Digital attackers – learn from agile entrants and players

Digital attackers – learn from agile entrants and players

Digital attackers are often cited as a means by which established players can gain grounds in new markets or compete more effectively with other digital service providers. They certainly offer lessons, as insight from McKinsey reveals – but you don’t necessarily have to launch a new brand to benefit. What do you need to know?

What benefits can digital attackers bring?

Digital attackers are hardly a new phenomenon and many operators have adopted this tactic in a bid to woo new customers and gain market share against other challengers. In an article from last year, McKinsey set out what it called a “battleplan” for telcos – providing insight and guidance when considering such a tactic, as well as a rationale for doing so.

It’s good advice. At heart, one of the key problems McKinsey identifies, is the problem of subscriber choice. Put simply, customers are often confronted with too many choices, which leads to inertia and prevents many from taking advantage of what could be enticing offers. Buried within the portfolio might be winning propositions, but unless customers can find and buy them easily, they will have minimal impact on revenues, retention or margin.

It’s easy to see how this problem emerged – operators have typically strengthened their offers through time, adding services and combinations in new bundles. Each of which may well be interesting, but the real gems be somewhat hidden. Launching a new product or service is great, but the impact can be seriously impaired if you can’t see the wood for the trees.

Is this the only answer? Not for B2B

There are more lessons to share, of which more later. But, the real thrust of the article is to suggest that digital attackers are the solution to a host of problems. However, that’s not necessarily the case – operators shouldn’t be misled into thinking digital attackers are a panacea. They might help in some directions, but they cannot cure all ills.

So, what really matters is that operators pay attention to these lessons and also apply them to their existing businesses. And, there’s no better place to start than their B2B service portfolio. Relative to consumer offers, B2B portfolios tend to be less cluttered, so there’s far less complexity to consider – simplification here is much easier to achieve. However, that’s not the end of the story. McKinsey recommends several key steps to support the digital attacker proposition, which include:

  • A differentiated proposition
  • Customer-tested design
  • Enhanced user experience


If the offer is based on connectivity, it’s already simple, but it’s not based on any differentiation. What can be added to this to make it stick out? But it’s not enough to emulate services common in other markets – as many of these are simply reiterations of basically the same thing. No, what is increasingly clear to many operators is that differentiation to the needs of customers is required, not the launch of a me-too service

That means understanding the customer base in detail and ensuring that the proposition is targeted to the right segments. Of course, targeting companies by size is a step in the right direction – and a successful measure in its own right – but we increasingly expect to see many more vertically differentiated solutions, as operators see the benefits that 5G can deliver. We anticipate that operators that have learnt from digital attackers will leverage their core assets – the network and the user identity enabled via the MSISDN – to craft propositions for sectors such as healthcare, offshore industries, education and more.

This might sound contrary to the need to simplify, but not if such services are targeted correctly – so that potential customers from such sectors can find them (unlike consumer offers, which are rarely signposted to customers in that way) and backed by appropriate campaigns to the existing communities of users introducing such new offers.

Design and Delivery

Design has also proven to be crucial – most people who use online services appreciate the investments that have gone into user interfaces, dashboards and the like. But this doesn’t have to be left to the digital attackers. Design is critical to the user experience, so these factors are intimately related.

We work continuously with some customers to tweak user interfaces and to optimise experiences, so even for more complex product, the results are outstanding usability – and compatibility with other services with which users may be familiar. Of course, user experience is about more than the interfaces, as we have written previously – but getting the designs right and making users comfortable in exploring and using all available functions is a real discipline.

It used to be said, for example, that for every PBX with 100+ features, only a few were actually used by the majority. Many such features were hard to use, hard to find and it was difficult to remember how to use them once you had. No-one wants to consult a user manual anymore – not for long, anyway.

Integrate digital attacker tactics to your existing business

So, the right attention to the products, the right attention to their design and the experience they deliver are all key to success – whether as a digital attacker or not. As a provider of B2B solutions to operators, we’ve worked with both traditional players and new entrant attacker brands – and the factors recommended by McKinsey are embraced by all of the successful ones.

They won’t guarantee success, but they will certainly make a huge difference to your ability to deliver. While the digital attacker option is a compelling one, don’t overlook the fact that some of the tools and tactics they adopt can also be brought into your existing business – with a bit of help from Gintel.

Segmentation, Service differentiation, MSISDN, 5G

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