francisco on the 20th March and looked at how to get the mobile commerce flywheel moving, how to digitise local commerce, how to improve digital advertising and how to effectively leverage customer data and personal data. The Brainstorm considered how to harness telco assets and capabilities, as well as those of banks and payment networks, to deliver Digital Commerce 2.0.

Analysis: Time to redefine the wallet?

The Executive Brainstorm uncovered widespread confusion and dissatisfaction with the concept of a digital or mobile wallet. Some executives feel that a wallet, with its connotations of a highly personal item that is controlled entirely by the consumer and used primarily for transactions, may be the wrong term. There is a view that the concept of a digital wallet may have to evolve into a more multi-faceted application that supports authentication, search and discovery, as well as payments, vouchers, tickets and loyalty programmes.

Moreover, consumers will likely want to be able to tailor the functionality of this “commerce assistant” or “commerce agent” to fit with their own interests and preferences, rather than having to use an inflexible off-the-shelf application. This gateway application may also act as a personal cloud/locker service, providing access to the individual’s media and content, as well as enabling them to control their privacy settings. In other words, ultimately, consumers may want an assistant or agent that amalgamates the personalised discovery services offered by apps, such as Google Now, online media services, such as iCloud, and the traditional functions of a wallet, such as payments, receipts, coupons and loyalty programmes.

Business model battles

The Brainstorm confirmed that the digital commerce market continues to be held back by the slow and familiar dance between the established interests of banks/payment networks, telcos, and retailers. Designing business models that sufficiently incentivise each partner is tough: big retailers, for example, are likely to resist digital commerce solutions that don’t address their dissatisfaction about transaction fees – there was some excitement about digital commerce solutions that workaround the major payment networks’ interchange systems.

Some of the participants in the Brainstorm held strongly entrenched views about which players can contribute to growth in digital commerce and should therefore benefit most from that growth. The arguments boiled down to:

  • The banking ecosystem believes it is well placed because of the requirement for transactions to be processed by entities with banking licenses and that comply with know your customer (KYC) regulations.
  • Telcos believe that, as digital commerce-related data travels over their networks, they will understand the market better than other players.
  • Retailers believe that they have the customer relationships and that digital commerce offers opportunities to strengthen those relationships and reduce the costs of transactions.

The length and complexity of the digital commerce value chain raises significant questions about whether one entity could and should own the customer relationship and manage customer care across the whole experience. Moreover, there may be a disconnect between elements of the value chain and the overall value proposition. For example, individual retailers may wish to offer fully-customised digital commerce experiences delivered through their own branded apps, but consumers may not want to see the complexity of the existing marketplace, in which they are asked to register and carry multiple loyalty cards, continue in an increasingly digitised world.

While the traditional players jostle for the best positions in the value chain, the door is wide open for market entrants to come with radically disruptive business models. Although telcos have the customer data to be play a pivotal role in digital commerce, other players will work around them unless telcos are prepared to move quickly and partner on equitable terms. In many cases, telcos (and other would-be digital commerce) brokers may have to compromise on margins to seed the market and ultimately gain scale – small merchants (the long tail), which have highly inefficient marketing today, have a greater incentive than large retailers to adopt such solutions. Participants in the Silicon Valley Brainstorm thought that either established Internet players or a start up would ultimately win over the banks and telcos in local commerce.

Who is best placed to win in local commerce April 2013

Consumers are most likely to adopt digital commerce services that offer convenience and breadth. Therefore, such services need to act as open and flexible brokers, which enable a wide range of merchants to use application programming interfaces (APIs) to plug in vouchers and loyalty schemes quickly and easily.

Mobile advertising – still very immature

Immature and messy, the mobile advertising market is still a long way from being as structured as, for instance, television advertising, in terms of standardising metrics for buyers and creating an efficient procurement process. The Brainstorm highlighted the profusion of different technologies and platforms that is making the mobile advertising market highly-fragmented and very resource-intensive for media buyers. In many cases, the advertising industry may be struggling to differentiate between mobile networks, mobile users and mobile devices. For example, a consumer using a tablet on a sofa may be seeing the same adverts as a smartphone user travelling to work on a train.

In essence, the creatives working in advertising agencies are not certain what messages and formats work on a mobile screen, as buyers don’t have reliable ROI data and the advertising networks continue to struggle to deliver precise targeting, stymied by multiple barriers, such as privacy fears, walled gardens and bandwidth constraints. As a result, there is widespread dissatisfaction among both media buyers and consumers with mobile advertising. The mobile advertising market needs robust tools and processes – standardised, proven formats and reliable, trusted metrics – to will enable brands to purchase advertising at scale and with confidence.

