Amaysim's secret to success: Don't copy the carriers

Australia's largest mobile virtual network operator has bumped up its Unlimited mobile data plan to 5GB and is about to boost its brand visibility in a big way.

Amaysim's recently appointed managing director Julian Ogrin is no stranger to the cut and thrust of the highly competitive telecommunications space, and the pressures are even more acute when you are in charge of arguably Australia's largest mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). While the Australian MVNO space has already undergone a wave of consolidation, those left standing -- Amaysim, Virgin, ALDI, YoTango -- are busy sprucing up their wares and making sure they have what it takes to stand out from the crowd.

For Ogrin, the immediate goal is to get 1 million users onto the company's books by 2015. Amaysim's latest pitch to the market -- boosting its Unlimited data plan to 5GB of data -- just might do the trick.

The data boost does come with a modicum of pain, with the price of the Unlimited plan going up by $5 a month from September to $44.90. But Ogrin says that Amaysim's low excess-usage rate and streamlined customer support should more than offset the price increase.

Data is the new currency of the mobile age -- and that's understandable when so many of us are walking around with such powerful devices in our pockets and bags. Ogrin says Amaysim's 600,000-strong customer base has provided ample evidence as to just how insatiable that hunger for data is in the market.

"Our own customer base has shown 85 per cent growth (year-on-year) on their data requirements," Ogrin told Business Spectator. However, Ogrin says this increased appetite holds a particular downside: bill shock. According to research commissioned by Amaysim, bill shock affects more than half of Australian mobile users.

The research also points to some rather sobering statistics about how often and how much consumers are being slugged. It shows that the average Aussie consumer who exceeds their data allowance does so as often as once every three months, with one in four hit with charges of more than $20 on average. A further 23 per cent are exceeding their data allowances by between $11 and $20. The total excess mobile usage charges Australia-wide added up to almost $400 million over the last 12 months.

This data pain provides a substantial opportunity which almost all operators, including Telstra, Optus and Vodafone Australia, are trying to address. But Ogrin says giving customers warnings about their data usage and giving them the ability to top up their accounts is in some cases mere window dressing.

"The major carriers are providing a base level of data and then monetising through the add-ons," he says. "It's a 'good-guy' approach but there's an upsell."

Amaysim is betting that by putting 5GB on the table from the get-go for a small price hike it can grab a bigger slice of the market. However, Ogrin says that's not all that's on Amaysim's agenda.

The company is about to embark on its biggest marketing campaign to date, with more advertising and a real intention of increasing brand visibility. Some of that will no doubt focus on advocacy around the issue of how Australian consumers should become more savvy about their own data usage as well as data-driven excess charges.

Given the current state of the MVNO market, Amaysim's new-found aggression may come in handy as a differentiator in an environment where pure discounting just doesn't cut it anymore.

Success in the space is far more driven now by brand and brand loyalty -- something that has ostensibly worked in the favour of companies like ALDI, a Telstra reseller that has managed to gain a substantial foothold in the Australian mobile market (it now has a market share of 1.6 per cent, according to the latest Kantar resreach).

Amaysim's market share stands at 3.7 per cent and the operator has managed to cultivate a committed user base, the main driver of which, according to Ogrin, has not been price.

Instead, he ascribes Amaysim's success to its effective customer service platform, which in turn is underpinned by streamlined back-end systems.

When you are servicing a customer base of 600,000 with just 60 staff, you are probably doing something right.

When it comes to thriving, not just surviving, in the MVNO space Ogrin follows a simple mantra: "Don't copy the carriers."

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