|Sohail Ratansi, managing director, Fones U Like|
|Chris Mayers, managing director, Border Mobiles|
Each month the IMPDA asks a panel of dealers how they feel about the hottest topics affecting the channel community. This month, we are looking fi rstly at uncertain times. So much is changing now with bank bailouts, customers spending less in the high street, job cuts, and dealers diversifying to stay in business. All this is a far cry from just a few years ago when we were all on a high. Many dealers have seen the special offers that networks have advertised recently, but what could operators do to help and assist independent dealers to gain customers? Should they now allow those same special offers to be offered by dealers?
Chrisse Mayers, managing director at Border Mobiles –
Border Mobiles fi rst started in April 2004. It is based in the small town of Hawick on the border of Scotland and England. It is a small family fi rm supplying mobiles via its website and from out of its own shop: All deals available to everyone would help independent retailers. Customers would not be confused by matters they really don’t need to know about, and independent dealers would not have to diversify quite so much to remain in business.
Surely a connection to a network is a connection? The source shouldn’t matter. This is especially true when it comes to upgrading a customer. Retentions will often offer deals that we simply cannot match; we’re talking bespoke deals that are completely uncompetitive.
Mobile phone operators could allow independents the opportunity to earn a reduced but profi table commission by allowing us the same tariff and handset refresh for a customer.
Ryan Davey, director at Fones2go -
Fones2go offers products from three of the major networks, focusing on consumer and with B2B coming soon. The business operates a call centre from its base in Swansea, South Wales: Most of the new and small businesses like us will defi nitely struggle a little in 2009. Due to the current climate where we’re seeing the consumer spend less than usual. It’s harder because people are becoming increasingly conscious of where what and how much money their spending each month.
So when it comes to upgrading or searching for a new contract and stylish feature packed handset, it’s harder for us. The major networks are making it easier for the consumer to go direct through their outlets either online or into a store. The lavish advertising campaigns and big promotions offered by the networks prioritise on high quality, low cost deals, which a smaller independent company will fi nd hard to compete with due to smaller advertising and marketing budgets.
We all should focus on quality as well as quantity, making sure that connections are made while working with what we have to hand. We need to concentrate on good customer care, putting the customer fi rst to retain some business after the recession ends.
More established bigger company’s can battle it out during 2009, while the smaller companies will have to focus on making the right decisions now so that they too can make it through these harsh times.
The target market for us is the high end mobile phone users that are satisfi ed with the deals we can offer. I would like to think that sometime during this next year’s business, we will be able to match certain offers from the operators to retain a slice of the market.
The main UK networks will play a big role in this recession - they will for us anyway, as they give even more than they get from smaller company’s across the country. It would be an advantage if we could give the same offers to our new customers as well.
Sohail Ratansi, director, Fones U Like –
Sohail has been involved in telecoms since 1996, from a retail job to Cable & Wireless to a break in banking, then back to the mobile industry. He set up Fones U Like in 2006, starting in consumer, and moving into B2B. Now, 95% of the company’s business is B2B: Of course they should. The fact the networks offer better deals for direct shows us they really should lower that 60% to 70% sales fi gure, that we as independents provided to them.
Networks like O2 have already shunned independent dealers, especially when it comes to consumer offerings, so I wouldn’t be surprised that whatever they (the networks) say about how important we as independent dealers are, they will continue to slowly make it harder for us to sell their product.
The ironic thing is that some affi liate links allow you to make money on connecting direct through the networks website, but we cannot use it commercially - otherwise we could offer the same deals as the networks and still get paid for it.
What has been good in recent weeks is that the networks offering silly retention deals to existing customers is starting to fade away, especially for those that give them low ARPU. This allows us to move them away and take advantage of new deals that are available at the moment.
During these bleak times, I believe the networks should look carefully at the business provided to them by the independents and try to let us either offer the same or similar deals as direct.
The handsets of today that we all know and love are a far cry from the fi rst house brick-sized mobile all those years ago. However, the same styles and basic design has been around for a long time. How do you think the most loved, the most owned product in the world will evolve, and what would your recommendations be for manufacturers?
There’s been some fantastic phones released over this past year. Innovative styles capturing the eye of us all. The Apple iPhone and later iPhone 3G became the leading handset of 2008, giving you style, software and functionality rolled into one good all rounder.
Some manufacturers still produce user-friendly, reliable handsets that adopt the old style of phone with a modern touch. But we have come long way since the fi rst mobile phone was launched in the UK.
1983 was the year the fi rst ever handheld mobile phone was out on the market; the name of this mobile was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X and back then was a staggering $3,995, so you can see how far technology has come and prices lowered since then.
Our opinions are more critical now and expectations higher, which puts pressure on the manufacturers to provide the consumer with something with higher spec and slicker design. We have already seen the standard phones with VGA cameras fade into the background as fi ve and eight mega pixel cameras are incorporated into designs.
Mobile phones have come a long way and as technology grows more advanced, so do the products around us.
Ratansi, WAP-D, Fones U Like:
I have been using a mobile phone since January 1994; it’s amazing to see how much the technology boom has enabled manufacturers to add to their handset range.
From simple well made phones like the Nokia 1200, to the super feature rich handsets like the Apple iPhone, we now have a phone that can suit everyone’s needs. Things can only improve further I believe.
Certain features have come a long way since their initial introduction on mobile phones, like cameras. Manufacturers like Sony Ericsson, making handsets with a Xenon fl ash unit allows photos to be taken that are very similar to the normal digital camera. We also had a slight fl irt with optical lenses, but not much more. I would like another handset with optical zoom, and xenon fl ash. That would then set the benchmark for a decent camera phone.
Mayers, Border Mobiles:
Manufacturers today have got a fantastic range of handsets available, however I think most of them have too large a portfolio. I would like to see a reduction in models available, bringing reliability and stability back to the forefront of the manufacturers’ priority.
Most customers know basically what they are looking for in a handset and will not use the handsets to their full potential. Manufacturers could cater for these need by separating the handsets into categories, placing the customer requirements at the top of their list, be it a fl ip, slide or candy bar design, a basic calls and texts variant or an all singing all dancing variety.
I would like to see handset manufacturers working more closely with independent dealers, creating typical users, from young to old, and designing handsets around what each group would use, remembering that some customers are technophobes, and some really do want their phone to do everything.
Manufacturers also need to do their bit about considering the environment; showing how green a product is or how it can be recycled could go a long way in helping to drive sales.
The IMPDA (Independent Mobile Phone Dealers Association) is open to all UK dealers and distributors. The aim of the IMPDA is to achieve a level playing fi eld for its members, and to champion quality improvements in the industry for a better future. If you would like to join the IMPDA then simply email email@example.com. If you have a concern or story then either email admin@ impda.co.uk or call 0844 884 9702.