Retailers Use Texting As a New Way to Sell

The idea of e-commerce without the Internet seemed unlikely a few years ago but that thought has become less absurd as the popularity of text messaging increases.

Today, “m-commerce” has most certainly found its place in the retail world. is credited with giving life to the m-commerce/text messaging with last year’s launch of the successful TextBuyIt initiative. QVC quickly followed with its own version, QVC Text Ordering. The floodgates are now open.

Many smaller retailers around the country actually began using text messaging as far back as 2004. Others have experimented with advertising short codes on TV and in magazines to enable consumers to receive free samples of selected merchandise. Most retailers use texts today to market products or offer promotions, and to establish a close connection with consumers, since most are permanently connected to their phones.

The important part of this equation is that most consumers are texting; it’s no longer just a teen thing. About 77 percent of the 259 million U.S. mobile phone users subscribe to or purchase text message capability, Nielsen Mobile recently reported. Text messaging has become so pervasive, according to the research firm, that U.S. mobile subscribers now send and receive more text messages in a month than they do phone calls – an average of 357 per month in second quarter compared with 204 phone calls.

On top of that, many text messagers shop on the Web. About 20 percent of them, or 51.8 million, spend more than $1,000 online annually versus 17 percent of all mobile phone users, Scarborough Research reports. Add it all together and you have the text-message marketing equivalent of the perfect storm.

The TextBuyIt set-up works like this: A customer sends a text message to the short code AMAZON (262966) with the name of a product, search term or UPC bar code number, or an ISBN code for books. Within seconds, replies with a list of products that match the search, along with prices.

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