Some media buyers are looking for solutions that make the delivery of digital advertising more transparent to consumers, so they have a clearer understanding of why they are seeing a particular advert.

To address these issues, telcos, looking to broker advertising, need to create better platforms that are easy for media buyers to access, offer precise targeting and provide transparent metrics that are straightforward to monitor. Despite the formation of telco marketing and advertising joint ventures in some markets, such as the U.K., some advertising executives believe telcos don’t see a big enough revenue opportunity to build these platforms.

Instead of brand building and customer acquisition, which is the traditional use of mass advertising, it seems likely that the mobile channel will be used primarily for customer loyalty and retention. So-called active advertising (advertising that is designed to enable the individual to complete a specific task) may be well suited to mobile devices, which people typically use to get something done. As attention spans are short and screen space is limited in the mobile medium, the advertising value chain will need to change its mindset to put the needs of the consumer, rather than the brand, front and centre.

Big data – how to monetize?

The Brainstorm reinforced the sense that big data/personal data has the potential to create exceptional insights and disruptive new business models. But most people working in this space only have a high-level, theoretical view of how this might happen, rather than a collection of compelling case studies and use cases. Finding big data projects offering a respectable return on investment is going to be a hit and miss affair, requiring an open mind and the patience to experiment.

Although self-authenticated data could potentially make advertising and marketing more efficient, it may also increase transparency for consumers: The Internet has given consumers more control and is driving deflation in many sectors. The rise of personal data could have negative implications for companies’ profit margins as consumers use vendor relationship management systems to systematically secure the best price.

Many start-ups seem to still be pursuing advertising-funded business models, but big data and personal data business models may depend on a different approach. They should be asking: “How do you fund a search engine that is not ad-funded and can social networks not be ad-funded?” Computational contracts, which machines can execute and people can actually understand, could be part of the answer. Rather than trying to infer interests and movements, a social network might explicitly ask the following question. “If you give me your location and the brands you like, I’ll give you two coupons a day.” This is basically the Placecast model, which seems to be gaining traction in some markets. In any case, telcos and banks could and should use transparent and user-friendly privacy policies as a competitive weapon against Facebook and Google, which currently dominate the online advertising market.

The concept of companies interacting with individuals through the web presence of their objects, such as their car, their bike or their pet, seems sound. Both individuals and companies could benefit from a two-way flow of information around these objects. For example, a consumer with a specific make of printer or camera could benefit from personalised and timely discounts on accessories, such as cartridges and lenses.

Next steps for STL Partners

We will:

  • Continue to research and explore ‘Digital Commerce’ at our Executive Brainstorms, with particular emphasis on practical steps to create the Digital Wallet, enable ‘SoMoLo’, and the key role of personal data and trust frameworks;
  • Look further into the needs and applications of ‘Big Data’ into the field, as well as continuing our involvement in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) work on Trust Networks for personal data;
  • Publish further research on the business case for personal data, and a full Strategy Report on the Digital Commerce area.


To read the note in full, including the following sections detailing additional analysis…

  • Closing the loop between advertising and payments
  • First stimulus presentation
  • Second stimulus presentation
  • Innovation showcase
  • Brainstorm
  • Key takeaways
  • Advertising & Marketing: Radical Game Change Ahead
  • First and Second stimulus presentations
  • Final stimulus presentation
  • Brainstorm
  • Key takeaways
  • Session 3: Big Data – Exploiting the New Oil for the New Economy
  • Stimulus Speakers and Panellists
  • Stimulus presentations
  • Voting, feedback, discussions
  • Key takeaways

…and the following figures…

  • Figure 1 – Customer Data is at the centre of Digital Commerce
  • Figure 2 – What will North American consumers value most from digital commerce?
  • Figure 3- Leading players’ strengths and weaknesses upstream and downstream
  • Figure 4 – The key elements of the digital commerce flywheel
  • Figure 5 – Vast majority of commerce is still offline
  • Figure 6 – Linking location-based offers to payment cards
  • Figure 7 – Participants’ views on likely winners in ‘local’ digital commerce
  • Figure 8 – Mobile ad spend doesn’t reflect the time people spend in this medium
  • Figure 9 – What does the advertising industry need to do to stay relevant?
  • Figure 10 – Why personal data isn’t like oil
  • Figure 11 – A strawman process for personal data
  • Figure 12 – A decentralised architecture for the Internet of My Things
  • Figure 13 – Kynetx: companies can connect through ‘things’

