Operator apps: 1+1+1 = 1

Tuomas Pippola
April 3, 2024
7 min


In the mobile connectivity, where the rush to digital is more like a sprint than a marathon, telecom operators continue to face an apparently insurmountable hurdle: the app download and user retention dilemma. As we dive deeper into conversations with operators, a recurring theme surfaces - the multiple of apps under their brand umbrella, leading to an apparently unsolvable mystery.

Operators, in their quest to move from CSP into a DSP, often complain of the Herculean task of persuading their existing subscribers to download their apps. This, coupled with the confusion stemming from having multiple apps, prompts a knee-jerk reaction: "Let's bundle everything into one mega app!" But is this really the panacea it's made out to be?

Logically, merging multiple apps into a singular entity appears to solve the problem. Or does it? Our insights suggest otherwise. If users do not engage with any of the apps, why would they engage with a superapp? If at a restaurant I do not like the starter, the first course, the second course, or even the desert - what will the set menu help?

Compacting everything into one app risks burying the truly valuable features under a heap of ancillary functions. Remember, the most successful apps excel by perfecting one service, not by being a jack-of-all-trades.

A Dall-E generated image of a gentleman being puzzled of a Swiss Army Knife.

Moreover, this "integration" strategy often inadvertently exposes the operator's internal segmentation - as we see the apps boast of VAS, mobile data, product bundles, recharge, and customer care. This, in essence, transposes the operator's organisational chart onto the user's screen, creating a digital experience as convoluted as the problem it aims to solve.

Scratching our Heads about User Confusion

What we hear the CSPs tell us consistently is that the users are confused with their multiple apps. Every single time. That makes us confused. It makes us to question also, if CSPs are listening some consulting demons that have never designed or operated an app - let alone succeeded with one.

As if there are multiple apps like JioTV, JIGames, JioCinema, JioMart, JioMeet, JioChat it is very easy to pick and app for a chat, for enterprise meet, for shopping, or for watching TV. Nothing confusing. Having Jio Superapp makes it instantly more confusing what I get. Similarly, I do not find it confusing to use whatsapp for chat, Facebook for facebooking, or Instagram for sharing and consuming photos (and stories).

Combining these propositions is like doing arithmetics 1+1+1=1.

In essence, what makes user confused of the fact that you tell them what you offer?

Facing the Hard Truths with Data

Our journey into the app abyss, armed with real data, tells a different story. Contrary to popular belief, getting millions to download an app isn't the issue - for over 150 operator apps. The real challenge? Keeping them.

With a first-month churn rate hitting the roof at 99.0%, median churn at 92% and the so-called "best 20%" apps barely retain just above 10% of users. The absolute best app we have encountered was able to retain 20% of its users in the first month. Similarly, 75% of operator apps retain less than 5% of their total downloads. It's clear - the issue isn't in the download, it's in the engagement. And to simplify this engagement issue is as big problem for superapps and for dedicated apps.

The three key shocking revelations? First, rarely do CSPs stop to ponder if their app's user experience is actually appealing, or if they're just digitising their internal problems. Do the CSPs consider what users actually want. Second, they never question the value of their content from the user's perspective, rather they have internal urgency expose the content - would end users want it or not. Third, seldom do they consider if their strategies effectively cover the get-keep-monetise funnel. Neither do they consider have they resourced it properly - let alone if their competencies in the app world are top notch.

The elephant in the room - the real reason behind the dismal stickiness of these apps - remains unaddressed. The elephant that needs to be eaten bite by bite - for individual apps or super apps alike. There are few CSPs we have encountered that would have started to properly address all these issues - and to start becoming real digital service providers.

A Provocative Proposal

So, where does this leave us? Facing the harsh reality that simply shoving everything into one digital basket isn't just ineffective; it's counterproductive. What users crave isn't a digital Swiss Army knife but a scalpel: precise, easy to use, and effective at what it's designed to do.

Dall-E imagined doctor with a scalpel walking into operations room: a precision task.

Here's where we dare to be different. Our mantra at NXT:FWD is "Simply Connect," a principle that we apply not just in our mission but in our approach to solving the app conundrum. We believe in creating connections - not just between people and the internet, but between telecom operators and their users through straightforward, engaging, and, most importantly, fun digital experiences.

And naturally we address the get-keep-monetise, the operational crunch to make users not only to download but be engaged with the app continuously.

Let's Start a Revolution

It's time to challenge the status quo, to throw the one-app-to-rule-them-all strategy to the flames of Mount Doom, and to offer something not just different, but better. And pick up the execution of the apps’ get-keep-monetise funnel for good.

We're not just another startup; we want to change and simplify how everyone connects. We empower forward looking operators to make mobile data valuable, transparent, engaging for consumers, companies and advertisers - capture additional value from mobile connections.

Join us - and other forward looking DSPs - as we lead the charge in revolutionising how mobile data is sold, marketed, and enjoyed. Because at the end of the day, it's not about how many apps you can cram into one. It's about creating simply engaging connections and experiences.

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