Service Gets Message to Consumers
III's Village Square wireless service notifies people about upcoming personal events, of which they have asked to be reminded, through their cellular telephones and beepers. A company's ad can be attached to the end of the message by III. The first group to take part is florist 1-800-Flowers, Westbury, NY.
When a user signs up for the Village Square service through his wireless carrier, he goes to the carrier's Web page and creates a personalized calendar of events that are important to him, like birthdays, business meetings or anniversaries. The user then decides how far in advance he wants to be reminded of each event. At the chosen date, either the person's telephone or pager will ring or buzz letting him know he has a message.
"A text message will then appear reminding them of the occasion, saying something like 'Sunday is Aunt Sally's birthday,' " said Michael Forbes, director of marketing at III. "At the end of the message, the promotional content will appear telling the user that it would be a good idea to order flowers for the upcoming occasion." The user then can press a button on the phone and be connected directly to a 1-800-Flowers representative.
"What we have here is a situation that allows us to deliver a targeted promotional message to the consumer at a purchase decision point," Forbes said.
"There is obviously a natural appeal here for us, seeing that usually the most important calendar days in someone's life are usually celebrated with flowers," said Greg Bouris, communications manager at 1-800-Flowers, which has a three-year deal with III. "It allows us to extend our service and offer our customers increased convenience in ordering flowers. And it's a great opportunity to partner with such a novel idea."
"1-800-Flowers' partnership with III extends its reach to consumers in the anytime-anywhere world of wireless communication," said Chris McCann, senior vice president at 1-800-Flowers.
Forbes said the advantage of marketing with this service is that the consumer wants to receive the message and it's guaranteed he will hear it.
"Since the user has decided that they want this message, it is easy for us to deliver very targeted and personalized material directly to them," he said. "We have a medium that now allows us to reach someone wherever they are."
To use the Village Square service, the user must either have a digital or PCS phone with the capability to display text messages or an alpha-numeric (word) pager with the same capability. The service is available through Omnipoint and the AT&T PocketNet phone.
According to Forbes, the number of wireless carriers offering the service, as well as the number of people using it, is expected to increase greatly in the next year.
"By the end of this year, we plan on having another six major wireless carriers offering the service," he said. "By the middle of 1999, I estimate that there will be close to half a million people using the service."
Through a test earlier this year on the AT&T PocketNet phone, III has a few thousand users of the Village Square service, Forbes said.
"With this, the person doesn't have to be on the computer or watching TV to get the message," he said. "This service goes right to the person, not just near them."
In addition to 1-800-Flowers, Forbes said more deals will be announced soon.