Verizon has launched the the beta trial of FreeBee Data service. The new service might just enables companies to reach sections of the US population with marketing information that it may not have done otherwise. Other telecommunications companies will be watching this innovative move with interest and if companies leverage the new service to great effect then one can expect a similar service to be launched in other countries.
According to the Pew Research centre 64% of Americans now own smartphones. However the cost of mobile data means that for some of them there is a reluctance to use their devices on 4G networks and risk expensive data charges. Verizon believes that it has come up with an innovative solution called FreeBee Data that enables companies to reach those users with content without those users bearing the cost. The new service actually has several use cases and could be of great benefit to consumers and business users alike.
Two species of FreeBee
Verizon has launched the initial trial with two versions. The first is available now, FreeBee Data 360 allows companies to sponsor data for all post paid customers. Content providers can sign up to deliver mobile content, either inside a mobile app, or web content to consumers without using consumer data plans. FreeBee Data 360 is then charged on a per gigabyte pricing model which is only available on request. There are two obvious use cases for this, the first is a new marketing channel and Verizon has sensibly included analytics within the FreeBee service that enable Marketeers to track click through and take-up rates.
It will be interesting to see whether people want to be inundated with marketing messages in this way but if they are aware that they are not paying for them then it might work. The second is the delivery of content to those people on limited data tariffs. At the moment users will happily watch video and listen to audio when connected to Wi-FI but when mobile this is less likely to occur. With the bundled cost of FreeBee data likely to be significantly less than the cost for users it will be interesting to see what pricing content providers use.
The second model which begins on January 25th is a separate pay per click service. Hearst Magazines, AOL and GAMEDAY have already signed up to participate in this trial which sponsors the mobile content for 1,000 test subscribers. No pricing is yet available for this trial but commercials are likely to be announced later in the year if the trial is successful. During the pay per click campaign a small “bee” icon will appear on the consumers screens next to the sponsored content indicating that the content is being delivered free of charge.
Colson Hillier, vice president, Consumer Products at Verizon commented: “With 1 in 3 Americans now watching videos on their smartphone, and another 100 million on tablets, the business case for mobile is clear,”
“In today’s digital economy, FreeBee Data is a departure from the one size fits all approach to marketing. The opportunity to add value and utility to consumers’ everyday experiences will fundamentally transform how brands and businesses connect with their customers.”
What Verizon are hoping to do is increase the usage of their network as they realise that consumers are using their smart phones with Wi-FI to view high value content and there is a missed opportunity there for people on the move. For corporates looking to deliver such things as training content this may also be an option to consider. With BYOD being adopted users are sometimes cautious about using their data tariff for business use. In offering to deliver training courses to employees using corporate paid data this could mean that employees can become more effective during work time. It will be interesting to see whether this can be expanded to include all corporate data being transferred to mobile devices.
This is, in our opinion an interesting and potentially exciting development in mobile tariffing. The thought that content can be provided to a mobile device without the consumer have to pay for both the content and the bandwidth is thought-provoking. There are several use case that have already been considered and it will be interesting to see what the take up of them will be. For Hearst Magazines does it mean that they can deliver a whole emagazine to a whole new target audience?
For companies struggling to get engagement with key target audiences it might be the means by which they finally enable digital technology. Hillier continued: “By building capabilities to help brands promote their content and applications, our new FreeBee Data service is a powerful tool designed to help marketers take an active part in consumers’ mobile lives. There’s never too much of a good thing when it comes to engaging customers with great content. We look forward to providing our Verizon Wireless subscribers with more options to access amazing content without data charges, just by being one of our valued customers.”
What will be interesting is whether the FreeBee icon becomes synonymous with free consumer data in the future. For consumers the ability to just buy content without having to worry about any additional costs might open up their wallets to purchasing additional content from the providers and increasing revenues for Verizon and other mobile providers who also go down this path.