Selasa, 01 Januari 2008

How to deliver the goods by mobile phone (

The Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jerseys largest shopping mall, is offering post-Christmas crowds a glimpse of the future.

"Find anything you want in the mall from your phone," reads an advertisement on a mall directory. A wireless text-messaging service called NearbyNow promises to guide customers to a store that stocks what they are looking for.

Shoppers search inventories of participating stores, including Neiman Marcus, Macys and Gap. Retailers, for a fee, send targeted messages back.

NearbyNow, founded two years ago, is available in almost 200 malls, from four in 2006. The involvement of top names is part of a trend: US retailers are beginning to explore the marketing potential ofmobile phones.

"This is really the first year that you are starting to see it, although it is still in its infancy," says Mike Gatti, executive director of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association.

Sucharita Mulpuru, an e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research, says wireless marketing follows the growth among younger people of text messaging, which has lagged behind Europe and Asia.

JC Penney, the mainstream US retailer, chose the August-September back-to-school season for the launch of its first campaign.

For the holidays, the retailer set up a gift centre on its website. Customers could subscribe to text messages that linked them to a mobile-enabled site.

Nordstrom, the upmarket fashion store, sends up to five text "fashion alerts" a month to young women. Urban Outfitters, a youth-focused clothing store, has a similar service that sends no more than two text messages a month.

Mike Boylson, JC Penneys chief marketing officer, says that, while the retailers first back-to-school campaign was aimed at a youth audience, its Christmas push had "an older target" of more "tech-savvy" customers. "It [was] targeted not so much at a range, as at an attitude."

The technology is being adopted "very quickly" by parents, who are learning text messaging from their children," he says.

JC Penney may be in the forefront of the move to mobile marketing, but its efforts to exploit the potential of mobile technology are in their infancy, Mr Boylson says.

"We couldnt wait until its perfect. When it comes, it is going to be very big. And it is going to be very important to understand how it works."

An informal test of NearbyNow illustrates the emergent nature of the ambitious search-in-store service. At the Garden Park Plaza on a pre-Christmas Friday, it offered three retailers that supposedly stocked womens jeans under the 7 For All Mankind brand, which sell for about $150 a pair.

But two of the retailers listed were the Louis Vuitton handbag and accessories store - not known for its denim - and Macys, which does not stock the upmarket brand.

Other searches for Gap sweaters, Armani denim, and womens scarves all delivered the goods.

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