UK Carrier O2 Seeing Success with LBS Offers

UK carrier O2 (owned by Spain's Telefonica) is seeing great success with its opt-in SMS marketing program O2 More. The location-based service is powered by Placecast, which also supports a similar but more nascent program in the US for AT&T. (It's not clear how much promotional effort AT&T is putting behind it.)

O2 not long ago announced it had more than two million subscribers for More. Consumers sign up for the O2 program, specifiy interest categories and recieve no more than a single text per day. The program sees very low churn. 

Earlier this month the UK carrier touted the success of a More campaign for gym Fitness First:

Fitness First targeted O2 customers with location-based messages offering a free two-day pass and details of the nearest club. This resulted over 1,100 recipients signing up as new members of Fitness First on four month and 12 month contracts.

With average membership costing just under £300 per year, this uptake generated increased revenue around £400,000.

The best responding target audience was 18 to 35-year-old smart phone using single Londoners, who enjoy engaging through social media.

US carrier T-Mobile recently got into the daily deals market with the launch of an app called "more for me." But with much larger competitors -- and so many competitors -- it's unlikely that T-Mobile will see great success with the program.

However daily deals could be converted into SMS messages for broader distribution and differentiation. Indeed, the O2-Placecast model is a stronger bet than an app strategy for carrier advertising, and can reach 100% of the carrier's customers potentially.

Many marketers and companies tend to look "beyond" SMS to in-app ads and mobile Web advertising because SMS isn't sexy. (Just like text ads in search aren't sexy.) However the reach of SMS is 100% and the response rates to opt-in text messaging programs can be huge. 

For example, in early 2010 Placecast found the following in its US beta test of ShopAlerts (the same kind of program run by O2): 

  • 60% of participants found the location-triggered messages to be cool & innovative
  • 79% said it increased their likelihood to visit a store
  • 65% made a purchase as a result of a ShopAlerts message (this sometimes occurred on the same day and sometimes later)
  • 73% of participants would definitely or probably use the service in the future