Mr. Spangenberg, in terms of mobile internet usage, Germany ranks somewhere in the middle compared to the rest of Europe. In your opinion, how can its market potential be exploited even more?
It’s actually quite simple: soon smartphones will be the only ones on the market. Phones that don’t give users the ability to go online at any time are hardly being sold at all these days. Smartphones dominate the market. They are easy to use, even for novices to the internet. The world of mobile internet can no longer be compared to the stationary online sphere. It’s much more flexible and easier to operate. By that I mean you just have to switch the device on to obtain on-screen information relevant to you, such as the weather where you are or access to your email inbox, instead of having to actively visit a website with it all on.
The older generation has little use for mobile internet compared to young people – but because of demographic change the older among us will become increasingly important in future. Does Vodafone have any specific plans or strategies mapped out for this?
We are a brand that tends mostly to target young people. But we are always increasing our support for older users, who are open and curious about the new possibilities that mobile internet offers. Admittedly there are still fewer older mobile internet surfers than young ones, but they are well on their way to catching up. An example of this progress is in a female church choir I know. All members are aged between 60 and 80 and use What’s App to communicate with each other. This just proves that when someone uses mobile internet personally they tend to spread the word, regardless of their age. This experience works best when it occurs in the personal sphere, between friends or acquaintances.
What part does a brand play in mobile communication? Would seeing a certain brand seal the deal for German consumers to make a purchase? Or do they take a more price-based approach?
That all depends on the type of customer. Price matters a lot to some, but others are more concerned with quality. Some enjoy buying products from newer brands that haven’t firmly established themselves yet, whereas others like to buy products by major brands because they offer a certain guarantee. People associate major brands with network quality, on-site consulting and a good customer service hotline. However, data protection is a big issue when it comes to brands. We offer a wide range of products for various client groups. We aim to satisfy comfort-loving clients just as much as mobile phone novices or price-conscious buyers.
Clearly, Germans enjoy using mobile internet to shop or to buy at auctions. In what kind of situation do you personally consider the smartphone invaluable?
I think calling people is still the most essential thing for me. But I generally consider the smartphone totally invaluable too. Case in point: I recently flew to Zurich with my wife. We had only booked a hotel beforehand; we had neither a map of nor any information about Zurich itself. We organized everything for our vacation via smartphone: we used mobile navigation to find the route from the airport to the hotel, a Community app that rates eateries to find a restaurant for the evening, and we even used it to find a place in the mountains for an excursion, as well as receiving the necessary train ticket on the phone. All this wouldn’t have been possible in the past, and smartphones offer real practical value.
People often struggle to switch off their smartphones – most of all those who frequently go online. What about yourself – do you often use the ‘off’ button?
I would phrase this question differently, as nowadays there aren’t many technological devices left that actually need to be switched off. Many are simply put on standby, and I am no ‘switcher-offer’ myself. Because the professional and private spheres are becoming more and more intertwined nowadays, people need times where they just can’t be reached. For this you need a personalized strategy. Mine is to put my phone on silent, leave it on the side and not look at it for a while. Of course, to do this you also need willpower.
Thank you very much for the interview!