Research Notes

The mobile operators are discriminating against their female mobile users

– and thereby half their customer base
Many mobile operators have focused on launching their own mobile portals, but these mobile portals are usually characterised by having been developed and marketed by men – for men! It’s as if the mobile operators have forgotten the rather significant fact that half their mobile users are women that want mobile services that are not targeted towards men.
Superstar photos of the football icon David Beckham and dodgy photos of naked Playboy models with large breasts are not mobile services that mobile operators offer to reach a narrow customer segment. On the contrary, this is a category of mobile services that is a significant part of the total offering of mobile services available from most mobile operators – in other words mobile services targeted towards men. Even though it sounds surprising and even scary, the truth of the matter is that very few mobile operators around the world have realised that their selection of mobile services should not only be focused on mobile users with a high level of testosterone.
With the large concentration of mobile services targeted towards especially younger men, the mobile operators can easily be accused of discriminating female mobile users. Women are not offered very many mobile services that focus on the more feminine areas of interest.
Up to now the mobile markets have been characterised by the mass market for mobile services consisting of revenue generated by especially younger men – but mobile operators will soon have to realise that an expansion of the market for mobile services will require that they launch interesting mobile services for all customer segments – which will include both men and women and both younger and older segments.
For example we can see the mobile operator 3 offer their male mobile customers services with photos of naked, large chest’ed women from Playboy. But 3 do not offer similar types of services for their female customers – there are no photos of naked and handsome young men. So why is this the case? Perhaps the mobile operator 3 is afraid that their portal will seem vulgar in the eyes of their male customers, or maybe 3 believes that they will not be able to make enough revenue at the present time on ensuring women equal rights in this area.
On their mobile portal Vodafone Live, Vodafone have made a link that leads their users onto a female section. But if you look in general on how large a part of the Vodafone portal’s mobile services are directly targeted towards men, compared to mobile services directly targeted towards women, you could compare it to sending women into a men’s clothing store to buy clothes – in the hope that they can find some ladies clothing in a small room in the cellar!
In Strand Consult’s latest report – ”How to get success in the 3. generation VAS market” – we have made an in depth analysis of the market for mobile services and how we believe it will develop over the coming years. In this connection, the report contains a very comprehensively documented explanation of which service platforms the mobile operators will need to operate on the future mobile services market. The report also contains a detailed analysis of 10 different existing service platform environments and the pros and cons of each individual platform. In addition, the report focuses on which strategies operators around the world ought to be basing their future offerings of mobile services on.
If there is to be a larger market for mobile services in the future, the players in the mobile industry will have to start using much more energy on finding out which services need to be developed and marketed specifically for different customer segments. In addition mobile operators will need access to a service platform environment, so that it is not the technology that sets the limitations on which mobile services individual customer segments can be offered.
Also mobile operators will have to decide how they want to define their own role in the mobile industry’s value chain. For example, do the mobile operators see it as their responsibility to purchase mobile platforms and services and thereafter also have the responsibility of marketing mobile services to the end-users? Or do the mobile operators see their role as being able to offer content providers new and attractive business models, that stimulate the development, production, marketing and sales of mobile services to all customer segments – both women and men and young and old?
It is however not just the mobile operators that in connection with sales of mobile services, need to re-evaluate their business models and strategies. The service platform suppliers could also benefit by having a good think about their goals and visions regarding their product development. Currently, far too many suppliers of service platforms are focusing much too much on technology. The end-users are however not interested in technology – they are interested in interesting services! The suppliers of service platforms ought to therefore spend much more effort contemplating how their products can help ensure that the service providers and mobile operators can differentiate their selection of services, so they appeal to many different customer segments – segments that even also include women – that have no interest in pictures of football players and Playboy models.
We can only urge the mobile industry to focus on offering specific mobile services to well-defined customer segments. This is not a theoretical whim from us – or a daring prediction – on the contrary, these business models are already being used with success on some markets and without a doubt will start spreading. For example the South Korean mobile operators already realised a number of years ago, that some mobile services needed to be developed, produced and marketed specifically for individual customer segments. The South Korean mobile operator KTF has for example launched a portal called “Drama”, that is targeted and appeals to female mobile users. With a “Drama” subscription, female mobile users have access to a portal that only focuses on women’s interests and needs. The portals offerings include articles, mobile services and even mobile phones developed for women. So South Korean women are in fact, with regards to mobile services, somewhat more privileged than their sisters in most parts of the western world. Do us a favour when you have finished reading this and check your own mobile operator’s portal and see for yourself how big a share of the services they offer are targeted towards men, compared to women.
We are not trying to claim that Western mobile operators are deliberately avoiding offering differentiated mobile services targeted towards specific customer segments. We know that operators are on all levels working towards developing new concepts on offering mobile services – but so far we have not really seen any tangible results in the market. The mobile industry’s challenges on the future development of the mobile services business area is comprehensively analysed and described in our new report  ”How to get success in the 3. generation VAS market”, and it is very obvious that the future development, production, marketing and sales of mobile services will both become very complicated and very necessary. And some of the biggest questions will be which roles the operators; service platform providers and content providers will have in the future mobile value chain.

How to get success in the 3. generation VAS market

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