How we accelerated from a standing start to build the UK’s newest, fairest mobile network in less than half a year.
It’s not every day that you get to build a Beta Business. Help an established company to grow through experimentation. But once that opportunity comes up, it’s bound to be an awesome challenge. That’s why when Three UK came to us with an idea for a new telco network, we jumped right at it. They wanted to create a simple digital telco brand to broaden their customer base. But they also saw a chance to learn new ways of working.
So we rolled up our sleeves.
We spent some time with the Three UK team establishing a purpose and mission that was different from the parent company. We defined what we stood for and how we were going to organise to deliver a new brand and business. The output was a clear mission and a set of principles that united the team and became invaluable in steering behaviours and decisions as we went.
The UK mobile market is a crowded, competitive place, so we wanted to make sure we stood out. We started by talking to people, finding out exactly what they needed from their mobile provider, and what was broken with the service they were currently using. What would make them switch?
People were fed up with complicated, inflexible plans, unfair charges, sub par customer service, and generally feeling ripped off. Through research and co-creation, we defined and refined the SMARTY proposition, until we had the thing that people wanted and was unique to us. Simple, flexible plans, fair charging for add-ons, and a discount on your next bill based on unused data. A definite UK first.
To launch a mobile network there’s a standard set of features that have to work seamlessly on day one. A customer has to be able to register for a SIM card, pay for it online, get it delivered securely, activate it, move their phone number across - and so on. We call this the Minimum Viable Service.
We went through a process to define and then design each of those features in turn, checking in with customers every time. What's essential when choosing a plan, and what's less relevant? How would they like to buy their SIM card and start using the service?
Some of our initial assumptions were wrong. For instance, users were not as happy as we had expected about receiving a pre-activated SIM. So we scratched that.
Soon enough we had a service map and a set of prototypes that we were confident were right for the customer. So we got building.
Our two-week design and build sprints aligned with other teams on the project: brand, billing, and network. Ultimately we worked as one project team, delivering different layers of the service we designed.
We focused on working code rather than in-depth documentation, testing and iterating like clockwork. Inline with our minimum mindset we used best in class products for elements of the digital service: Intercom for customer chat, Braintree for payments, PCA Predict for address look-up. This enabled us to move fast whilst still delivering a great experience for customers.
Find out more about how we built the digital layer of SMARTY here.
We worked hard to make sure all elements of the experience worked together. That included designing the SIM packaging and mapping out email and SMS communications. We applied the same iterative process here too.
When everything was nearly in place, we alpha launched for a month before finally launching to the public.
As with any new product, getting it launched is just the start. Now we're working on growth. Iterating the proposition and experience, gathering and analysing data and working on multiple experiments to reach and win new customers. Watch this space - we’ll be able to share more with you soon.
We helped our client find growth through experiments. We brought to life a brand concept and high level art direction, from digital experience to packaging design. And then we built it, four times faster than it normally takes.
It wasn’t just about launching a new product, it was also about helping our client work in new ways. We helped the SMARTY team build a fast moving, customer-led business that looks and behaves more like a startup than a corporation.
Easy to understand SIM-only plans, simple digital experience, easy set-up, even easy cancellation. Why would it be any other way?