Members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing Subscription Service and the Dealing with Disruption Stream can download the full 35 page report in PDF format here. Non-Members, please subscribe here. Digital Commerce strategies and the findings of this report will also be explored in depth at the EMEA Executive Brainstorm in London, 5-6 June, 2013. For this or any other enquiries, please email contact@telco2.net / call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

Background & Further Information

Produced and facilitated by business innovation firm STL Partners, the Silicon Valley 2013 event brought together 150 specially-invited senior executives from across the communications, media, retail, banking and technology sectors, including:

  • Apigee, Arete Research, AT&T,ATG, Bain & Co, Beecham Research, Blend Digital Group, Bloomberg, Blumberg Capital, BMW, Brandforce, Buongiorno, Cablelabs, CenturyLink, Cisco, CITI Group, Concours Ventures, Cordys, Cox Communications, Cox Mobile, CSG International, Cycle Gear, Discovery, DoSomething.Org, Electronic Transactions Association, EMC Corporation, Epic, Ericsson, Experian, Fraun Hofer USA, GE, GI Partners, Group M, GSMA, Hawaiian Telecom, Huge Inc, IBM, ILS Technology, IMI Mobile Europe, Insight Enterprises, Intel, Ketchum Digital, Kore Telematics, Kynetx, MADE Holdings, MAGNA Global, Merchant Advisory Group, Message Systems, Microsoft, Milestone Group, Mimecast, MIT Media Lab, Motorola, MTV, Nagra, Nokia, Oracle, Orange, Panasonic, Placecast, Qualcomm, Rainmaker Capital, ReinCloud, Reputation.com, SalesForce, Samsung, SAP, Sasktel, Searls Group, Sesame Communications, SK Telecom Americas, Sprint, Steadfast Financial, STL Partners/Telco 2.0, SystemicLogic Ltd., Telephone & Data Systems, Telus, The Weather Channel, TheFind Inc, T-Mobile USA, Trujillo Group LLC, UnboundID, University of California Davis, US Cellular Corp, USC Entertainment Technology Center, Verizon, Virtustream, Visa, Vodafone, Wavefront, WindRiver, Xtreme Labs.

Around 40 of these executives participated in the ‘Digital Commerce’ session.

The Brainstorm used STL’s unique ‘Mindshare’ interactive format, including cutting-edge new research, case studies, use cases and a showcase of innovators, structured small group discussion on round-tables, panel debates and instant voting using on-site collaborative technology.

We’d like to thank the sponsors of the Brainstorm:
Silicon Valley 2013 Sponsors

Digital Commerce: Show me the (Mobile) Money

Introduction

STL defines Digital Commerce 2.0 as the use of new digital and mobile technologies to bring buyers and sellers together more efficiently and effectively. Fast growing adoption of mobile, social and local services is opening up opportunities to provide consumers with highly-relevant advertising and marketing services, underpinned by secure and easy-to-use payment services. By giving people easy access to information, vouchers, loyalty points and electronic payment services, smartphones can be used to make shopping in bricks and mortar stores as interactive as shopping through web sites and mobile apps.

To read the note in full, including the following sections detailing additional analysis…

  • Executive Summary
  • Overcoming the Barriers
  • 1. Understand the marketplace you are operating in
  • 2. Develop compelling service offerings
  • 3. The value network
  • 4. Technology
  • 5. Finance – the high-level business model
  • Conclusions and next steps
  • About STL Partners

…and the following figures…

  • Figure 1 – The Cycle and Functions of Digital Commerce
  • Figure 2 – Mobile wallets will take time to gain traction
  • Figure 3 – The mobile commerce flywheel
  • Figure 4 – The STL Partners Business Model Framework
  • Figure 5 – For banked consumers, digital wallets mainly offer convenience
  • Figure 6 – For the unbanked, digital wallets offer convenience and some savings
  • Figure 7 – For merchants, digital wallets help build deeper customer relationships
  • Figure 8 – Telcos’ potential revenue streams from a digital commerce service
  • Figure 9 – Telcos’ potential major costs in launching a digital commerce service
  • Figure 10 – Telcos’ mobile commerce revenues are likely to be modest
  • Figure 11 – Telcos have regular customer contact and real-time data
  • Figure 12 – Potential strategic actions for telcos
  • Figure 13 – Leading Internet companies have global reach and scale
  • Figure 14 – Potential strategic actions for Internet players
  • Figure 15 – Banks have local knowledge, payment networks trusted brands
  • Figure 16 – Potential strategic actions for banks and payment networks

The Great Compression: surviving the ‘Digital Hunger Gap’

Introduction

The Silicon Valley Brainstorm took place on 19-20 March 2013, at the Intercontinental Hotel, San Francisco.

