CanWest calls for more mobile investment

TORONTO – Canadian service providers better be prepared to invest in their IT infrastructure if they want to pursue the consumer wireless market, the president of CanWest Interactive said Wednesday.

Speaking at a breakfast seminar hosted by IDC Canada, CanWest’s Arturo Duran outlined the strategy which determines the on and offline channels the company uses to distribute content. These include its 57 Web sites, including Canada.com, its approximately 17 TV channels and newspaper properties such as the Vancouver Sun and the National Post.

Duran highlighted CanWest’s early attempts to woo corporate users by creating special versions of programs such as Global National with Kevin Newman which were streamed to BlackBerry devices. He contrasted the traditional way in which content is read (such as newspapers or viewed on a TV set) with “nested” content that is available anytime and on demand. Whatever CanWest does, he said, has to adhere to six principles: it must be integrated, local, targeted, current, multimedia and interactive. That isn’t easy to do without substantial technology investment, he said.

“You have to make sure you prepare your infrastructure,” he said, noting that CanWest only had two portals when he joined the firm several years ago. “You have to always be working on your back office to create all this. It isn’t going to happen by a miracle.”

IDC recently launched a consumer wireless practice to help service providers and other technology firms get a better understanding of the buying habits and behaviours of everyday users. Tony Olvet, the practice’s vice-president, used the briefing to release the results of an online survey the company conducted with close to 5,000 users last August, which indicated the IT systems companies pursuing the wireless market will need to focus on.

Olvet described the mobile phone as the “third screen” (following the TV and the PC monitor) where service providers can try to reach the consumer. It’s a channel that requires sophisticated customer profiling and analytics that may not always be available in some enterprises, he said.

“(The consumer market) is very context-sensitive,” said Olvet, citing location-based services that contact users based on their geography as well as their past preferences. “You have to make sure you can do that within your customer relationship management systems and your databases.”

While many service providers are focused on entertainment services, for example, Olvet said information services represent a burgeoning market where content could be fed to retail, hotel and real estate customers, among other vertical markets. This requires companies to segment their customer base in ways they might not be doing today, he said.

“We’ve talked to even large service providers like Bell Canada who have said they either don’t have this kind of CRM data or that they’re not using it well enough,” he said.

The IDC survey showed that mobile phones had penetrated about 77 per cent of the Canadian market, but only one per cent were experimenting with applications such as mobile video.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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