The end of the sponsored link?

WowBox is a free lifestyle app from Telenor Digital, designed to give users the opportunity to earn free data and other rewards through internal product-offers, whilst providing an entertaining and exciting way to experience the Internet. The content on the app is updated daily, with news articles, horoscopes, games and the latest sporting results.

The WowBox app works as a distribution channel for Grameenphone (the largest mobile provider in Bangladesh) and local partners respectively, accounting for around 85,000 daily sales of Grameenphone products. The average revenue per customer amongst non-WowBox users compared to WowBox users emphasises the importance of upsell within the controlled environment of the app.

A keyword search for ‘lifestyle apps’ in the Apple App Store and Google Play returns an exhaustive list of fitness, dating, and entertainment apps. Interestingly, apps such as WowBox do not appear to exist in the UK market, with the closest being mobile network operator apps from network providers such as EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone. These apps offer users the chance to purchase and manage data, see their allowance and view their bills. In contrast to Wowbox, these apps are free from in-app advertising, focusing entirely on the user’s current package.

The expansion of the current backend implementation of WowBox will allow the development of analytical features to provide personalized offers that are targeted toward the specific user. This will lead to targeted advertisement within the app itself, generating increased revenue in the process.

WowBox uses in-app advertisement in a non-intrusive way; incorporating adverts in a native style that mimics the look and feel of the app itself. This does not damage or pollute the user experience of the app, unlike out-dated app banners and pop-ups that reduce the quality of user experience.

The app functions on an incentivised scheme, encouraging users to earn and spend tokens through rewards and offers. The more you use the app, the more you earn. Promotional offers from third party providers and partners are the optimal medium for marketers and brands to distribute their products and raise awareness about their services. Given the large quantities of time users spend on apps (ranging from 1-3 hours in a single sitting), it appears that in-app advertisements are the future of mobile advertising.

Tapping in to the potential of this resource and promoting in-app engagement is key, as 84% of the overall time spent on a smartphone is spent in-app. The unique factor (and one of main reasons behind the success of WowBox) is that Grameenphone does not share user details with advertising networks. Keeping user data safe and ‘in-house’ retains the quality of user experience whilst allowing the operator to improve accuracy and relevancy of target adverts by using their archive of data to ensure tailored advertising. This results in high quality adverts, with users more likely to respond to and purchase from adverts. Not only does this increase revenue for the advertiser but increases and generates revenue for WowBox, which is essential as it is otherwise a free app.

Are apps such as WowBox the key to success in the mobile advertising world? Mobile operators are arguably in the best position for knowing their customer, especially in relation to search engines such as Google and Bing, replacing the out-dated (and more often than not ignored) sponsored link with a sleek, customised, and un-intrusive signal that highlights what the user needs before they realise they need it.

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  • The end of the sponsored link?