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Wireless carriers jump into mobile offers as consumers demand greater personalization

The mobile deals space is evolving away from services such as Groupon and Living Social, which reach a broad swath of consumers, to targeted offerings designed to provide more personalization.

Daily deals and offers made a big splash when they first arrived on the scene but, more recently, Groupon and LivingSocial have been struggling to maintain consumer interest and drive meaningful results. This week, wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon threw their hats into the ring with mobile offers services that leverage their customer data to deliver more personalized deals.

?Personalization is very important to mobile offers and increasingly important because we are moving from an age of blind offer delivery, blanketing email to 12 million people, to an era when consumers expect that if you reach out to them, you have some understanding that the offer is pertinent to them,? said Stephen Burke, vice president of the mobile practice  at Resource Interactive, Columbus, OH.

?The net result of more personalized offers is that it will force Groupon and LivingSocial to be more granular in their offerings,? he said. ?But, they don?t? have anywhere near the data set that the mobile operators have.?

Personalized offers grow
This week, AT&T launched a new free, opt-in offers service that uses geo-location and consumer preferences to deliver offers and rewards without the need to download an app.

Customers can join by texting ?JOIN? to ATTAlerts to opt-in and begin receiving offers via text message when they are near participating retailers. Users can customize offer preferences and settings so they are receiving only the offers that are most relevant to them.

The retailers and brands participating in AT&T Alerts include Gap, Staples, Zales, Duracell, Motorola and Discover.

Also this week, Verizon Wireless is reaching out to some customers asking them if they want to opt-in for a new program called Verizon Selects, which will use location, Web browsing and mobile application usage data, customer demographic and interest data to deliver a coupon or some other offer from a retailer. Those who opt-in will be able to change their choices at the Verizon Selects site.

American Express, Best Buy and Dunkin? Donuts are just a few of the other companies that are also providing a way for customers to receive personalized mobile offers.

Knowing the customer
One of the advantages that wireless carriers have in being able to deliver mobile offers is the large amount of data they have about customers.

?Carriers have the quantity and variety of data required to personalize offers, but just as important, they have a unique ability to analyze and act on the data in real-time,? said Lara Albert, vice president of global marketing for Globys, Seattle, WA.

?Personalized marketing is all about acting in the right context, and for mobile subscribers, contexts are constantly changing,? she said. ?By leveraging real-time data and analysis capabilities to continually monitor and predict behaviors, carriers are able to determine and deliver the right offers in the right context.

?This unique ability to dynamically act on customer insights ? versus just gathering insights ? is what?s missing from today?s mobile marketing solutions.?

One of the challenges for marketers is to manage offers so that they are relevant enough to be actionable.

This may mean offering a percentage off on men?s shoes to a particular customer as opposed to a broader offer on menswear.

?You might reach a smaller audience but you will have a more qualified audience,? Resource Interactive's Mr. Burke said.

Providing value
Another challenge carriers are likely to face in mobile offers is convincing their customers of the value of opting in to such a service.

Carriers will also have to balance optimizing their brand partners? marketing to enhance the relevancy of mobile offers with not frustrating their loyal customers by sending them too many offers.

?Today?s consumers are savvy ? and well aware of the value of their data ? and in exchange for signing it over and opting-in, they want the promise of something that goes far beyond location-based and single event-triggered offers,? Globys' Ms. Alpert said.

Marketers have been testing personalized offers in mobile for some time and the results are promising, per Resource Interactive's Mr. Burke. What AT&T and Verizon are doing brings another dimension to the strategy by testing the ability to provide generalized offers within a more localized setting.

?To date, offers have been associated with a particular brand inside a particular geofenced area,? Mr. Burke said. ?Now, with what AT&T is doing, users have the opportunity to receive multiple offers from brands within the geofence.

?This is a little bit more noise in front of the consumer,? he said. ?It will be interesting to see how they respond.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York