June 13, 2008, 12:00 AM

Tiny text messages can pack a wallop

As consumers become more enamored with text messaging, some retailers, including 1-800-Flowers.com, are using the brief missives to boost m-commerce site activity.

Are marketing and transactional text messages right for e-retailers? They’re being used by a handful of merchants and garnering success as consumers are growing increasingly fond of the tiny communications vehicles, akin to miniature e-mails that can pack a wallop when used right.

Bryan Biniak, managing director and founder of Provenance Ventures LLC, presented compelling text messaging data from CTIA-The Wireless Association during “How to Know if Mobile Commerce Makes Sense for Your Business,” an m-commerce workshop session at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition. In June 2005, mobile phone users sent 7.3 billion text messages, according to the association. That grew to 12.5 billion in June 2006. Then, the number of text messages skyrocketed to 28.9 billion in June 2007. Clearly, consumers appreciate the medium.

1-800-Flowers.com has seized on the growing popularity of text messaging as part of a marketing strategy to increase sales. The retailer now offers a reminder service that forewarns customers of impending gift-giving days, said Vibhav Prasad, senior director of web merchandising at the telephone and online merchant. Prasad also presented during the session.

Customers can join the service by sending a text message to a short code, an abbreviated phone number registered with telecommunications carriers. “We’ll remind you in advance of such things as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and then direct you to our m-commerce site using the text message,” Prasad explained.

The result so far: A significant increase in traffic to the m-commerce store, Prasad reported.

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