The promise is scintillating: You’re paging through a magazine or newspaper, or you encounter an out-of-home ad (even, perhaps, a digital billboard), and you decide you simply must have that product. You type a six-digit short code into your cell phone, send the number a text message with a keyword, and after a verifying second text is received and replied to, your product has been ordered.
The consumer wins by getting the product, and the marketer wins by fulfilling what may have been a passing whim. It’s the QVC network without ever going near a television or talking to an operator.
This technology’s potential audience is substantial. Everyone is aware of how ubiquitous the cell phone has become in our society. But what may be surprising to many is the fact that two out of every five users has sent a text message from their phone. According to recent M:Metrics statistics, 39.2% of cell phone owners send a text message at least once a month.
Now imagine that you are paging through a newspaper and you see something about the latest Harry Potter book — the one that is being pre-sold now, and will be delivered in the early summer. And then let’s just say that you’re a huge fan of the series, and want to see if Harry dies in this concluding volume. And finally, let’s say for the sake of example that once you’ve pre-registered with the ShopText site, all you need to do is send out a text message, directed to the short code “467467” (think of short codes as cell-phone-specific mini phone numbers). The actual text message would be easy to type because it contains only one word — “Potter.” Done! That’s all you need to do to lock in your pre-release book and have it mailed to you when the official release date arrives.
As you may have already surmised, this is no idle example. It’s exactly what I did, about four hours ago. The purchase took less than a minute. Time will tell if I become a satisfied customer, and even a repeat user. But since I really did want to lock in a copy for this new book, but kept forgetting to do so, this service fulfilled a real need that I had.
What are the implications if this mobile purchasing system fulfills lots of other people’s needs, and truly catches on?
Well, imagine trade shows where you can have samples and brochures sent back to your home or office (on the vendor’s dime of course). Or you could “buy” free or nearly free samples that you read about in display ads. These samples could be of just about anything — from cosmetics to pet supplies.
I find this incredibly exciting.
Watch this space to find out how this new consumer experience turns out for me. In return, I promise you I will be as objective as possible. Oh, and I won’t blab about Harry’s fate, if my copy arrives before you have a chance to read it yourself.
I am boldly going on record now, though, to make two predictions about future purchases:
- If this quick, convenient way to purchase on impulse lives up to its promise, I definitely will be buying lots of other things this way
- Regardless of the above, Harry will be buying the farm
You read it here first.