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Vodafone takes control of Vouchercloud

Operator group Telefonica will allow consumers in the US and Canada to buy mobile airtime in retail stores for family and friends who are Movistar subscribers in Latin America

UK carrier Vodafone on Wednesday increased its holding in mobile coupon provider Vouchercloud, as the mobile transaction bandwagon continues to roll. The UK-based coupon firm, which uses the smartphone’s GPS system to locate discounting retailers nearest to the customer, also launched in Ireland this week.

Vodafone increased its shareholding in Vouchercloud’s parent company, Invitation Digital Limited to 57 per cent from 21 per cent and has the first option to increase its direct shareholding in the future.

Guillermo Escofet, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media said that Vodafone’s move reflects how central offers have become to operators’ mobile advertising and marketing strategies. With rival UK operator O2 having built up a ten million strong community of subscribers opted in to receive offers under the O2 More service, and rival carrier group Deutsche Telekom having struck a partnership with daily-deals site Groupon in January, Vodafone doesn’t want to be left behind.

“The move also reflects the wider trend among operators of embracing the over-the-top model. Rather than focus its strategy on creating a voucher service specifically targeted at its own subscribers, it is investing in a company that targets all mobile users, regardless of which network they are subscribed to. In the globalised world of mobile apps, the limitations placed by operators’ network footprints have become a huge handicap,” Escofet said.

Vodafone was one of the most high profile brands in the big drive five years ago by operators to become key players in mobile advertising and marketing. It rolled out a group-wide strategy and set up mobile advertising teams in most of its subsidiaries. But, like most other operators, it has failed to capitalise on its unique position as a mobile operator to become a central repository of private consumer data for the benefit of advertisers. Too many barriers were in the way.

According to Escofet, offers are a good fit for mobile because they can be combined with location – exploiting smartphones’ GPS capabilities to push offers from nearby shops – and are focused on an immediately executable task – such as redeeming a free coffee from the coffee shop down the road. They are a much better fit than brand-message display ads, for example.

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