Spark expands its partnership portfolio, looks to solve SME headaches with apps

  • Telecommunications
  • May 28, 2015
  • Damien Venuto
Spark expands its partnership portfolio, looks to solve SME headaches with apps

The over-used quip 'there's an app for that' emerged due to the sheer number of apps that have flooded onto the market in recent years. These software extensions provide a direct link to the essential (the weather and email), to entertainment (Facebook, Twitter and games), and to the downright bizarre (paranormal EMF meters, drunk dial control mechanisms and fake-excuse generators).

Scattered somewhere within all this app chaos, there are also a few useful business tools that companies can use to improve and expedite their processes. The problem, however, is that businesses often don't have the time to trial and test apps to determine which would best be suited to their business needs.

To simplify this process, Spark Digital has now introduced a new offering called Spark Digital Apps that gives small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access to the core digital tools they need to run their businesses. 

                                                                 

The service works similarly to a smartphone app store where the business can buy and manage products from well-known brands.  

In much the same way that Spark partnered with Spotify to give users access to the music-streaming service, the telco has now signed agreements with the teams at Office 365, McAfee, MozyPro and MaaXcloud to accommodate the key requirements of business owners.

"Businesses will be able to log in with a single password for business applications like Microsoft Office 365, Mozy backup and McAfee security, says recently appointed marketing manager of Spark Digital Mark Redgrave. "They can see, assign and remove who is using what."

The IDC APeJ Cloud survey recently showed that 80 percent of Kiwi businesses already use between two to five cloud-based services, which indicates that this was a good space for Spark to be.

Redgrave says that he's "very impressed" by how quickly his team at has managed to bring this to market, and adds that the opportunity to be involved in the evolution of Spark was one of the reasons why he joined the telco in the first place.   

"We're trying to be quicker and be more agile as a business," he says. "I wouldn't have been interested in joining Spark if I thought it was just going to remain a telco." 

Redgrave says that the app centre was introduced in direct response to requests from customers, and that it was integral for the telco to act quickly. 

This is again an example of Spark moving beyond the traditional lines of a telco to integrate technological tools into its business. The most well reported of these moves have been on the consumer side with the likes of Lightbox and Spotify, but Spark has also been consolidating its offering on the business side.

Earlier this year, Spark signed a deal with Putti to give consumers 24 months' access to Putti's mobile-responsive web design tools. And now, this deal adds another feather in the telco's growing headdress of technological tools for Kiwi businesses.

The addition of the Spark Digital Apps also gives Spark the added advantage of serving as central control point from which businesses can manage all their subscriptions to cloud-based services. 

Redgrave says that all subscriptions for the various services can be rolled into the single Spark account, streamlining the payment process. 

And this also comes with advantages for Spark, in that tying all these services not only offers an up-selling opportunity but also makes it more difficult for customers to take their business elsewhere. And since customers are already hesitant to switch from one service provider to another on account of the schlep involved, adding more layers by tying a customer's business subscription into a deal will certainly work in Spark's favour in terms of retaining subscribers.      

Spark has launched a significant marketing campaign to announce Spark Digital Apps, with executions running across pre-rolls, social media, SEM, YouTube, banner ads and B2B marketing.

Redgrave says that Spark can no longer rely on its network to establish a point of difference, because consumers now see it as a given regardless of what telco they've subscribed to.    

"We need to stop talking about the network. It's tough to accept this because we've invested billions of dollars in it, but customers aren't interested in the network. They're interested in what they can do on the network and how that can help to change their business."

In addition to differentiating Spark from its competitors, these partnerships—both business and entertainment based—also extend the reach of the company beyond the phone into customers' lives and jobs. And the customer data obtained from this will prove valuable in determining what moves the company should make next.  

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