Spotlight on Sybase 365 Mobile Services

Sybase 365 Mobile Services encompass a range of solutions that focus on bringing B2C interactions into the mobile channel. Financial organizations, mobile operators, and enterprises around the world are already using Sybase 365 Mobile Services to reach new customers and better connect with existing ones. See “Mobile Commerce Experts” for more information.

To find out more about this offering and its integration with SAP software, we interviewed Diarmuid Mallon, Head of Product Marketing for Sybase 365 Mobile Services. What do Sybase 365 Mobile Services entail exactly?

Diarmuid Mallon: Sybase 365 comprises three lines of business. The first one, operator services, is where we support interconnection between carriers and mobile operators. That means enabling mobile operators to send SMS and MMS to other carriers and allowing customers to roam and access data services. If you’re on Vodafone in the U.K., for example, and you send a message to the U.S.A., it goes through Sybase. Or if you’ve got a smartphone and turn on the data while abroad, Sybase is behind that as well.

The second part of Sybase 365 is enterprise services. That’s where we enable brands and companies to interact with their customers via the mobile channel. It could be as straightforward as sending a mass text message to everyone in your customer database about a new promotion, or it could be something more sophisticated like conducting a targeted micro survey, or running a special promotion where customers send in a code via text in exchange for loyalty points and discounts.

Finally, we have mobile commerce. This is where we enable banks and mobile operators to offer mobile banking, mobile payment, and mobile money services to their customers. So customers can check their bank balance, pay their bills, or send money to someone all from their mobile phone.

Next page:Integration with SAP software

What category does mobile CRM fall under?

I always break down mobile commerce into two halves. On one side you have mobile financial services – that’s mobile banking, mobile money (branchless banking) and payments, – and on the other you have mobile engagement. That entails marketing, loyalty schemes, coupons, and other tools to engage with your customers in the mobile channel.

If your business is just getting started with mobile commerce, then you’re probably focusing on either mobile financial services or mobile CRM. But as time goes on, if you want to make those services more successful, then you’ll naturally end up integrating both halves. For example, if you’re doing mobile CRM, and you’re telling customers about your products and giving them vouchers via the mobile channel, then it’s not much of a jump to let them buy products with their mobile device as well.

How do Sybase 365 Mobile Services integrate with SAP applications? For example, does mobile CRM work with SAP CRM?

Last year, support for mobile banking and eBanking was included in the SAP for Banking solution portfolio. This was the first Sybase product to be integrated with SAP, and it was a natural development for SAP’s banking customers. We’ll certainly see more integration across different sectors in the future, but it’s an evolving story. What we’re already bringing to SAP today – even if it’s loosely coupled – are the enterprise services and the operator services. In a lot of markets, there’s an SMS involved somewhere in the mobile commerce process, and Sybase delivers the SMS. We’re not just a software platform that supports mobile payments; we’re providing a complete end-to-end solution.

Speaking of platforms, how does the Sybase Unwired Platform fit in with Sybase 365 Mobile Services?

To put it simply, SUP is about mobilizing the workforce, it’s a B2B proposition, and with Sybase 365, we’re dealing with a B2C proposition. But in reality it’s not quite that cut and dry. Even though Sybase 365 is more B2C, it’s not really about mobilizing your customers. They’re already mobile. It’s about enabling your business to interact with customers through the mobile channel. So in the end, Sybase 365 is complementary to SUP.

Next page: Developments in mobile commerce in 2012

What are the most important benefits companies can derive from mobile services? Is it about reaching more customers, driving profit, staying a step ahead of the competition?

The benefits really vary by market. Take a market like Bangladesh, where 87 percent of people are without a bank account. How do you address this customer segment – well actually, it’s a majority – in an economical way? Building and staffing bank branches throughout the country would be incredibly costly. With mobile banking though, people can join a bank and manage their account all from a mobile phone. Dutch Bangla Bank did exactly that, and now they’re adding thousands of new customers a week. So in this market, mobile financial services made it possible to address a completely untapped group of potential customers.

On the other hand, if you’re a bank in Europe or North America, you pretty much have to have mobile banking. In this region, it’s not about staying ahead of the competition – because everyone’s doing mobile banking –but rather about cost savings. Instead of going to a local bank branch, your customers are using a mobile app to complete a transaction. That’s much cheaper for your business. In addition, it’s been proven that customers who use electronic bill pay – whether online or via mobile – are less likely to switch banks and are more credit worthy. So in this market, mobile banking provides banks a greater insight in to their customers.

Do mobile services enable companies to collect better customer data?

Absolutely. Companies aren’t just marketing and selling to customers through the mobile channel, they’re engaging with them post-purchase to better understand them. We have tools for conducting micro surveys via SMS, for example, where you ask a few very relevant and timely questions to get insights on a particular topic. One of our customers, a mobile operator, uses this tool to check out the impact of their competitors’ pricing plans. Just 24 hours after one of their competitors has released a new pricing plan, this customer has created a micro survey, received the results, and formulated a strategy based on that data.

Mobile is creating whole new ways of gathering customer information that weren’t possible before. The key is to follow the three Ps and Rs – permission, permission, permission, and relevance, relevance, relevance. Customers have to know and understand what you’re doing. And whatever you do, it must be relevant or you won’t be successful.

How do you see the rest of the mobile world developing in 2012 and beyond?

One area that has taken off for us in a number of markets, especially in emerging economies, is mobile money – and I think it’s going to be a growing trend in the future. Mobile money is a form of mobile banking where you have a bank account that only exists in the mobile world. You can do everything you normally do at a bank – from earning interest to getting microloans – on your phone. And that’s what sets it apart from other mobile financial services. A mobile wallet, for example, simply lets you use your phone to pay for goods by linking it to your debit card or credit card. A stored value account – like what M-Pesa is doing in Kenya – lets you store actual cash value on your phone and make person to person transfers. So the next stage is to move the unbanked consumers from just doing mobile payments to doing all of their banking on a mobile phone. Our mobile money solution enables banks to fully enroll new customers through the mobile channel. And while it’s true that mobile money is taking off mostly in the emerging markets, there isn’t a single country in the world where one hundred percent of the population is banked. So there’s potential for growth the world over.