Vodafone has taken a controlling stake in Invitation Digital Ltd (IDL), the parent company of mobile coupon provider, Vouchercloud. Vodafone took a 21 per cent stake in IDL in May 2011, and has now increased that stake to 57 per cent.
Vodafone says it intends to work with IDL to extend Vouchercloud beyond the UK and Ireland (where Vouchercloud launched today) over the coming months, as part of its broader mCommerce strategy. Further country launches, and details of Vouchercloud’s integration within Vodafone’s other mCommerce activities, will be announced in due course.
“Mobile couponing is set to grow rapidly across Vodafone’s businesses, as cost-conscious consumers increasingly turn to their smartphones to hunt for bargains and collect loyalty points,” says Vodafone Group commercial development director, Tobin Ireland. “We look forward to working more closely with Vouchercloud in future, as mCommerce services become ever more central to consumers’ daily lives.”
Guillermo Escofet, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, believes the move is a reflection of how central offers have become to operators’ mobile advertising and marketing strategies. He says: “With rival UK operator O2 having built up a 10m-strong community of subscribers opted in to receive offers under the O2 More service, and rival carrier group Deutsche Telekom having struck a partnership with daily-deals site Groupon in January, Vodafone doesn’t want to be left behind.
“The move also reflects the wider trend among operators of embracing the over-the-top model. Rather than focus its strategy on creating a voucher service specifically targeted at its own subscribers, it is investing in a company that targets all mobile users, regardless of which network they are subscribed to. In the globalised world of mobile apps, the limitations placed by operators’ network footprints have become a huge handicap.
Escofet adds that, despite efforts five years ago to become a key player in mobile advertising and marketing, Vodafone has failed to capitalise on its unique position as a mobile operator to become a central repository of private consumer data for the benefit of advertisers.
“Offers are a good fit for mobile because they can be combined with location – exploiting smartphones’ GPS capabilities to push offers from nearby shops – and are focused on an immediately executable task – such as redeeming a free coffee from the coffee shop down the road,” Escofet concludes. “They are a much better fit than brand-message display ads.”