Vodafone UK has opened the first of a network of retail stores dedicated to small business customers in Cheapside, London.
The move follows feedback from Vodafone's small and medium enterprise (SME) customers about what they want from their mobile operator.
Vodafone UK has 400 retail stores nationwide, 150 of which have dedicated business advisors. The Cheapside business store offers SMEs workshops and seminars to help them manage their fixed and mobile communications, in-store technical support and expert advisors, as well as products and demonstrations.
Frost & Sullivan analyst Saverio Romeo said all the main fixed telecoms providers and mobile network operators have developed packages for SMEs in recent years. "Vodafone is taking a further step by opening the first retail store for small enterprises," he said.
Romeo said European business was based largely on SMEs. "Between 90% and 95% of European businesses employ fewer than 250 people," he said.
SMEs had neither the time nor the resources to develop innovation and extensive marketing, or to optimise internal processes to maximise output and reduce costs in-house. "The lack of those hampers their evolution," he said.
He said European telecommunications and IT firms were targeting SMEs with products such as unified communications and enterprise mobility.
"The Cheapside experience is certainly a test for Vodafone," Romeo said. He said the mobile network operator hoped to create a preferential channel of direct contact with SMEs, which would be a key part of an emerging mobile communications market.