Mobile carrier AT&T is introducing location-based “ShopAlerts” with Placecast in four US cities: NY, SF, Chicago and LA. This is opt-in “push” marketing via SMS or MMS tied to “geo-fences.” Privacy is a non-issue because of the opt-in dimension.
Once a user has opted-in, which can happen on AT&T’s site, Facebook or many other places (e.g., display ads online) that person will receive alerts (offers, promotions) when he or she physically enters the designated local area, which is defined by the advertiser (e.g., a mile from retail store XYZ).
Initial advertisers that have signed on include HP, Kmart, JetBlue, SC Johnson, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Nature’s Recipe and the National Milk Mustache “got milk?” Campaign. This program will work for marketers trying to drive in-store traffic or simply trying to reach mobile users in particular markets.
Nearly 100 percent of mobile phones today can send and receive SMS messages, thus giving a program like this much greater potential reach than mobile Web or app-based advertising. AT&T has 95 million US subscribers but I would expect this program (or a similar one) to be adopted by other US carriers as well.
Placecast powers a very similar marketing program for UK carrier O2, which has been running in the UK since last October. I was told that opt-out rates in that program are extremely low.