Telefonica taps travel network for O2 sales

via Flickr © Nick Kenrick (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © Nick Kenrick (CC BY 2.0)

  • Spanish operator expands physical distribution with Globalia deal
  • O2 mobile and fibre plans for sale at 770 travel agencies
  • Telco looking serve customers who want to do business in person

"A fortnight in Barbados? Certainly, sir. And would you like a new mobile or Internet service while you're here?"

It's not what you would usually hear in a travel agent, should you be one of the diminishing number of people to use such an outlet rather than booking flights and holidays online. But it's an approach Telefonica is trying to increase subscriptions to its O2 mobile and fibre services in Spain.

The Spanish operator, which this time last year introduced the O2 brand to its home market as a low-cost service to target markets nor fully reached by its core Movistar offer, has tied up with Globalia. The conglomerate has begun selling O2 products through its network of travel agencies throughout Spain, specifically, 605 Halcón Viajes outlets and 165 Viajes Ecuador stores.

"Although O2 is focused on selling through its own online channel, it is aware that some people prefer to buy communications services in person, in nearby establishments that offer the confidence and advice they need," Telefonica said, in a Spanish language statement.

It is probably right about that. Despite the proliferation of Internet shopping, many people still gravitate towards a real live experience, especially when they are not 100% sure that what they are buying actually meets their needs.

But it's not unreasonable to question Telefonica's assertion that Halcón Viajes and Viajes Ecuador "perfectly fulfil" this requirement.

They are, after all, travel agents. It's not like a chemist or post office, for example, a business a consumer might frequent every week, take note of the mobile offer and decide to sign up. Incidentally, Telefonica has a deal with the Spanish post office, which has been selling its O2 packages in 2,400 branches for the past four months. (And I have an issue with a UK drugstore perpetually trying to sell me its MVNO service when all I want is to buy shampoo, but that's a rant for another day.)

O2 is targeting price-sensitive customers in Spain – and yes, aren't we all price-sensitive to a certain extent? – which jars somewhat with the move to use a travel agent as a sales channel. Surely the Internet is the cheapest place to buy flights and holidays...and that's presuming you have the disposable income for a holiday in the first place.

Further, a travel agent seems an unlikely place to buy a mobile service. You might well pick up a new SIM at the post office, but surely if you're browsing through holiday brochures you'd have other things on your mind.

It's not that simple, of course. The fact remains that Telefonica has just added 770 physical locations to its sales footprint for a product with mass-market appeal. O2 offers just two plans: a €20-per-month mobile deal that includes 20 GB of data as well as calls and SMS, and a €50 plan that adds a 300 Mbps fibre connection into the mix.

Presuming Spanish consumers know that they can go to these stores to buy a mobile service, rather than Telefonica relying on the notion of an impulse buy alongside the purchase of a flight to Tenerife, then adding physical locations is probably a sensible move.

Internet shopping is extremely useful, but, hand on heart, how many of us would still rather do our business in person?

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