Home / Companies / IT firms find new ways to engage end-users

HCL Technologies Ltd formed a partnership with Manchester United Football Club this month to create a digital platform to provide services like premium content and real-time game feed on mobile devices to the millions of followers of the club.

A day later, Wipro Ltd entered into a similar contract with Chelsea Football Club to deliver in-stadium, game-day experience to the club’s fans worldwide. And last week, Infosys Ltd, India’s second-largest software services firm, partnered with ATP, the governing body for professional men’s tennis, to manage and analyse large volumes of tennis data and offer insights and predictions for fans and players.

For years, Indian information technology (IT) firms have provided services to large companies to manage their customers. But now, in an era of new technologies in the social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) space, they are offering new services and new ways to reach out to the end-users.

These deals are taking place in a range of sectors, including sports, media and entertainment, consumer goods, retail and healthcare. And while their traditional services will continue to be the mainstay of Indian IT firms, these new, end-user-engagement-sort-of deals, which are a part of their overarching digital strategy that contributes on average 8-10% of their revenue, can prove to be a differentiator for the IT firms, experts say.

“What has changed is the way they are engaging with their clients, leveraging mobile, analytics, social and other emerging technologies," said Vikash Jain, partner and director, Boston Consulting Group. “They are using gamification and apps, among other things, to reach out to the end-users. This has become one of the key focus areas for these firms."

The partnership with Manchester United will “extend the experience of being in the stadium to those who are outside the stadium," said Jaco Van Eeden, executive vice-president at HCL’s Beyond Digital business unit. “We are thinking of making it a platform that is market-ready for other sports and media companies and even consumer goods companies."

Eeden said the company is aggressively looking at “outcome-based and experience-based deals".

“The clients want to understand how they can engage consumer and they can create more sticky relationship," he said.

For instance, HCL is working with a toy company to provide it with an IoT (Internet of things) solution, like a chip that can be placed in toys such as dolls. The company can then connect the doll with the Internet and offer interactive applications to engage the children playing with that doll.

Analysts expect the trend of such deals, where the IT firms engage with their clients’ users directly, to pick up.

“Digital has changed the way companies are engaging with the customers. In a B2C space, digital has changed the entire IT paradigm. IT is no longer a back-office operation; it has become an integral part of branding, marketing and strategy," said Govind Agarwal, research analyst-institutional equities, Prabhudas Lilladher Pvt. Ltd. “For many clients, it is a matter of survival to provide services digitally that can engage users in an innovative way so as to retain them."

One of the driving factors behind this is the evolution of the smartphone. Thanks to the prevalence of technologically sophisticated phones, consumers hold a lot more power, experts say, making them obvious customers.

“The end game is moving from the traditional applications to being more interactive, customer facing, mobility based applications," said a Mumbai based analyst. He spoke on condition of anonymity because his company policy doesn’t allow him to speak to the media.

Rajan Kohli, senior vice-president and global head, Wipro Digital, said the company is focusing on the upcoming trend—engaging end-users digitally—which has become a “velocity business" for the firm.

For this, it has a two-pronged strategy—digitization in existing systems; and newer processes, business models and channels.

For instance, in the case of a football club, when a player scores, his fans will post comments and images on social networks. That data can be used to analyse which fans follow which players. “At that moment, if you send those fans customized offers related to that particular player who has scored—like a jersey or any other such item—most likely fans will buy them on impulse," said Agarwal.

In June, Wipro partnered with the UK lawn tennis association a to help the association get more people interested in the game and to use technology in helping and measuring the performance of players through IoT.

The Bengaluru-based firm is also working with broadcasters, studios, music labels, publishers and cable network operators that are looking to build direct and engaging relationships with consumers to create content monetization opportunities.

Wipro has taken this to the beauty industry; it is working with a cosmetics company to use technology to determine the texture and tone of a consumer’s skin, based on which the company can suggest more products to customers.

“There are already products and applications available that can measure heartbeat and temperature of a body. It is the same thing with skin," said Kohli.

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