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Mobile commerce

Will Vodafone Start a Mobile Coupon Craze?

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

Anne Morris 12/5/2012 | 5:30:59 PM
re: Will Vodafone Start a Mobile Coupon Craze?

Plus there is of course the long-established Orange Wednesdays in the UK and variants thereof elsewhere. Certainly looks like the pace is accelerating on this aspect of m-commerce - good for the loyalty aspect.

Anne Morris 12/5/2012 | 5:30:59 PM
re: Will Vodafone Start a Mobile Coupon Craze?

How do you think this matches up to Deutsche Telekom's Groupon deal and O2 Priority Moments? Interesting move by Vodafone, as you say

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:30:59 PM
re: Will Vodafone Start a Mobile Coupon Craze?

Those are good examples too. O2's Priority Moments is only for O2 customers, as I understand it. I'm not sure what services have resulted yet from DT's partnership with GroupOn. Here, though, Vodafone has a majority share in Vouchercloud's parent company, so it has a stake in how things develop. Also, the service isn't limited to Vodafone customers, although Vodafone is planning to develop its own version for its own customers that will be separate from the main Vouchercloud offering.

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:30:59 PM
re: Will Vodafone Start a Mobile Coupon Craze?

There was an interesting discussion about mobile commerce at the Open Mobile Summit in London last week. Dan Schulman, group president at American Express, shared his view that there's no such thing as m-commerce or e-commerce, there's just commerce. 


In Schulman's vision for mobile commerce, consumers would have what he called a "commerce ID," which would be like a wish list, a shopping list and/or a collection of coupons. So, rather than just tapping your phone to make a payment at the point of sale, you could instead tap your phone when you enter a store so that the retailer can have your commerce ID and will know what you're looking for. Then, the retailer can send very targeted offers to you while you're in the store.


Back to reality... Vodafone's move on Vouchercloud is a good example of how a mobile operator can play a part in mobile commerce. 

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