is an independent mobile phone retailer in the United Kingdom. It was established in February 1995 as a direct marketer and supplier of mobile phones and mobile phone accessories. The e-commerce
Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce, eCommerce or e-comm, refers to the buying and selling of products or services over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks. However, the term may refer to more than just buying and selling products online...
website went online in September 2000. In 2008 it was acquired by Phones 4u and is now part of the 4u Group.
Dialaphone was founded in February 1995 by Jonathan Beck and Richard Frank with capital borrowed from Beck’s father. While there was enough investment to fund telephone lines and recording equipment, the company had to carry out transactions without tracking software. Instead, Beck organised a system of trays and runners to keep track of orders during the company’s early days.
Initially, the business model relied entirely on direct phone calls generated from advertisements placed in the press, combined with efficient processing. Double page spreads in tabloids were particularly successful in attracting consumers.
During the late 90’s Dialaphone experienced rapid growth in a burgeoning market. This, along with the business’ minimal running costs, attracted the attentions of several investors. In 1999, a deal was made with Barclays Private Equity
Barclays Private Equity is the Private Equity division of Barclays Capital, the Investment Banking arm of Barclays plc. BPE have seven offices across four countries. Started in 1982 they have invested in over 350 businesses including Admiral Group and Dial-a-Phone. Typically €500m is invested per...
to take a majority share in the company in return for investment. This investment enabled the business to expand into the online area and develop a new website called www.dialaphone.co.uk.
In September 2000, Dialaphone began its transition into an online business model with the launch of a dedicated e-commerce website. The website would soon become the business’ primary source of income in the future.
Andy Brown, who had formerly worked under John Caudwell
John Caudwell is an English businessman who has made most of his money in the mobile phone business. In 2005, the Sunday Times estimated Caudwell's wealth at £1.28 billion .-Early life:...
at Phones 4u, was brought onboard as Managing Director and began pursuing other avenues of marketing, using scratchcards, catalogues and TV advertising. Under Brown, Dialaphone became more involved in sponsorship and was the primary shirt sponsor of Middlesbrough Football Club from 2002 to 2004.
After seven years at the helm, in which Dialaphone became the third largest contract connector in the UK, Andy Brown parted company with Frank and Beck in April 2006 following differences over the future direction of the business. The company had reportedly made a turnover of £195m during the past year and was one of the largest online mobile phone retailers in the country.
Despite its early success Dialaphone’s contract volume dwindled in the wake of Brown’s departure. Consequently, it was bought by one-time competitor Phones 4u for a knockdown price in February 2008. The fee was reported to be around £9m.
Dialaphone’s products include feature phones and smartphones from all the major manufacturers, which are available on the UK’s main networks. Dialaphone offers customers a range of free gifts, usually personal electronic goods, and cashback with certain tariffs and handsets.
Dialaphone is partnered with mobile recycling service Money4URMobile which offers incentives for customers to recycle their old mobile phone.
Advertising and Sponsorships
Under Frank and Beck Dialaphone became the business most commonly associated with successful ‘off-the-page’ marketing. Advertisements were uncomplicated and adhered to a matrix developed by the founders to maximise their effectiveness. They often appeared prominently in daily UK tabloids, catalogues and magazines.
As the business evolved Dialaphone began turning to other methods of advertising. It became the primary shirt sponsor of Premier League Middlesbrough Football Club during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. In 2011, Dialaphone became the Official Mobile Partner of Premier League Darts
The 888.com Premier League Darts is a darts tournament which launched on January 20, 2005 on Sky Sports, and is currently the world's largest indoor sports event. The league is now played weekly from February to May, having originally started as a fortnightly fixture...
, sponsored the Rugby League Challenge Cup and in 2012 is set to become the Official Online Mobile Phone Sponsor of the Football League.