Part of the New Digital Economics Executive Brainstorm & Innovation Series, it built on output from previous events in Singapore, Dubai, London and New York, and new market research and analysis, and focused on new business models and growth opportunities in digital commerce, content and the Internet of Things.

Summary Analysis: ‘The Great Compression’

In the next 10 years, many industries face the ‘Great Compression’ in which, in addition to the pressures of ongoing global economic uncertainty, there is also a major digital transformation that is destroying traditional value and moving it ‘disruptively’ to new areas and geographies, albeit at diminished levels.

In previous analyses (e.g. Dealing with the ‘Disruptors’: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon) we have shown how key technology players in particular compete with different objectives in different parts of the digital value chain. Figure 1 below shows via crossed dollar signs (‘New Non-Profit’) the areas in which companies are competing without the primary intention of driving profits, which means that traditional competitors in those areas can expect ‘disruptive’ competition from new business models.

Figure 1 – Digital disruption
Digital disruption occurring in many industries Mar 2013

Source: STL Partners ‘Dealing with the ‘Disruptors’: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon’

 

The Digital Hunger Gap

For the incumbent industry players we call the near-term results of this disruption ‘The Digital Hunger Gap’ – the widening deficit between past and projected revenues. Chris Barraclough, Chief Strategist STL Partners presented the classic Music Industry case study of the ‘Hunger Gap’ effects of digital disruption.

Figure 2 – The Music Industry’s ‘Hunger Gap’
The Music Industry's ‘Hunger Gap’ Mar 2013

Source: STL Partners

 

In a vote, 95% of participants agreed that something similar would happen in other industries.

Chris then presented our initial analysis of the ‘Hunger Gap’ for telcos (to be published in full shortly), and asked the participants where they thought the telco industry would be relative to its 2012 position in 2020.

Figure 3 – Participants’ views on forecasts for the telecoms industry
Participants' views on forecasts for the telecoms industry Mar 2013

Source: Silicon Valley 2013 Participants / STL Partners

 

As can be seen, participants’ views were widely spread, with a slight bias towards a more pessimistic outlook than that presented of a recovery to 2012 levels.

Chris argued that as the ‘hunger gap’ widens, and before new revenues are developed, there will be massive consolidation and cost-reduction among incumbent players, and opportunities for innovation in services, but the chances of success in the latter are very low and require a portfolio approach and either deep pockets, exceptional insight, or considerable good fortune.

Richard Kramer, Managing Partner of Arete Research, also presented a deflationary outlook for all but the leading consumer technology players in the handset and tablet arena.

Participants then voted on which areas needed the most significant changes in their business – and existing managements’ ‘mindset’ was voted as the top priority.

Figure 4 – ‘Mindset’ is the biggest barrier to transformation
'Mindset' is the biggest barrier to transformation Mar 2013

Source: Silicon Valley 2013 Participants / STL Partners

 

It is also notable that all categories averaged 3.0 or over – or needing ‘Significant Change’. This points to a significant transformation across all industries.

Content:

  • Opportunities
  • Telco 2.0 Strategies
  • Big Data and Personal Data
  • Digital Commerce
  • Digital Entertainment
  • Mobile Advertising & Marketing
  • The Internet of Things
  • Outlook by Industry
  • Next Steps

 

  • Figure 1 – Digital disruption
  • Figure 2 – The Music Industry’s ‘Hunger Gap’
  • Figure 3 – Participants’ views on forecasts for the telecoms industry
  • Figure 4 – ‘Mindset’ is the biggest barrier to transformation
  • Figure 5 – The ‘Telco 2.0’ opportunities for CSPs
  • Figure 6 – The impact of ‘Software Defined Networks’ (SDN)
  • Figure 7 – Will ‘Personal Data’ be more useful than ‘Big Data’?
  • Figure 8 – STL Partners’ ‘Wheel of Digital Commerce’
  • Figure 9 – Who will in ‘SoMoLo’?
  • Figure 10 – Significant changes in viewing habits
  • Figure 11 – Transformation needed in the advertising industry
  • Figure 12 – Growth projections for M2M ‘mobile’ (e.g. 3G/4G) connected devices