Vodafone To Shut down 15 Percent Of Its Physical Store As Part Of Overhaul Plans

Branding hangs outside a Vodafone shop in Oxford (Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville)

British telecommunications giant Vodafone has revealed plans to shut down up to 15 percent of its 7,700 brick-and-mortar stores worldwide. The company stated that the reason for the shutdowns is due to the fact that most of its customers are now buying more online.

Vodafone also revealed plans to significantly change the in-store shopping experience of its customers by upgrading some of its remaining outlets. The announcement was made by the company's own chief executive officer Nick Read on Tuesday. The telecom firm currently has around 5,000 stores in Europe, with the rest spread around countries in markets such as Africa and Asia.

The closures are part of the company's larger overhaul plans. According to reading, the renovations they will be doing to their remaining stores will be based on big data that will give them an insight into what their customers want and need for any particular location. The executive stated that they expect to significantly transform more than 40 percent of their stores by the end of 2021.

Vodafone will reportedly mirror the strategies implemented by its rivals Amazon and Apple. This includes the evolution of its stores to meet the changing expectations of its customers. Read mentioned that the renovations should greatly improve their in-store services and will far surpass those being offered by rivals such as Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, and BT.

Read further elaborated in the company's statement that most people now visit stores for completely different reasons.

The purpose of actual brick-and-mortar stores has apparently changed and the company wishes to adapt to that change. The company's future stores will apparently move away from traditional product marketing and will instead become an "experience" destination for customers.

The company hinted that they will be using advanced technologies in their remaining stores. This includes the use of artificial intelligence "chatbots" within the stores to help customers find the products and services they need as quickly as possible.

The world's second-largest mobile operator still believes in the power of having actual stores in select locations. Vodafone announced last month that it does have plans to open at least 24 new outlets in Britain within the year. The company also announced that it is currently studying the possibility of opening another 50 stores by 2020.

Vodafone is also eyeing a massive expansion of its services outside of Britain. Read mentioned that they are particularly targeting Germany to fuel their growth in the coming years. Vodafone recently acquired German firm Unitymedia, the country's largest cable network, in a massive $22 million deal. 

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