Teens targeted with cellphone-based marketing

Eager to connect with teen and twentysomething shoppers, retailers are focusing on the mobile devices that are never far from their hands — or ears.

"They are the early adopters and the influencers," Roman Tsunder says of teens targeted by cellphone marketing campaigns from his company, Access 360 Media. "The youth markets will show adults how it's done."

Technology designed to influence teen behavior should be "cool to use and add functionality," says Dan Butler, a National Retail Federation vice president. "Younger generations may certainly drive the utilization of these technologies. They'll take the time to learn a new technology because they automatically get the coolness and uniqueness."

Among the latest teen-focused shopping tech:

•An interactive dressing room mirror developed by IconNicholson that streams high-definition video of shoppers modeling clothes to their friends' computers or mobile devices. It made its first appearance in a retail store last week, in the Nanette Lepore department at the Manhattan Bloomingdale's. The mirror allows the friends to comment on a shopper's outfits and to select other clothes for her to try.

•GPShopper, an Internet-style search engine that lets shoppers search a chain's entire inventory. Retailers using the service include Best Buy, Toys R Us and Sports Authority. Consumers can text-message the service to find out if an item is in stock at a nearby store. The service is free to consumers with mobile phone plans that don't charge extra for data service.

GPShopper CEO Alex Muller says early research found teens wanted all the information sent immediately: "They don't expect to have to make a call."

•Coupons that go to shoppers' cellphones. Tsunder, CEO of Access 360 Media, says a holiday coupon campaign for retailers including f.y.e. saw redemption rates of about 40% compared with less than 2% for many print or online coupon campaigns. Shoppers text a code found on store signs to get the coupon, then show it displayed on their phone at checkout.

Tsunder likes cellphones for marketing because they're permission-based. Consumers simply message back "stop" if they don't want messages or coupons.

Tsunder's campaigns also include in-store TV programs featuring hip young celebrities and the store's products. Often, the celebrity will ask customers to enter contests, which they can do by text-messaging. It saves the customer time, and the retailer has access to a cellphone number for marketing or research.

"This generation was brought up on the Internet," Muller says. "We're giving them the same capability on another device they feel quite comfortable with — their mobile phone."

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