4 Lessons Wireless Carriers Can Learn from Amazon

By Joe Dyer
Director of Experience Strategy & Insight

It’s no secret that retailers are racing to keep up with Amazon. Wireless carriers, however, have been less susceptible to the “Amazon Effect” than most verticals, as Amazon has not mastered the online purchasing experience for wireless devices and plans.

This is a complex purchase process (device and plan) with carriers and major manufacturers (Apple, Samsung) dominating the limited e-commerce purchasing experiences.

Regardless, it’s still important to learn from the critical lessons Amazon has introduced through its 25 years of retail innovation.

Here are four lessons Amazon can teach wireless carriers:

1. Know Your Customer Through Data

Amazon has billions of data points it uses to constantly test and learn what works with different customer segments — everything from the recommendations engine to personalized search results and ads targeted at each customer’s specific buying tendencies.

Wireless carriers may not have the same access to that treasure trove of e-commerce data, but they still have important data that’s largely underutilized.

Furthermore, carriers are subject to state and federal regulations that severely limit how carriers network information (Customer Proprietary Network Information or CPNI) can be used in marketing and merchandising carrier products and services

While every wireless customer provides at least basic demographic data when starting a new cell phone plan, wireless carriers are strictly regulated from using CPNI data to their advantage. However, unlike Amazon, these specific customer habits are not as essential for making targeted decisions.

Data on general mobile phone usage is widely available. A 2018 Pew Research Center report found 95% of Americans own a cell phone, with 77% owning a smartphone. The report breaks down the data by age, gender, race, education, location and income.

Wireless carriers can utilize this general data on Americans’ habits with their location’s general sales data to deduce:

• What are the top sales trends among millennial women?

• What accessories do 50-plus men buy most often?

• What’s the best tablet to offer a mom with young children?

• What’s the next-best product to offer professional women 35–50?

• Is the in-store signage driving sales?

• What are the top drivers of a lost sale?

By using this type of non-CPNI data, wireless carriers can develop targeting strategies to boost sales and retain customers. If carriers had these answers and were able to offer on-the-fly, personalized recommendations to sales personnel while with a customer, conversion rates would likely increase.

More importantly, you also need human data. What about the “why” behind the questions above? Generative customer research can reveal all the important data that matters emotionally to customers. Being an industry leader ourselves, projekt202 employs an award-winning methodology of understanding customer needs and goals better than any analytics package ever could.

2. Be Convenient

Amazon became the world’s most successful e-commerce company because it understood that customers would always gravitate to the more convenient experience.

Some wireless carriers have gotten the message and are experimenting with their own convenient delighters. AT&T has rolled out white-glove same-day delivery and setup to customers in their homes or workplaces in 30 markets. In a sign of early demand, 45% of customers choose this option when it’s available.

This is brilliant for a couple of reasons:

• The convenience of having an expert come to the customer to walk through transferring everything to their new phones is an amazing customer experience, especially for less tech-savvy customers.

• This strategy also allows for a seamless upsell opportunity. “Are you satisfied with your home internet service? Would you be interested in learning about our home security solutions?” There’s no better time to engage customers than when you’re sitting at their coffee tables helping set up new phones.

3. Utilize Elegant Upsells That Leverage Online Inventory

This brings us to the next lesson: the elegant upsell. Add any Amazon-made product to your cart and you’ll likely see several upsell options on the next screen — extra cables and chargers, cases, stands, even extended warranties.

Customers often peruse the available popular cases for their new tablets or smartphones on the accessories wall in a wireless retail store.

However, retail associates can take their customer service (and sales) one step further. By helping customers browse through popular cases on a tablet or digital display while in-store, they could drastically increase conversion of high-margin accessories, rather than losing that sale when customers are disappointed with in-store inventory.

The key is to make it feel non-intrusive, which is why the in-home concierge is a really compelling customer experience. Innovative retailers are experimenting with digital displays or tablets while customers wait; they find value in the experience rather than feeling like they’re getting a hard sell.

4. Employ Ongoing, Trigger-Based Communications

Amazon is one of the best in the world at driving customers back to its site through event-based communications. When they send you an email with five items that other customers also purchased, it’s based on a specific trigger — you most likely browsed or purchased a similar item recently.

While wireless carriers don’t have the same multitude of reasons to talk to their customers, there are crucial moments when customers would love a little help and advice. Most companies have the basics in place when it comes to triggered communications — for example, a welcome email for new customers or a customer support follow-up.

There are also other groundbreaking technologies beginning to hit the market that allow retailers to target customers based on their behaviors in-store, using beacons and in-store mobile proximity platforms. This may be too in-depth for every wireless retailer — and too new of a technology yet — but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

Learn from a Global Leader in Retail Innovation

These four lessons encourage a deeper relationship with your brand. The automation of trigger-based communication reduces the cost and effort when compared to manual, one-off communications. Customers find helpful tips extremely valuable, especially when they show up in their inboxes the day after buying new phones.

Amazon didn’t become one of the world’s leading innovators by accident. They did it with a relentless focus on understanding customer needs, the customer experience, and data-driven experiments that lead to continuous learning and iteration.

Ask yourself these three crucial questions:

• How well do you know your customer?

• How are you tracking and learning from the customer journey today?

• How are you ensuring your teams have the right data and automated communications strategies?

These are a few questions we help enterprises answer with the same relentless focus on delivering seamless customer experiences


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projekt202 is the leader in applying experience strategy and observational insights to the design and development of mobile, cloud, web and workplace software.