Vodafone takes controlling stake in mobile commerce firm

Vodafone has taken a controlling interest in location-based mobile discount coupon firm Vouchercloud.

Offering deals to smartphones, Vouchercloud supplies discounts, codes and vouchers from a wide range of UK high street shops, restaurants and leisure providers, as well as travel and financial services companies. The service has also just entered the Ireland market.

Vouchercloud uses a smartphone's GPS system to locate discounting retailers nearest to the customer, then guides the customer to the shop using the smartphone's digital mapping application. The voucher is downloaded to the smartphone screen, then shown to the sales assistant in store to redeem the discount. Vouchercloud also offers discounts when shopping online.

Vodafone took a 21 percent stake in the company in May 2011. It has now increased this stake to 57 percent, with an option to increase it further. Vodafone wants to extend Vouchercloud beyond the UK and Ireland over the coming months as part of its broader mobile commerce strategy. It said additional countries to be offered the service will be "announced in due course".

Retailers can manage their own vouchers and discount offers via a simple, self-service online portal, enabling businesses of all sizes to increase footfall and sales.

Vodafone group commercial development director Tobin Ireland said: “Mobile couponing is set to grow rapidly across Vodafone's businesses as cost-conscious consumers increasingly turn to their smartphones to hunt for bargains and collect loyalty points."

Vouchercloud was only launched in the UK in 2010, but claims to have 1.8 million registered users. As of April this year there were 2,000 merchants offering discounts, said Vodafone.

In other mobile commerce news the Post Office recently revealed plans to roll-out contactless payments technology across its entire network, which will allow Mastercard and Visa customers to make payments of up to £20 using near field communication (NFC) equipped mobile phones across 30,000 counter positions in 11,500 branches.

The Post Office roll-out will be the largest of its kind to date in Europe and begins this week in almost two hundred branches surrounding the various Olympic sites. The full implementation is expected to be complete by the end of 2012.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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