MVNO giffgaff is turning to its customers for advice as it prepares to start selling handsets for the first time.
The company, which runs on the O2 network, has sold Sim-only propositions since it launched in 2009. Giffgaff is looking to make handsets available to customers in the fourth quarter of 2013. It is surveying its customers about what they want from the product pages, what handset ranges they would prefer and what content they want on the device.
Giffgaff CEO Mike Fairman described the project as ‘huge’ and said the company had been in talks with logistics suppliers, handset vendors and financial companies during the past few months to get to this stage. He said the move followed some research into consumers who had stopped using the MVNO. He said: ‘A while ago myself and the team spent some time calling up members who’d left giffgaff – and we found that the vast majority of them still loved giffgaff but were leaving because they needed a new handset.’ An increasing number of members had been demanding giffgaff sell handsets through its ‘Ideas Board’.
He said the company had previously eschewed selling contracts because of the prohibitive cost of Sim-free handsets. Traditional pay monthly contracts did not work either because ‘too often they tie an attractive price for hardware to an expensive contract’, Fairman added.
The company is using the Twitter hashtag #handsetchallenges, with customers being polled to come up with different ideas. Throughout June, its members are being asked to give suggestions for its product pages and have been asked which content they would like to see. This could range from images, videos, 3D views, handset comparisons, reviews and member comments. Customers have been asked to comment on the MVNO’s website or send in fully designed pages.
The move into handsets is a substantial step away from its original ethos. The MVNO said on its ethics page: ‘We don’t believe that the UK really needs any more handsets.’ However, giffgaff said handsets are now one of the most asked for products from the company. Early response to the move, which was announced last week, was largely favourable. One user said: ‘I’d be interested to see what incentives giffgaff offer to compete with the other major networks that seem to subsidise the true handset cost?’ However, one critic said: ‘Not too sure about this. Don’t want giffgaff becoming like every other company. Will just have to wait and see.’
Giffgaff’s core offer is contractless ‘goodybags’, which provide bundles of minutes, texts and data for use over a 30 day period. From £12, customers can get unlimited internet access.
Author: Graeme Neill