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Buying Physical Goods Via Mobile

  |  July 12, 2007   |  Comments

Are consumers ready to buy with their phones? One m-commerce vendor says they already do.

This week I touched base with my friend Mark Kaplan, founder and CMO for ShopText, to determine how his company and the industry are adopting physical goods purchasing through the mobile device.

Laura Marriott: Last time we spoke, ShopText had just begun to launch services in the United States. How's business going today?

Mark Kaplan: Business couldn't be better. Brands are beginning to see mobile overall as an opportunity to extend the reach with the consumer and measure the success of their marketing initiatives. ShopText provides the brand or advertiser the opportunity to drive ROI and link the consumer directly to the product or service through the ad. Advertising is now enabling acquisitions and not just purchases, but sampling, loyalty, etc. Our application now allows marketers to know who their customers are, including their address, demographic profile, etc. For example, by enabling a sampling application, the brand will now have access to where the consumer saw the ad as well as demographic information, including their address, so that they can ensure fulfillment.

LM: How is the service enabled?

MK: A consumer will set up an account instantly on their mobile phone or at shoptext.com, which will not only collect their demographic information but allow them to input their credit card to purchase physical goods through the ShopText network. In the mobile registration scenario, the consumer is called back via an IVR system that will walk them through the registration process. The security on an ongoing basis is ensured by the customer entering a PIN code whenever they enact a purchase through their mobile device, like withdrawing cash at an ATM.

LM: How's consumer response been? Are consumers concerned about entering their credit card information and transacting over a mobile device?

MK: Response has been tremendous. Consumers are able to send a text message and purchase products on the spot. Consumers have the ability to purchase products when they see them in magazines, on billboards, or in any other medium. They're immediately able to complete the transaction with their favorite brands for products and services. We have even received e-mails from consumers thanking us for the positive experience that enables them to order products not available at stores in their area.

LM: Has consumer education or lack thereof impacted market adoption?

MK: We believe m-commerce applications will be another driver in terms of educating consumers on how to use mobile. After one campaign, we received about a dozen e-mails telling us our application was the first time that they'd interacted with mobile.

LM: What are the obstacles?

MK: Overall, there's been little resistance. Outreach is obviously a top issue in terms of educating consumers on the capabilities of their mobile device. We're also working to have our advertisers share their stories so the "what is possible" is shared with consumers and vendors alike.

LM: What's the top purchase been to date?

MK: We sold dozens of Mavi Jeans for $90 in "Lucky" magazine.

LM: Who are some of your clients, and how does a consumer find out about physical goods purchasing?

MK: We had over 50 pages in a recent CosmoGIRL, among them was a catalog of CDs for purchase. We've done sampling for Pantene as well as Old Spice, Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, Bonne Bell, and others have done sampling with us in CosmoGIRL. Other clients include "Lucky" which has featured products from Elizabeth Arden, Mavi Jeans, Calvin Klein, and others coming up. Both publications created promotional pages that highlighted the products available for purchase via mobile. Additionally, in New York and L.A., Knitting Factory is selling concert tickets by text right from their print media and off their Web site.

LM: What other applications can we expect to see in the future?

MK: Sweepstakes, digital and physical goods pairing, ticket purchasing -- lots of possibilities.

Thanks, Mark. ShopText is one of many companies offering physical and digital m-commerce solutions in the growing US m-commerce industry. I expect we'll see many new developments in the upcoming year.


Laura Marriott Laura Marriott is executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), which works to clear obstacles to market development, to establish standards and best practices for sustainable growth, and to evangelize the mobile channel for use by brands and third-party content providers. The MMA has over 250 members worldwide, representing over 16 countries. Laura has over 14 years' experience in the high-tech industry. Prior to joining the MMA, she served as Intrado's director of marketing, where she was responsible for the development and delivery of Intrado's mobility products and service. Laura previously served as director of business development at Cyneta Networks and Cell-Loc Inc.

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