How Vodafone Brings Connected Devices To The People
“To succeed, you sometimes have to fail,” said David Tirado of Vodafone as he reflected on the launch of the company’s IoT program in 2017.
by Dan Argintaru
Posted on 04-10-2020
“To succeed,you sometimes have to fail.”
So said David Tirado, global director of growth for Vodafone’s Internet of Things (IoT) division, as he reflected back to the launch of the global telecom giant’s consumer IoT program, V by Vodafone, back in 2017. V by Vodafone now offers a range of smart devices, from children’s smartwatches to connected pet trackers, all of which are linked by a smart SIM card, the V-sim by Vodafone. And as with any new product category, it took a learning curve for Tirado’s team to get here.
“We initially took a classic approach to support the launch, focused on campaigns and events,” he told CMO by Adobe. “We even had [English actor] Martin Freeman do an ad for our IoT luggage tracker in which he stole a child’s bag in an airport, only to be caught, using our technology.”
Tactics like these helped to drive momentum for V by Vodafone, but as with any new product category, there was more to do, Tirado said.
Listen, Learn, And Act Fast
Consumers are generally more familiar with connected devices like smartwatches and fitness trackers, but awareness of this category is still low. And the ability to target customers who are interested in smart devices does not guarantee they will engage with the content. With that in mind for the V for Vodafone team, it was time to take a different approach.
Of course, the ability to target consumers does not guarantee they will engage with your content. Vodafone needed the ability to test, analyze, and adapt its communications on the fly, especially during make-or-break sales periods like Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving and one of the biggest buying days in the U.S.) and the winter holidays.
“When creating a new product category in a volatile market, you need to set yourself up to move and react quickly. It’s unlikely that every piece of content you put out there will resonate with consumers, and that’s OK, as long as you learn from their response and fine-tune your approach,” Tirado said.
To make its digital experience more flexible and responsive, V by Vodafone moved from a hard-coded website to a content management system-driven platform. The new site went live in 2019 in seven different markets, each with its own set of customs, needs, and sales opportunities. The ability to adapt campaigns while live, and to modify content or change a product’s positioning to suit different audiences, has been transformational for the business, according to Tirado.
For example, where it once took three weeks to amend a line of text on its website, such a change can now be made in under an hour. Even minor formatting changes to the site used to involve a lengthy internal review process, in addition to legal approval, which discouraged innovation and resulted in a clunky user experience.
“That’s all changed now,” Tirado adds. “Take Black Friday 2019. Free from outdated technology and lengthy processes, we were able to roll out engaging, real-time experiences like countdown offers and targeted deals based on customer behavior. We also gained the freedom to tell our story in more creative ways. The boost we saw in sales was a clear indication that people noticed.”
Next Step: Educate
Technology companies have been predicting the age of connected devices for years, but while IoT has certainly impacted the way businesses operate, many consumers are still unsure how a smart tracker or smart fridge will measurably improve their lives.
The key for brands like Vodafone is to educate people by making the technology feel simple and easy to use. For Tirado, the next step for V by Vodafone is to make its website a go-to resource for people who are interested in IoT devices. So far, visitors will find, of course, product information, but they can also read helpul articles on topics such as How location tracking works , which highlight the value of connected devices in a way that feels relevant and natural.
“We’ve already made serious progress thanks to the richer online experience we can deliver, but this is only the beginning,” Tirado said. “We need more videos, more partner explanations, and more content to help consumers appreciate the possibilities of a more connected way of living.”
The Future Is Connected
In a recent interview with Adobe, Tirado predicted that the average household will have 50 connected devices by 2025, attributing this surge in adoption to more tangible examples of IoT now in use.
“You saw it at CES this year,” he said. “We finally began to see how all the pieces of a connected life come together. Think back to when Apple introduced the iPod. It transformed music streaming, but once they connected it to wireless networks and launched the iPhone, music became just a small part of a much bigger picture.”
With connected technologies becoming cheaper and more powerful, consumer IoT adoption is poised to take off. The key for Vodafone is not only to make its technologies easier to understand, but also easier to use, Tirado said.
For example, “Customers can see a wide range of products in the V by Vodafone app, but they still need to download other apps to use our full product set,” he said. “We need to give them end-to-end ownership of their experience with our brand, both to make their lives easier and to ensure we gain a complete picture of their needs and expectations.”
This is the company’s major aim, to enable “shopping by needs” across every platform, Tirado said. Like Vodafone’s top salespeople do in its retail shops, Tirado wants to tailor each customer’s journey based on what that person actually needs, instead of shoving products in their face.
“It doesn’t matter what platform you’re using,” he said. “The first step in creating a more connected world is to deliver more connected experiences to the people who are going to live in it.”
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