Three_discoveryspace_LR

The mobile operator announced the launch of two new Discovery spaces in Islington and Swansea today (16 March), following a trial in Maidenhead. The Discovery spaces, which are separate from Three’s retail stores, offer a new and free way for people to learn about technology from smartphone use to coding and is open to all consumers, as well as its own employees. Consumers can either book the sessions in store or on Three’s website.

So far, the brand has worked with charities, community organisations, local schools and small businesses to build bespoke sessions that help them develop their digital skills. Three is planning to roll out the service across 50 stores from Q2 onwards, although not all stores will have their own Discovery sites.

Sian Laffin, head of discovery and innovation at Three, believes that the Discovery spaces will “change the current perception the mobile industry” and move the brand beyond competitive pricing.

She told Marketing Week: “We’re creating a space where we’re not just about selling a phone, but developing an emotional relationship. If you’re signing a two-year contact, that is a long relationship and trust is the most important thing that will sustain that. These spaces are a perfect environment to nurture that trust.”

Jessica Tompkinson, community engagement and discovery manager at Three, added that the initiative can’t be linked to a KPI “in a traditional sense”.

“It’s a wider investment in the brand, where we’re really pushing to change perceptions of Three. Just over half (51%) of visitors who come into the Maidenhead discovery space weren’t our customers. Of those, 98% would recommend Three to friends and family,” she added.

“It’s those referrals and conversations and those people who follow up afterwards, who might be in their purchasing window and we expect them to come to us as they’ve built up trust.”

One of Three's Discovery rooms
One of Three’s Discovery rooms

Going into the field

The mobile network says it is is also training its staff to go out into the field to teach local community groups and charities about technology.

Laffin explained: “It’s not about the space, it’s about the ethos. We can get our employees out into the field to engage with people. Swansea will be a great test case for us, where we’ll be working with the NHS. They won’t have to come in and Discovery will still be associated with Three and create an emotional engagement.”

To promote its Discovery spaces, the brand is not currently planning any above the line activity and will instead focus on word of mouth buzz.

“It’s not a campaign, it’s the way we want to do business. Our business in Maidenhead has been built around peer referrals, particularly with community groups. It’s slower and more painful in a sense, but it’s more genuine,” Laffin commented.

Tompkinson believes that by focusing on word of mouth buzz, the brand is avoiding consumer cynicism and that Discovery feels more honest.

She concluded: “We don’t overtly scream about what we’re doing, because if you start doing that people are going to be cynical. They’ll believe there’s a catch – but there really isn’t. But as we’re collecting more success stories to tell, it will be easier to build content and we’ll be more bold.”