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Follow up to the M&S MVNO

I wanted to check that it wasn’t just me and Alex who thought the M&S MVNO move was a bit strange.

I collared Ed Hodges earlier this evening who, in his Accenture days gone by, used to supervise the strategy sessions and author the business cases for companies looking to do this sort of thing.

I don’t get it either. During a period where Amp’d and Helio, among others (bids on Disney Mobile anyone?), are struggling to achieve their expected take up targets with superbly marketed, carefully organised customer segmented strategies, M&S’s MVNO looks miss timed and miss placed at best. Who’s the target audience? 40-60 year olds? Octogenarians? It certainly can’t be the hip 15 – 35 bracket, they’d go for Virgin mobile (one of the only successful MVNOs, born of being in the right place at the right time, with the right PRICING strategy rather than behaviour, lifestyle segment) with its cool marketing, cheap pricing and ubiquitous talk time top up channels. And who of that age bracket spends time in M&S browsing mobile phones?

In 2006, who’s going to buy the crappest Nokia on the market? Perhaps 1% of the population at best? As a back up phone perhaps, or perhaps the 10 people left in the UK who haven’t already got a mobile? And then, how many of these people frequent M&S? And why buy from a clothes retailer (a bit black and white, granted) surely nobody thinks ‘its finally time to have one of those mobile thingys, yes, definitely, oooo should I go to that lovely Carphone Warehouse, all the phones I might want, with all the prices in one place, with nice people to help? Nah, I’ll pop into town and see if M&S can sort me out…” rubbish.

I’d like to hear what the business reasoning is behind M&S getting into mobile. I’d love to know predicted timescales for return on investment. Come on Ewan, get investigating!

Er, …

Well I thoroughly enjoyed Tom Weiss’ book, Mobile Strategies, which should have been bedtime reading for all M&S executives involved in the MVNO decision (pages 57-78 should be well thumbed in particular).  So while I don’t think it’s a good move myself, I wonder what Mr Mobile Strategies reckons?  I’ve dropped him a mail via publishers FutureText to ask. 

What do you think?  Send me your thoughts or post them here as comments. 

M&S MVNO: Right or wrong move?


  1. I do agree it comes across as a ‘me too’ type of move but I do believe that the consultants advising the board have some responsibility for whatever they impressed upon the board to take this action.

    The market has matured and to make a differentiator betweeen a new MVNO service and an existing MNO, new entrants cannot rely on brand and voice/text price differentiation.

    Customers are are not loyal to a brand just because that is the billing point.

    The mobile network operators are already creating the reasons why future MVNO’s may be able to thrive. These MNVO’s will offer IM as well as SMS, mobile VOIP (for long distance business/holiday calls), they will secure customer’s data from the phone (back up), they will offer photo/video uploading. All of this will be surrounded by a social community, media/mobile TV channels, in an OPEN system where independent mobile developers/producers can trade their goods to the community AND where the price of the data bundle is LOW, because the volume of traffic pushed from IP to cellphone and the volume of P2P cellphone traffic will be significant, because the first MVNO’s will start the move from voice to multimedia.

    These MVNO’s will be nimble and multimedia centric, the mobile operators will just be the pipes.

    Marks & Spencer will leave the market in less than two years, but I wonder if Apple is that MVNO of the future? Think about it…………


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