Oliver Downs is the SVP of data sciences at Globys, a big data analytics company based in Seattle, Washington, that processes billions of customer data transactions per day. In this interview Oliver talks about how Globys helps mobile operators leverage customer data and improve marketing campaigns.
Sramana Mitra: Oliver, let’s start with setting some context about Globys.
Oliver Downs: Globys is a big data analytics company that specializes in contextual marketing for mobile operators. We have two product offerings – first in contextual marketing and second in billing and reporting analytics for carriers.
SM: So, your client base is carriers?
OD: Yes. Our client base today is mobile operators, but a lot of our technology is related to contextual marketing. The way we approach representing data is somewhat industry agnostic and allows us to intelligently optimize the “who,” “when,” and “how” of marketing to individual customers.
SM: Let me understand the scale of the company. How big is Globys?
OD: We have about 150 employees, more than 100 of whom are in our headquarters in Seattle. We have our offices around the world: one in the Middle East, one in Australia, and one in Canada. We are planning to hire another 50 people this year.
SM: What is the revenue level?
OD: Our revenue is higher than $5 million.
SM: I would like to do three use cases of how and where your technology is being used in interesting ways. I always do these use cases with my interviewees to get a feeling to how the technology is being applied to real business situations.
OD: In our contextual marketing business, we work with mobile operators in base marketing teams to enhance the way they interact with their customers and to influence various key performance indicators of the business. The interesting thing is that prepaid mobile is a massive growth segment around the world – mainly in developing countries or in developing markets, where in some cases the only way a financial balance is carried is on the mobile device. But it is growing also in developed telecom markets, where the consumer is pushing away from wanting to be bound by long-term contracts. Prepaid is a global growth engine in the mobile space. The interesting thing about it is because it takes away the notion of the postpaid two-year contract, customers are able to make decisions more freely and more frequently about how they are going to, and even if they are going to, continue to work with a given mobile operator.
Let me give you a use case in prepaid: It is about increasing overall recharge revenue in the customer base. What we do with our technology is analyze the recharging cycles of prepaid mobile customers on an individual basis and identify key decision points and perceptual information impact points that the customer experiences through that cycle. Then we use those points as messaging opportunities. We identify groups of customers who share commonalities and behavior, even though those commonalities or events may not occur at the same time or have the same type of value attached to them. We act on those contacts and personalize how we message on them to optimize the experience the customer has. A concrete example would be at a specific carrier in the Asian Pacific region, which has above five million customers. They have a prepaid rate plan whereby the customer recharges for $30, for example, but receives a larger amount of virtual currency in form of bonus credits.
What happens is customers don’t have a very good perception of the value of a unit of this virtual currency. They can also only see their balance in terms of the real money they had applied to their account. So, the way these customers behave is that they use their virtual currency first. The behavior of the customer during a single recharge cycle is that they feel they are able to use their mobile device, or not, at the beginning of the cycle and not significantly impact the number of actual or real dollars they have in their account. Then all of a sudden, they pass the limit of the virtual currency they had, and their usage begins spending their real balance. That becomes a signal for the customer, who says: “Wow, I suddenly started consuming my balance very quickly.” It might be that they actually have 60% or 70% of the dollar value remaining on their account, but they come really close to the end of their recharge cycle.
The interesting thing is if you can detect that context in the individual and make him or her aware of small denomination top-offs that can be made for an account, you can actually revert customers into a situation where they can use their device more freely. This eventually has a positive impact on retention and on revenue for the carrier, because customers are engaging with the service more and are driving more activity in their social grasp by continued outbound activity.