Telcos reimagine their retail stores for 2025
A TM Forum Catalyst project is outlining what the telecom retail store of the future could look like, and what systems, processes and infrastructure will be required to support it.
“Telecom stores have a future, but only if it is a completely reimagined one,” notes Accenture’s End of the local telecom store? Not so fast… report.
Although telecom retail stores may no longer be the primary sales outlet in an increasingly digital world, they still have an important place as part of the mix of channels. As well as driving sales and revenue and building customer relationships, the store can also help to shift brand perceptions, attract new generations and even support the recruitment of future talent.
Through a TM Forum proof-of-concept Catalyst project, entitled Maximizing Engagement with Predictive Customer Journeys – Phase III, four communications service providers (CSPs) and their partners are exploring what the telecom retail store of 2025 could look like, and what systems, processes and infrastructure will be required to support it.
Catalyst champions bring a business challenge that they need to solve, and each offers a unique angle based on their geography, strategy and more. The champions for this project are Orange, Deutsche Telekom, China Telecom and Ncell. Champions work alongside the Catalyst participants – in this case, Synchronoss, Nomensa, Comarch, NTS Retail, Whale Cloud and STL – who each provide a technical piece of the solution.
Arnold Buddenberg, Enterprise Digital Business & IT Transformation Architect, Orange Labs Services, said: “We need to see the shop as one channel within an overall experience. But what is unique in the shop is that I can give the customer a live experience that is different from a digital experience in all the other channels.”
The team has envisaged new ways in which telcos could use retail stores, including events, technical demonstrations, product development workshops, educational sessions and more. Through the Catalyst project, the partners developed the architecture for a platform which supports this and bridges digital channels and the physical store.
The platform enables CSPs to use their vast ‘data lakes’ and operational data to create more successful stores and drive overall business benefits. This supports the use of data not only to identify the types of events that might work in individual stores but also to drive personalized invites. Artificial intelligence (AI) matches events to the customers that are likely to be interested in them.
Online chatbots support real-time decision-making. The platform pulls in the product catalog and order management to enable sales and fulfillment. Further, it allows partner onboarding – such as a professional gamer who would take part in an in-store gaming league event.
In addition, the platform helps stores to manage any kit they will need to stage events, including speakers, video equipment etc. A social element has also been integrated to encourage customers to invite their friends – to create a multiplier effect. Orchestration pulls all the strands together for an omnichannel experience.
After events CSPs can use the new information they have gleaned – whether from conversations with customers or gaming analytics, for instance – to create even more personalized offers and come up with innovative future events to create long-term customer relationships.
Lucius Gruber, Enterprise Architect at Deutsche Telekom, said telco retail shops have “many more possibilities” than they offer today.
Customers need solutions which have “relevance for their personal stories,” he said. “We want to bring life into the inner cities,” he said.
Possible examples of in-store experiences include inviting customers to work with developers to come up with new use cases, holding in-store gaming contests or providing education and support sessions on running a business.
“You can actually help customers. Younger customers, in particular, may become interested in building a business with IT, and you can help to create an enthusiasm for that through in-store events. And later on, they might be more likely to consider the telco as a possible interesting employer for them,” Buddenberg commented.
Whale Cloud has worked with China Telecom for over 12 months on the CSP’s digital store transformation, trialing concepts from and to inform the Catalyst’s solution. The results have been very encouraging so far.
Bella Chan, Account Executive, Whale Cloud, said China Telecom increased traffic to its store events by 30% and increased sales overall by the same amount. Using personalization, the units purchased per transaction increased by 40% – accordingly, shop revenue increased by 35% and online sales revenue is up by 27%.
She said if CSPs don’t act now and prepare their back-end systems, they will lose this much of the potential revenue.
Each of the partners plays a key role in the implementation. Synchronoss provides IT integration for all the different steps along the customer journey.
“And with that integration, you can really organize all the different journeys at scale,” Buddenberg said.
Nomensa is responsible for the experience design of each customer engagement. NTS Retail provides event management, including helping to attract the right people and collecting their preferences during in-store visits. Comarch provides the customer relationship management (CRM).
Whale Cloud and STL both provide artificial intelligence (AI) systems, with Whale Cloud focused, in this case, on persona-based intelligence before the event and STL on how to then move the conversation towards a business outcome – typically, a sale.
The Maximizing Engagement with Predictive Customer Journeys – Phase III team developed their solution using various TM Forum assets, which they will also feed back to for the benefit of the entire TM Forum community.
The Omnichannel CEM Guideline and Omnichannel Guidebook were used to describe the customer journey and the team also leveraged and contributed to a new TM Forum CEM Guidebook which advances concepts around digital customer engagement and the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
Buddenberg said: “The CEM 2025 concept has a large impact on how we look at digital engagements in a digitally transformed world. For example, when a digital service is a €1,000 loan, the business outcome is a successful contract that delivers a €1,000 euro figure in an account. The service differentiator is then not the money but the journey to get to that successful business outcome, and that is all about customer engagement from a customer experience point of view.”
He added: “The customer journey to a store will be more successful when the information received by the customer is relevant, of interest and offered at a right moment. Smart AI helps here for building and applying essential customer knowledge. This Catalyst contributes back these knowledge aspects and to future assets.”
Philipp Losbichler, NTS Retail, said the team’s next phase is to expand real-world deployment of the platform in stores.
This article was originally published on inform.TMForum.org in August, written by Sarah Wray.