Making Dollars and Sense out of Voicemail

mobile app puzzle for vvm blog articleWhen it comes to convenience and user friendliness, traditional voicemail systems have seriously lagged behind other mobile messaging technologies. Although a standard for decades, voicemail has experienced significant declines in service usage, as subscribers flock to the expanding market of social, video, and instant messaging applications.

What impact is this having for mobile operators? According to the global analyst company Ovum, by 2016, operators will have lost $54 billion in SMS revenues due to the increasing popularity of social messaging services on smartphones.

How can operators drive new profits from existing infrastructure while counteracting the threat from over-the-top players? Some are turning their sights to the Rich Communication Suite (RCS) platform to provide consumers with features such as file sharing, video calls, and IP-based messaging. However, RCS is not expected to reach the mass market before 2014.

For the time being, a growing number of operators are seeking solutions that use existing infrastructure and offer needed improvements to the customer experience, such as visual voicemail or voicemail-to-text transcription.

Non-Gateway Solutions
Some operators are directing existing customers to free service providers, such as Google Voice. While this is certainly the quickest path to providing consumers a more convenient voicemail retrieval experience, the operator loses the ability to up-sell subscribers to premium services and monetize the app with advertising. Not to mention, they are handing over customer support to a third party.

Operators may also deploy their own client app by integrating directly with their legacy voicemail system. This approach offers consumers a more convenient voicemail retrieval experience, while potentially generating a revenue stream by charging for this premium experience. However, operators that take this client-only approach may be forfeiting the potential benefits that come with integrating a voicemail client with a gateway.

Gateway Solutions
A gateway grants the ability to connect to multiple voicemail systems, billing systems, and multiple clients, giving the operator greater freedom and control over the entire platform. Also, an integrated client/gateway approach allows the ability to upsell customers to multiple premium services (such as voicemail-to-text) directly from the voicemail platform itself, enabling “try and buy” capability directly from the voicemail client.

US Net Mobile Ad Revenues, by Company, 2011-2014Monetization possibilities don’t stop at monthly fees. By using a client with a gateway, there is also tremendous advertising opportunity. In the mobile space, recent numbers from eMarketer show projected 2012 mobile ad revenue sitting at approximately $2.6 billion; total 2014 projections are estimated at $6.6 billion. Visual voicemail, for example, with its mass market adoption and frequently used interface, is perfectly suited to mobile ad campaigns, enabling rich opportunities for non-intrusive promotions.

One Step Ahead
In the end, it’s about staying ahead of the technology curve, innovating the new and improving the old. In the case of voicemail, it’s moved from a commoditized infrastructure piece to a robost platform that can be infused with new capabilities and life. Just be sure to consider all the pros and cons of your approach when deciding between a client-only application or one that also utilizes a gateway.

What are your thoughts on clients, gateways, and the future of voicemail?

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