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Mobile Phone Marketing Gains, Weather or Not

Retailers are getting serious about mobile phones and the opportunities increasingly sophisticated cellular promotions provide.

Reports have K-VA-T Food Stores and Food Lion, supermarkets offering shoppers cash to sign up for their new texting services, for example. K-VA-T automatically enters those signing up for its new Connect 2 FC mobile text messaging service into a sweepstakes that offers a $100 gift card prize that can be cashed in at its Food City supermarkets. Food Lion qualifies new members of its Mobile Club for free holiday dinners and, for those who make the move by Dec. 30, $50 gift cards.

Messages to Connect 2 FC members cover promotional offers, including coupons, as do those directed at Food Lion Mobile Club participants.

While all that might seem like a decent start, some retailers and their technology partners are farther along the mobile marketing trail.

Aisle411, which already has partnered with Ace Hardware to launch what it claims is the world's first voice recognition product location mobile phone service, now has developed a text messaging coupon service tied to weather activity at twelve Missouri and Illinois Ace stores.

Aisle411's Helpful Hints service permits retailers to operate mobile marketing campaigns tied to sun and storm activity. The technology provider will send text messages to Ace customers alerting them to coming atmospheric alteration, communications that include coupons and special offers for weather-appropriate items. A warning for freezing rain might trigger the system to offer Ace coupons for rock salt or a forecast for an unusually nice weather weekend in December might prompt a coupon offer for outdoor decorations in the holiday vein.

Aisle411 has the capacity to develop pre-programmed seasonal campaigns for Ace as well as those related to the immediate weather outlook, which can tie into Ace's national marketing initiatives or build on local events. In that case, text coupons for tailgating items can launch the weekend of a big football game in a given market. More generally, battery coupons can flow to cell phones when clocks change â€" and when smoke detectors need checking -- in the spring and fall.

Marketing plans for the mobile weather service call for Ace and Aisle411 to mount signage at stores, distribute hand-outs and initiate direct mail initiatives in an old-fashioned approach to a new-fangled service. But they include the more modern medium of email communications, too. Ace stores also will offer a $5 off a $25 purchase coupon as an incentive and even can deliver it by text. Participants also are entered to win a $300 shopping spree.

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