Vodafone’s new retail rollout plans represented another expected but significant shift in the realm of mobile retail. It was only a matter of time before the cash-rich giant showed its hand after months of speculation about the direction it would take, and the reported £100m investment is one which the operator sorely needed to make in order to keep up with the Joneses.
The Newbury-based firm makes no secret that it likes a high-end and valuable customer base, but its store ambiance didn’t exactly reflect that status. While operator rivals tweaked their estates and announced plans to revolutionise retail strategies à la EE with its new concept stores, Vodafone remained tight-lipped.
Earlier this month, however, in the presence of David Cameron, the network operator unveiled ambitious plans to take on its competitors on the high street. New-look shop-fits in existing stores will be complemented by 150 new stores across the UK over the next 12 months. If Vodafone pulls it off without a hitch it will be no mean feat, and will be a strong statement of intent as the retail space gradually evolves.
Telcos are collectively beginning to put customer service at the forefront of their priorities, and retail is increasingly reflected this with improvements geared towards creating a richer experience for those who step inside.
Customers, generally, visit an operator store to upgrade, purchase a new phone or contract, or just browse to pass the time. They’re not stores that are visited with the frequency, of say, a Tesco or WHSmith. Perceptions and impressions are incredibly important which is why this scramble to create the best looking and people-friendly stores is particularly significant.
Smartphone saturation dictates that the majority of people who walk in will want help, or are just window shopping, so delivering a positive experience is paramount, as when they do decide to purchase a product or service, a shiny new store with working demos and friendly but concise staff will be their first port of call.
The improvements in in-store experience made by operators and retailers can only be viewed as a positive thing for the whole industry. The major players have been battling with the public’s ‘Phone Shop’ perceptions of men in shiny suits smelling blood for commission, but these improvements and evolutions are slowly turning that around.
According to IDC, the growth of mobile retail stores is only matched by the increasing number of supermarkets and grocery retailers popping up across the country, and an increase in jobs being made along with this improvement in customer care means that the industry from a retail perspective is really proving its worth at the heart of the UK economy.