Study: Smaller Wireless Carriers Better at Online Marketing

Smaller U.S. wireless carriers appear to be better at marketing their services online than their larger peers, according to new findings from Jupiter Media Metrix.

In a new study, New York-based Jupiter found that visitors to the Web sites of smaller domestic wireless carriers are more likely to enter into a transaction — in most cases, that means signing up for wireless service or products.

Jupiter found that Sprint PCS and Nextel convert almost three times as many site visitors to secure transaction pages than the top two U.S. wireless carriers, Verizon Wireless and Cingular. While Sprint PCS and Nextel convert 66 percent and 62 percent of their visitors to secure pages, respectively, Verizon Wireless and Cingular convert only 23 percent and 12 percent.

AT&T, the third largest U.S. wireless carrier behind Verizon and Cingular, also comes in below Sprint and Nextel, with only 38 percent of its visitors converting to secure pages. VoiceStream Wireless, a unit of Deutsche Telekom and the smallest nationwide U.S. wireless carrier, converts 53 percent of its visitors.

Similarly, the smaller carriers also see greater returns from their online advertising. According to Jupiter Media Metrix’s advertising tracking unit AdRelevance, AT&T’s online advertising efforts proved less effective than Sprint’s in attracting Web site visitors, despite a much larger advertising buy.

While AT&T Wireless Services purchased almost 500 million ad impressions from February to April, Sprint PCS received about the same amount of traffic with far less advertising — just over 100 million ad impressions during that time, according to Jupiter.

Cingular, which is a joint venture between the wireless divisions of SBC and Bell South, meanwhile purchased about 100 million impressions yet saw a decline in unique visitors, from 1.4 million in February to 760,000 in March.

The numbers seem to indicate that the big carriers are missing a big opportunity, according to Jupiter analyst Dylan Brooks.

“Carriers should be growing the audience of their online channel at this early juncture in migrating customers away from costly mall and main street stores and onto the Web, yet site traffic is not growing any faster than customer counts,” Brooks said. “Wireless carriers must hone their on- and offline marketing strategies in order to increase customer usage of their Web sites.”

Likewise, the smaller U.S. carriers are more likely than are the larger players to see reductions in costs thanks to their online sales channel.

“As carriers look to online sales and service as an increasingly important customer acquisition and retention channel, improvements in engaged customer metrics will be critical to improving profitability,” he added. “Engaging customers online has become increasingly important for wireless carriers as they seek to lower the costs of customer acquisition and retention.”

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