June 6, 2012
9:35 AM -- Might Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) be about to start a mobile coupon craze that other mobile operators will follow?
The influential mobile operator giant has upped its stake (for an undisclosed sum) in Invitation Digital Ltd. (IDL), the parent of U.K.-based mobile coupon company Vouchercloud, to 57 percent. That move shows the operator has grand plans for mobile commerce and knows a good deal when it sees one.
Mobile coupons are a good way for operators to get in on the mobile commerce action because the services offer potential new revenue streams, take advantage of customers' location data and could even encourage customer loyalty.
And it's certainly a better option for mobile commerce than waiting for near field communications (NFC) to take off.
Vouchercloud offers discounts and coupons from various participating retailers and uses GPS information on smartphones to locate the closest retailer with an offer for a customer. It then directs the customer to the shop using the smartphone's digital mapping service. Users simply download the voucher onto their smartphone and show it to the retailer.
The service started in the U.K. in 2010 (and has just launched in Ireland). Since then, the service has attracted 700,000 active users and 2,000 merchants, offering 8,000 discounts or loyalty schemes.
Vodafone previously had a 21 percent stake in the mobile coupon company. Now, with a majority stake in the firm and the first option to increase its direct shareholding in the future, it's clear the mobile operator has bigger plans for Vouchercloud. Indeed, Vodafone plans to develop its own version of Vouchercloud to be integrated into its mobile commerce offerings. It also wants to help the service launch in other countries.
By making a targeted investment in a niche mobile commerce company, Vodafone has little to lose and much to gain, as it can now steer Vouchercloud's strategy. It's likely that other service providers will take a similar approach.
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile
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