- Akbar Mohamed, Prime Communications
- Scott Aronstein, Connectivity Source
- Jason Ellis, Spring Communications
- Eric Stachowski, iQmetrix
- Seamus McAteer, ITG
The Wireless Industry Panel discussed the results of the 7th Annual iQmetrix State of the Wireless Industry Survey (which had 158 respondents, all of whom are RQ4 users). "It's an extremely important survey for us and I want to thank everybody who participated," said Anne Weiler, iQmetrix's Vice President of Marketing.
- Nearly 70 percent of respondents believe the industry will continue to grow over the next five years, with the same percentage planning to expand their businesses.
- More than 85 percent plan to improve the in-store experience in 2012, with a focus on employee training (88 percent) and store design (63 percent).
- Mobile payments, digital signage, interactive retail and location-based advertising will be the top in-store investments for 2012.
- 70 percent of respondents are currently using social media to communicate with their customers and many are planning to invest in mobile advertising in the near future.
- Trends and technology that respondents consider important for the future include: 4G, mobile broadband growth beyond traditional devices with a continued growth of tablets and mobile payments.
Seamus, on optimism in the industry: "We are near saturation in the wireless industry, so growth is going to come at a very low end, from people looking for secondary devices. In the case of T-Mobile, the threat of consolidation is having the desired effect: subscribers are reacting to the idea of more people being served by fewer carriers."
Scott, on industry growth: "Growth through consolidation will be beneficial for retailers because you can take advantage of economies of scale."
Akbar, on growth: "Carriers are going to push for a better in-store experience, that the national retailers may not be able to provide, so they are going to look at doors that are able to deliver that experience. The burden is on us to keep the customer satisfaction numbers high. If you don't have the right devices, the right personnel and the store atmosphere people want, the carriers will take notice of that."
Scott, on pessimism: "I don't know a lot of Sprint retailers that are pessimistic right now. Our carrier is doing some good things for the retailer channel and we're really happy about that." Sprint stores were operating at near-Black Friday levels, due to the launch of the new iPhone 4S by the carrier.
Seamus, on ARPU: "Smartphones are driving up profit on accessories, of course and we will continue to see incremental growth in ARPU."
Eric, on carrier consolidation: "Obviously it touches all of our lives in some shape or form. More consolidation, fewer players, prices go up. That's lower economic theory. Carriers argue that consumers are asking for more while expecting prices to come down. Consolidation might actually allow carriers to take greater control over their service delivery, worrying less about churn, and ultimately reduce prices in the long run."
Jason, on consolidation: "I don't think consolidation is going to drive prices up. I think prices will come down, particularly if there aren't new features added to what's currently being offered by carriers."
Jason, on 70% of smartphone buyers being first-time buyers: "Our sales staff needs to know a lot more about the devices than they used to know. You definitely have to hire differently: We're going after nice over techie. Generally, it takes 20-30 minutes to go through the buying process. And we need to be creative in trying to educate customers about the technology."
Akbar, on smartphones: "I think the more companies (OS providers) spend advertising these operating systems, the easier the sales process will be for us. Consumers will learn more about the OS before they come into our stores."
Seamus, on smartphones: "We are still going to be selling feature phones for some time, but economics dictate that all phones will eventually become smartphones."
17% of respondents said Google would be the primary source of future innovation in the wireless industry, versus 10% who said Apple would be. They were followed by Verizon (6%), Samsung and AT&T (tied at 2%).
Akbar, on innovation: "Android and Apple will be be a source of much innovation, but don't count the carriers out. I think they're going to have some cool products for us to sell."
Scott, on innovation: "I think advertising is driving innovation because all the players are spending a lot of money to make more money. So, in effect, consumers will drive innovation by what they choose to buy."
Scott, on business growth in 2012: "Instead of growth by adding more stores, we need to do more with our existing stores."
Jason, on business growth in 2012: "I think a lot of us didn't have to do as much work to acquire customers in the past. We need to step back and take a good look at our businesses and figure out what we're doing well and what we need to do better in 2012."
Jason, on competition: "I'm less worried about Best Buy and the big boxes. I'm not as concerned with the competition between stores as I am with the competition between carriers -- and the price proposition that results from that."
Seamus, on competition: "Stores need to do what they can with what they have. Radio Shack is... Radio Shack. It doesn't matter relative to the experience you control in your chain."
Akbar, on competition: "I think if the carriers focus on the in-store experience and demand that from retailers, the focus will actually come to that channel. It's up to the carriers to dictate that."