ATLANTA--AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has bet big on moving into new areas like connected cars, smart homes and the Internet of Things, banking on them to drive revenue growth for years to come. However, the company is still working on how best to market this connected lifestyle to consumers.
The current goal, according to several AT&T executives who spoke to FierceWireless here at the company's headquarters, is to show specific use cases to consumers. That will let AT&T make high-concept terms like digital home automation more concrete and palatable for consumers.
"It's about use cases," AT&T Mobility CEO Glenn Lurie said. "If we don't make this simple, if we don't make it easy, we will just intimidate customers and then you'll never grow."
AT&T is already trying to make it all more seamless. Earlier this month at Mobile World Congress, AT&T combined its Drive connected car platform with its Digital Life home security platform, so that consumers will be able to manage their home from the Digital Life app through the infotainment console and voice recognition system of their car.
Lurie said that the carrier did that because its partners asked the company to do so. Car makers want consumers to keep their smartphones in their pockets or purses as they are leaving their homes, he said, and AT&T wants to avoid distracted driving. At the same time, AT&T wants to enable consumers to hit a button on a dashboard screen in their car to lock their house's doors, turn the thermostat down and turn the alarm on. In the not-too-distant future, consumers will do that once and their smart home will know to follow a set program when their car is 20 yards away from their house.
Additionally, Lurie said such capabilities are being built now through open APIs, but he declined to say which car makers are pursuing such plans. That idea of locking up a home via the car is an example of how AT&T wants to get across its vision of a connected life, according to Lurie.
Lurie also talked up AT&T's concept of "twinning" or "number sync" as an example it can use to get across the idea of a digital world. If a consumer has a connected watch or wristband, AT&T, through the network, can clone a phone's identity and number to the watch so that the person can leave their phone at home while going for a run and if they receive a call it will go straight to the watch. "That's a beautiful use case to show customers," he said. The same concept can be used for the car, he noted.
AT&T Mobility CMO David Christopher said that it is important to distinguish between outbound marketing, like TV advertisements, and all of the other elements of marketing. He said AT&T has been ahead of its competitors in terms of product development and is now trying to introduce the concept of a connected lifestyle to its customers.
Christopher noted that in many AT&T retail stores now, on the wall of the store will be marketing messages that say, "The phone is my _____," where the blank space could be filled with anything from a house key to a garage door opener or movie theater.
"This is nascent," he said. "And customers need to know all of the brand new capabilities that are available. So telling that story in merchandizing is a fundamental strategy."
Christopher said that such a strategy in stores allows AT&T's tens of thousands of sales representatives to start telling that story to customers. "Some customers have no idea they can control their house with their smartphone," Christopher said.
"Not every consumer necessarily is ready to do some of these things," Christopher added. "But awareness become a critical factor" and using retail distribution to spread the word is "very, very efficient for us."
"We don't yet know when it's all going to matter," Christopher said of the digital lifestyle. "But we know it's going to."
Kevin Peterson, AT&T's senior vice president of Digital Life, described another example of how such connected services can work. He said a traveling mother can use cameras inside the home to check whether her husband and kids are doing their chores.
"The ultimate goal here has to be that we deliver a simplistic, overall customer experience for mobilizing people's lives," Lurie said. "I'm not saying that's easy. It's actually very difficult. But as you start to have these great use cases and bring them together I think people will start to get it. People get it now, people are starting to understand it today."
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