Business

Digicel embraces data and OTT services for new promotion

BY RICHARD BROWNE
Business editor
browner@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 11, 2018

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After about a year with little public marketing, Digicel has started a new campaign, with data taking the lead over talk time. The move represents a shift in Digicel's strategy, which previously tried to downplay the increasing popularity of Over the Top (OTT) applications such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype.

“It's a big campaign,” said Justin Morin, Digicel Jamaica's new CEO in a one-on-one discussion with The Jamaica Observer on Friday at his waterfront office overlooking the Kingston harbour.

The campaign, which carries the tagline “Get nuff data, more talk”, gives customers new deals on both data and talk time, and demonstrates the switch that is taking place in the telecoms industry from primarily voice calls to accessing the internet.

“Applications are everything,” Morin said. “Everything is about video streaming.”

“We aren't just telecoms anymore,” Morin told Sunday Finance, noting that it's a worldwide change where ATT bought Direct TV and Time Warner and Verizon went after Yahoo.

“The business must evolve.”

The change in usage is being led by younger consumers, Morin noted. “Our youth are tech-savvy and are changing the ways our products are used.”

Part of that change is greater use of OTT applications to make calls via the internet. But while Digicel's new campaign promotes OTT to an extent, it is not the warmest of embraces.

“OTT applications are a threat to our business and don't contribute to governement taxes or infrastructure,” Morin noted. “But they certinly bring a new style to communication.

“It's widely used and you can't stop or prevent people from using apps they want,” he said.

The company will continue to be in dialogue with government on how to handle applications such as WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook, Morin said. “They are not contributing to government, and that is why you are seeing them being litigated in Europe and back taxes.”

The new campaign comes at a time when there had been little marketing by either Digicel or its major competitor FLOW, which was taken over from Cable and Wireless by Liberty last year. The last major campaign by Digicel was about a year ago, according to Elon Parkinson, head of public relations, with the one before that happening in 2016.

The campaign was launched on Wednesday and has already seen events in Lucea and Montego Bay, with others planned for several other large towns such as Mandeville, Junction in St Elizabeth, and May Pen in Clarendon.

The aim of the campaign is to offer customers as much value as possible for as little as possible – offering a steep discount from previous prices. With a slogan of “get nuff data and more talk”, customers can now buy a $100 bundle which provides 100 minutes of talk time and 100 MB of data, or for younger people who rely more on data, another $100 off that provides 200 MBs of data.

“We want to keep people in a bundle,” Morin said.

Previously, customers couldn't buy $100 worth of data,and the most affordable deal was $175 for 100 MB, Morin noted.

But even better value is offered with the $500 plan, which gives 700 MB of data and 500 minutes of talk time to another Digicel phone for a period of 14 days.”That's the best value on the market”, said Morin.

Outside of promoting data, the company is also trying to increase smartphone usage, with deals on five phones, with two – an Azumi IRO4Q and a Logic X$M Lite – starting from less than $5000. The phones also come with the $500 package in place, including $500 of free talk time.

Developments in IT have brought improvments to Digicel's service, including areas like top-up. “To top up now takes three seconds – it's incredible,” Morin said.

Meanwhile, Morin is not overly concerned about the threat of artificial intelligence reducing the company's employment numbers. While technology has been taking some functions away from humans in the call centre, employees have been shifted to new roles to manage that technology – and more have been hired in the position of data doctors – advising customers on how to handle their data efficiently.

Artificial intelligence is not a threat to jobs, Morin says. “In our call centre we've expanded the number of ways you can reach an agent – web chat, app chat – that requires people to sit behind that, to manage that.”

“We are always employing people,”Morin said. “Our people are sought after and get taken away by others.”

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