March 1, 2011, 3:11 PM

AT&T dials in to location-based mobile marketing

The carrier is sending messages to registered customers when they’re near stores and other locations.

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Retailers and brands including apparel retailer White House Black Market and outdoor apparel and gear retailer The North Face have tried their hand at sending text and multimedia messages to registered consumers when they approach a store. Now, wireless carrier AT&T is sending location-based mobile marketing messages to its wireless customers.

AT&T announced a program this week to send consumers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco who have opted in mobile messages based on their location. Called ShopAlerts, the messages deliver mobile offers via text or multimedia message to shoppers who approach a participating retailer’s store or a store selling a brand that is enrolled in the program. AT&T creates a geo-fence—a wireless perimeter around a retail location, event or any geographic area—and then delivers relevant, location-specific messages to opt-in consumers who enter the space.

AT&T is using 1020 Inc.’s Placecast Network to help it send messages on behalf of retailers and brands including Kmart, Hewlett-Packard, JetBlue, SC Johnson and Kibbles ‘n Bits.  The messages also provide information such as weather, traffic and local shopping area details. AT&T plans to roll the program out nationally and add more brands to the program this summer. AT&T customers can register to receive messages via SMS or online. The carrier is promoting the service via text message, e-mail and its Facebook page. Many of the brands involved also are promoting the program.

Placecast says its mobile marketing program offers an advantage over location-based apps such as Shopkick or foursquare because it works on any mobile phone that can accept text messages, not just smartphones.

Katie Thompson, associate director of digital media at airline JetBlue, says ShopAlerts helps advertisers save time by providing a ready-made list of consumers who have asked to receive offers. “We were excited about the opportunity because it takes the onus off of the advertiser to build a large database of opt-in users,” Thompson says.

AT&T says it has 95.5 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. Retailers and brands including The North Face, L’Oreal, Starbucks and Chicos use Placecast’s ShopAlerts location-based mobile marketing service. U.K. wireless provider O2 uses Placecast to send opt-in subscribers marketing messages much like AT&T is doing in the U.S. now.

AT&T is offering the program through its Advanced Ad Solutions unit that sells digital marketing to advertisers. AT&T Advanced Ad Solutions sells ads for mobile, IPTV, or Internet Protocol Television, and targeted online display and search platforms.

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