AT&T to close and revamp location-based 'Alerts' marketing program

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) is shutting down its location-based "Alerts" text-message-based marketing program at the end of the month and plans to release an updated version of the service later this year.

According to Light Reading, the carrier wrote in an email to participants, "the Alerts BETA was successful and we gained valuable learnings. Based on this information, we're planning to launch a new and improved offer service later this year."

It's not clear what AT&T learned from the "beta" trial period, what it plans to improve in the new service or when that service will launch. An AT&T spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The carrier first launched Alerts in December 2012, and styled it as a "free opt-in, location-based text messaging alerts service that allows AT&T wireless customers nationwide to save money with relevant offers from nearby retailers on their mobile phones." The service allowed users to text a short code to AT&T to opt in to the service and begin receiving discounts, rewards and offers via text message when they were near participating retailers and brands including the Gap, Staples, Zales, Last Call by Neiman Marcus, Duracell, Motorola, Discover and others.

This is not the first time AT&T has revamped its marketing efforts. In October 2013, AT&T closed part of its advertising network that had allowed advertisers to deliver ads based on the behavior of AT&T's mobile subscribers. Instead, the company said it would focus on tracking subscriber behavior via its U-verse TV service and other internal platforms.

Further, AT&T said last summer it "may" begin selling anonymous information about its customers' wireless and Wi-Fi locations, U-verse usage, website browsing, mobile application usage and "other information" to other businesses. The carrier has said it will protect its customers' privacy by providing the data in aggregate so it cannot be used to identify an individual. The carrier has also said its customers can opt out of the program.

Of course, AT&T is not the first company to sell anonymous information about its customers' location and behavior. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and most other Internet companies have long sold such data. In the wireless industry, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) launched its Precision Market Insights business last year, which also anonymizes and sells customer location and usage information. While Verizon's platform is not specifically focused on mobile, it claims its analytics tools can let advertisers "learn what mobile content your target audience is most likely to consume so you can cross-sell and up-sell more easily." Additionally, companies such as AirSage and SAP have recently begun selling aggregated location and usage information from wireless carriers.

Sprint (NYSE:S) has its own Pinsight Media+ targeted advertising service, which aggregates anonymous information about subscribers' location and mobile device activities and delivers targeted ads across operator-owned and third-party properties. Sprint customers must opt in to receive targeted advertising and have the choice to opt out of the data analytics program, according to Sprint.

For more:
- see this Light Reading article

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