International prepay MVNO Now is launching its first handset deal and rolling out major airtime and Sim deals with WHSmiths, Boots and Tesco as part of a concerted expansion drive.
The EE MVNO, which targets the youth and ethnic market, will launch its handset offering next month. Customers will be offered a choice of three handsets – the Nokia 301, the Samsung Ace and the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini – bundled with two months of free UK airtime.
Speaking to Mobile Andrew Davies (pictured), CFO at parent company NowTel Group, said the handset deal will initially focus on younger customers. To this end the MVNO plans to include low cost unlimited data packages in the handset deal later this year.
Davies said Now’s customers fall into two categories – those between 16-24 years of age, who are attracted to the MVNO’s cut price national calls and data bundles, and older customers, from 40-60 years old, who make regular weekly international calls to friends and family overseas.
Davies added: ‘The handset deal is mainly focused on our primary national users. Within our customer base there is a real desire to use our service as a primary Sim for international and national calls. We have a really good churn rate and great customer stickiness so we know our customers are willing to invest in a handset upfront. So this is an extension of that service.’
The MVNO is also continuing to expand its distribution channels beyond the traditional corner store to major high street retailers. Following deals with Boots and WHSmith it has expanded its Sim contract with Tesco.
The Boots deal sees the retailer selling Now airtime top-ups across its 2,000-plus stores, whilst the WHSmith contract, which launches this summer, sees the roll out of airtime top-ups at WHSmith’s 400 airport and rail station travel stores, after a successful trial at four WHSmith stores earlier this year.
Now has also extended its Tesco deal, with its Sim cards taking a much higher in-store pro? le in 250 Tesco stores as well as being on offer for the ? rst time in Tesco’s 200 Phone Shops.
The company has also focused on stabilising its customer base after rapid growth over the past two years saw customer numbers more than double to 60,000.
Davies said: ‘We now have fewer customers – more like 50,000. We cleansed the base to get the churn down and we now have a very stable base with good ARPU and a really good churn rate.’
The company has been on a recruitment drive boosting staff numbers by 20% to 25, as part of its increased focus on customer retention, taking on customer service agents, a new marketing manager and digital manager.