November 16, 2010, 11:03 AM

An apparel retailer launches mobile fashion alerts

White House Black Market chooses text messages for its mobile program rather than an app.

Lead Photo

Fashion emergency? Never fear, mobile fashion alerts are here.

Women’s apparel retailer White House Black Market has launched FashionAlerts, location-based text messages that alert shoppers close to participating stores about upcoming in-store sales, online promotions, new product releases, sweepstakes and style tips.

When a consumer who opts in to the program approaches one of the 26 participating White House Black Market stores, wireless network geolocation technology in concert with her mobile phone trigger a marketing text message. White House Black Market, a unit of Chico’s FAS, No. 190 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is using technology and services from 1020 Inc.’s Placecast Network. It’s getting the word out to customers about the text-alert program via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

Text messaging is just one form of location-based mobile marketing. It’s popular because, unlike location-based apps, it does not require that a consumer own a smartphone. Moreover, location-based apps must be designed for specific phones; for example a retailer would need to create separate versions for an iPhone as well as for phones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system. A retailer can send text messages to any phone.

Another reason a retailer might choose text: messages will likely be read. The U.S. boasts a 95% read-rate for opt-in text messages, according to CardinalCommerce Corp., an e-commerce and m-commerce technology provider.

On the flip side, geolocation-based apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla and shopkick enable consumers with GPS-outfitted smartphones to download an app and then “check in” at locations, such as a retail store, share their locations with friends, read comments about that location from others, find other users nearby, or enter a store and/or complete tasks to earn rewards. However, such apps are still in their early days, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. It reports 4% of online adults use a service such as Foursquare or Gowalla.

Meanwhile another study finds consumers might welcome location-based mobile alerts. A Harris Interactive Inc. study conducted for 1020 last year finds while only 1% of consumers say they receive mobile phone alerts about specials at nearby stores and restaurants, 27% say they would be happy to get such messages, as long as they come from merchants they’ve given permission to send offers.

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