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Telecom product launch

Launching the
hottest new device

When a major telecom provider wanted a successful product launch, we helped best its previous launch record and exceed customer expectations.

Smartphone sales continue to climb.

In 2014, more than one billion smartphone units were sold, reports Gartner. In Q4 alone, 367.5 million devices were sold.

It’s not just sales that are on the rise—consumer expectations are going up as well.

Before, we wanted the hottest new mobile device the day it hit the showroom. Now, we want to preorder that device the second it becomes available from wherever we’re at, any time of the day or night.

With this type of product launch, “you can’t have any known problems,” says Slalom client service lead Corey Weider.

Because the same kind of people that stand in line for hours on end or refresh their browser until the clock strikes midnight and the device du jour is available are also the first to voice their pleasure—or displeasure—from the proverbial rooftops.

“Any time one of the carriers hiccups,” adds Weider, “they get a black eye in the media.”

Meeting consumer expectations takes fastidious planning and laser-focused forecasting. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have experience under your belt.

With a product launch eight weeks out—and success swinging in the balance—our client, a large telecom provider, enlisted the help of Slalom’s “dream team.”

“He sent up the Bat-signal,” laughs Weider, recalling how Slalom project lead Gilbert Wong went about assembling a team with more than 70 years of combined telecom experience.

Textbook product launch

Meeting customer expectations requires taking a step back and really understanding what’s needed to meet your success criteria for every functional area, says Gilbert Wong, leader of Slalom’s digital strategy practice.

Those functional areas range from overall launch coordination (everything that happens once the clock strikes midnight) and product (what has to happen to ensure that the website stays up and running) to operations (how each order flows through the backend systems), performance testing, customer communications, and analytics.

“We played the coordinating generals on the ground,” says Weider of the Slalom team. And because they were brought in six short weeks before the launch, the team hit the ground running.

After quickly ramping up on the minutia of the provider’s mobility business, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work—creating an online launch strategy and ensuring that the provider was fully prepared for launch night and beyond. In addition to delivering the critical products needed for launch, they forecasted order volumes (which were accurate to within 15-minute increments) and managed site traffic, inventory, revenue, user paths, and marketing.

And come launch night, they led the end-to-end team.

“It’s quite the show”

Launch night is a jumble of nervous anticipation, caffeine, and adrenaline.

“You’ve got these giant war rooms staffed with every kind of person you can think of,” says Wong. “It’s all hands on deck once we hit that switch.”

Compound that with the fact that everyone’s been working around the clock in the days (and often weeks) leading up to the launch, and it’s “quite the show,” says Wong.

The team on the ground that night is covering every base imaginable to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

They’re keeping a close eye on web traffic and order numbers and trends, monitoring social media activity, providing company leaders with real-time analytics, and putting out fires along the way.

Real-time reporting is critical, says Weider.

Typically, you launch a product and a week later figure out if it’s doing well, he says. Here, you know it’s going to do well, but you need to know how well it’s doing and whether you’re keeping up.

With a launch of this scale, “something will always go wrong,” says Wong. The key is to plan ahead for the kinds of things that could go wrong and assign a clear owner to guide the team through any rough patches.

“You want a seamless experience”

There’s an enormous amount of work that goes into pulling off a successful product launch. Yet, the average person cares about none of that—they just want their new device.

And consumer happiness is especially important for a launch of this magnitude. Because when people are happy, they might share it on social media, but when they’re unhappy, they’ll definitely voice their frustrations via social media.

“If you have a million people coming to your site over the course of six months, people will come across errors and things will work themselves out,” says Weider. “If you have a million people visiting your site in the span of 24 hours to place an order, every little problem you have gets magnified a hundred thousand times.”

He adds, “The small details just get totally blown out of proportion and show up on Twitter.”

And while a handful of disgruntled tweets are par for the course, a wave of complaints around the same theme represent an issue that needs to be resolved—immediately.

“You want a seamless experience,” says Wong.

Ideally, customers are thrilled to be one of the first to order their device and are chomping at the bit to share about it on their social networks.

Biggest launch, best results

On launch night, the orders poured in.

"This is our biggest phone preorder launch day ever," reported the provider’s head of mobility.

Our client bested its previous launch record (in units sold), and six times more orders were placed per minute than any other time in company history—for 90 straight minutes.

Perhaps more impressive, the provider’s site stayed up the entire evening, even when competitor sites went down.

Any product, any industry

The methodology applied to this launch works for any product launch, whether clothing or cars or technology, stresses Wong, because the same types of activities have to happen.

Organizations must consider everything, from logistics (what happens on launch day?) to technology (what do we need to do to ensure our site doesn’t crash?). For Wong and his “dream team,” it’s about identifying those ubiquitous activities and building the level of support that’s needed.

Because at the end of the day, says Wong, success is mostly thanks to a little luck … and a lot of planning.

Global smartphone sales

1B+ smartphone units sold in 2014
367.5M devices sold in Q4 2014
Global smartphone market up 28.2% YOY

Sources: 1) Gartner, 2) TechCrunch, 3) IDC