May 1, 2008, 12:00 AM

Alluring text gets beautiful response

Allure magazine made readers an offer: $100 worth of beauty products for $19.95. The sampler bags sold out in 36 hours, with readers becoming buyers via text messages.

Allure magazine made readers an offer: $100 worth of beauty products for $19.95. The sampler bags sold out in 36 hours, with readers becoming buyers via text messages.

Allure magazine put together a plentiful bag for readers: $100 worth of beauty products for $19.95. It ran an ad in its February issue promoting the special offer to readers. Typically readers respond to such promotional ads via avenues such as a toll-free number. But this promotion included something out of the ordinary: mobile commerce.

The ad featured a keyword and short code and encouraged readers to purchase the beauty products sampler bag using their mobile phones. A reader could type the keyword “beauty” into a text message and send it to the short code, a truncated number registered with telecommunications carriers. Mobile commerce company ShopText Inc., which facilitated the promotion for Allure, replied to the shopper with a text message asking for her home phone number.

The ShopText system then looked up her address and asked for confirmation. If the address could not be found, she was asked to submit her ZIP code and street address. Once confirmed, a phone call using interactive voice response technology was placed to the shopper, asking her to enter credit card information and select a PIN. The purchase was then completed and the shopper now had an account that could be used to make future purchases via ShopText-based promotions-through any publication or merchant-by simply submitting her PIN after getting a reply to a keyword text message, greatly reducing the effort required to make a purchase.

The response to the offer exceeded the expectations of Allure. The magazine had allotted 1,000 beauty product samplers for the promotion, a number it felt would be appropriate for the month of February. However, the February issue hit newsstands on a Tuesday and the samplers were sold out by Thursday-$20,000 of sales in 36 hours, reports Adam Lichstein, general counsel and chief financial officer at ShopText. In the end, 60% of all readers who sent in a text message during that timeframe were converted into buyers, he adds.

“This is an alternative to putting a URL or 800 number in an ad,” Lichstein says. “You’re giving consumers a more direct and immediate way to respond to traditional media like magazine and TV ads.”

Once an account is created-accounts also can be created at ShopText.com-the process boils down to entering a keyword then a PIN, making shopping via mobile phones a simple process, Lichstein adds. “People typically have their mobile phones with them at all times, and text message technology is everywhere,” he says. “Your phone can become a virtual shopping cart and virtual wallet.”

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