Vodafone boss Nick Read talked about how the operator’s stores will spend the next year focusing on data products and services by adjusting store layouts, adapting staff incentives and recruiting an extra 330 retail staff.
Mobile companies have been desperately looking for ‘the next big thing’, with picture messaging, data cards, 3G portals and the like. But few have seen sales like the dongle phenomenon. And it’s not just Vodafone.
In terms of hardware, 3’s store displays have been almost entirely dominated by its dongles, and it has paid dividends for the operator with many 3 stores claiming that 40% of their contract sales were for mobile broadband.
And Phones 4u has also targeted the ever-increasing dongle market as an area for growth. Despite usually keeping the marketing purse strings reasonably tight, there are rows and rows of billboards running the whole length of escalators on the London Underground advertising the retailer’s mobile broadband modems from Orange, Vodafone and 3.
Andrew Harrison, UK CEO of Carphone, has called 2008 ‘the year of the laptop’, and there were new stats yesterday that consumers are getting fed up with their fixed line broadband providers.
Dongles are still a relatively new product and customers need someone to explain it to them.
Vodafone seems to have cranked up its mobile broadband marketing effort over the last few weeks by cutting its prices to match 3’s £15 a month deal and launching a huge advertising campaign, but it’s worked out it needs to do even more.
Read said in an interview with Mobile: ‘We can see where we are sub-optimally manned in stores, and by putting additional headcount into those stores it will directly link to revenue generation and conversion of customers.’
Simply put, they want staff ready and waiting for customers so they can sell them data hardware and sign them up to new services.
Many customers have left the high street in favour of the internet for their latest mobile phone deal, but that’s because they have grown in confidence; they know what they want from a phone, and the average user is on their fourth, fifth or sixth handset - even if it’s just a result of trail and error - they know what they want from a phone.
But for newer products and services, customers need a little guidance. Not everyone knows their Mbps from their megabytes. So it’s not just a case of raising awareness, there needs to be someone ready to explain how the product works, and why.