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Inside Starhub’s plan to drive conversions programmatically in a crowded telco market


By Shawn Lim | Reporter, Asia Pacific

September 8, 2021 | 5 min read

In order to remain competitive in the mobile industry – especially with the increasing number of operators in Singapore – StarHub works hard to defend its market share and strive for growth in a market that sees an increasing need for connectivity. The Drum finds out how StarHub wants to reach non-subscribers and introduce them to its services.

The competition in the telco industry in Singapore is fierce, as 98% of the population already owns a mobile phone, and there are over 8.4m mobile connections for the country’s over-5.4 million population.

In addition, the entrance of Mobile Virtual Network Operators alongside established telco brands means consumers are not short of options.

With most consumers staying at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, this has resulted in a slump in traditional brick-and-mortar sales and an uncertain economy. However, many of these telcos have found an opportunity to reach many engaged users instantly online cost-effectively and advance their business goals.

One of them is Starhub, which wanted to target non-subscribers and drive conversions for online sign-ups for mobile plans and devices across multiple brands in a privacy-centric manner. To do this, it used Yahoo’s demand-side platform to target and track, with a streamlined process through automation and data-driven decisions when serving ads programmatically online, over desktop and mobile, through both display and native ads.

“Working closely with Carat and StarHub, we onboarded StarHub’s first-party CRM data, hashed to ensure user privacy, on to Yahoo’s first-party data – 200bn cross-screen data points each day from search, mail, content and more – to build an addressable and relevant audience. This also allowed us to exclude StarHub’s current subscribers, keeping redundancy and media wastage to a minimum,” explains Rene How, sales strategist at Yahoo.

“The next step was to utilize the targeting tools available on Yahoo’s DSP, including mobile targeting (users on specific mobile carriers such as StarHub’s competitors, users on older mobile phones, and users on older mobile operating systems) to entice users to make the switch and purchase a new phone.”

She continues: “To further help the campaign scale, targeting also included Yahoo’s first-party interest segments (such as mobile interest, technology and e-commerce), lookalike modeled audiences (of users who have previously converted and new prospects of users similar to StarHub’s current mobile subscribers), and email domain targeting (users who received emails from competing mobile phone brands). Retargeting was also utilized to push users down the conversion funnel through search keyword retargeting and retargeting of users who dropped off the conversion journey.”

The campaign achieved results that surpassed initial goals across various metrics, with 2.4 times better cost-per-click as compared to similar campaigns by other advertisers within the same vertical. It secured additional direct conversion volumes due to improved cost-per-acquisitions through optimization.

Yahoo also consistently drove one of the lowest cost-per-acquisition rates among all channels, driving steady conversions and performance for StarHub. This saw the campaign extended to a six-month campaign from an initial two-month period.

The results of the campaign give the telco confidence as it approaches a cookie-less world.

“We understand and embrace the need for a cookie-less world and are constantly in touch with leaders in both the adtech and martech spaces to further evolve our customer relationships during this moment of change,” says Teo Xueli, senior manager, brand and marketing communications at Starhub.

Yahoo uses a proprietary consent experience that is aligned to the IAB Transparency and Consent Framework’s CMP specification. The consent platform records all user consent choices and is connected to its privacy center, which allows a user to amend their choices at any point and exercise their data subject rights.

“A consideration that goes hand-in-hand with data privacy is data security and proper handling of data, which is often not the expertise of marketers. Yet this is a very integral part of building trust when it comes to consumer data. This is why choosing an identity solution that not only honors consumer privacy preferences but also offers trusted protection to consumers, with complete compliance to market legislation, is crucial,” she explains.

“Notably, in the bigger picture, while consumers are aware that their data is collected and used, they most likely lack a firm understanding of its ins and outs – which adds to the discomfort and anxiety around data privacy.”

She adds: “Our industry will also need to focus our attention on consumer data literacy by educating and dispelling myths and misconceptions about data and privacy, and helping users understand and navigate the cookie-less world. This will empower them and build consumer confidence and trust, allowing consumers to manage expectations and make informed decisions that build confidence and allay worries.”

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