Corporate users: Wireless ads show promise

By Matt Hamblen, Computerworld |  Networking

A wireless advertising trial run that involved sending ads to 1,000 users of mobile computing devices in Boulder, Colo., has buoyed the hopes of some companies eager to reach potential buyers with the new technology.

The study was conducted by Skygo Inc. in Redwood City, Calif., during a four-month period that ended Jan. 31, and preliminary results were released Monday. About 50 advertisers took part in the test process, pushing ads to L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co.-made cell phones via the AT&T Wireless network several times each day.

Ads offered goods and services including movie tickets, sporting goods and restaurant information, as well as simple trivia games designed to enhance the brand of the company involved.

After outdoor gear-rental and sales company GearDirect.com LLC took part in the study, CEO John Siewierski said about 2% of the users in the study bought something from the Boulder-based company. GearDirect.com has two brick-and-mortar stores as well as online and catalog sales.

"I'm intrigued by wireless advertising, and it truly has my interest," Siewierski said. The response rate meant that wireless users bought at least $2,400 in goods from GearDirect.com, about twice what he might have expected from a print advertising campaign.

An additional 50% of the 1,000-user sample visited the GearDirect.com Web site from a wired-world connection, according to Skygo's surveys. Siewierski said company executives "know we got sales out of that."

San Francisco-based Visa U.S.A. Inc. also participated in the study, backing payments for movie tickets from cellular phones to credit card information stored on a secure server, according to Annette Merriman, director of technology at the company's e-Visa division.

E-Visa officials were encouraged that 37% of the 1,000 participants agreed to enter credit card account information at the start of the study. By doing so, participants became eligible to purchase movie tickets online wirelessly by typing in a special personal identification number to authorize the credit card payment, Merriman said. When tickets are purchased this way, users can arrive at the movie theater and show their Visa cards to get the tickets and gain admission.

"The study was very exciting for Visa, because for the first time, it allowed Visa to learn about consumers in the direct market," Merriman said. "People were actually making purchases from the device [and showed] interest in making purchases from mobile phones."

Skygo officials said the focus of the ads and the type of ads were found to make a difference to users. Ads featuring interactive trivia questions generated the highest rate of response, followed by ads that allowed consumers to participate in polls, they said.

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