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Shopping by Phone, on the Move

Sometimes it seems hard to figure out whether younger consumers enjoy shopping more than using their cellphones, or vice versa. Soon, readers of a Condé Nast magazine will be invited to do both at once.

The magazine, Lucky, will offer readers of its September issue a chance to send text messages from their mobile phones to buy merchandise from 18 marketers and retailers, which include Avon, Liz Claiborne, Estée Lauder, L'Oréal, Target and Unilever. The program, called "Live Buy It," uses a service from the PayPal unit of eBay known as PayPal Mobile Text2Buy.

Consumers who prefer a PC screen to a cellphone screen will be able to order the merchandise, ranging from cosmetics to clothing, from a Web site (livebuyit.com).

The promotion is being introduced to Lucky readers with ads in the July and August issues of the magazine. The July ad explains how Text2Buy works and the August ad offers a way to try the service, by buying a CD from Lucky for $5.99, "The Lucky Mix: The Soundtrack to Shopping."

The "Live Buy It" program is another sign of how ardently mainstream advertisers and media companies are pursuing the concept of mobile marketing. Spending in the United States on marketing via cellphones, estimated at less than $50 million last year, could climb as high as $1.5 billion by 2010, according to a report from RBC Capital Markets, a unit of the Royal Bank of Canada.

Among the blue-chip names making forays into the field are the Carlson Companies, for Carlson Travel and T.G.I. Friday's; the Coca-Cola Company, for Dasani water; the Procter & Gamble Company, for Crest toothpaste; and the Time Inc. unit of Time Warner, for People and Teen People magazines.

•"We have been looking into mobile marketing; it's hard not to," said Allison Slater, vice president for retail marketing at Sephora in New York, a beauty products unit of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

"I do think it's the next way of shopping, not that people will stop shopping online," Ms. Slater said.

Sephora will take part in the "Live Buy It" promotion by selling an eye-shadow set under the Tarte Peep Show Palette name. Another participant, Dooney & Bourke, decided to offer a purse called the Moon Bag to appeal to teenage and 20-something consumers.

"This sounds like a unique opportunity to test the waters" of mobile marketing, said Elizabeth Kane, director for advertising and public relations at Dooney & Bourke in Norwalk, Conn. "We're keeping our fingers crossed."

The companies taking part in the promotion are among those that are buying ad pages in the September issue of Lucky. On its rate card, Lucky charges $165,000 for the one-time purchase of a two-page, four-color ad; companies that advertise frequently in the magazine will pay less than that.

"In Japan, they're buying plane tickets on cellphones, they're buying from Tiffany's on cellphones," said Alexandra W. Golinkin, vice president and publisher at Lucky in New York, part of the Condé Nast Publications division of Advance Publications.

Lucky tends to look to Japan for ideas because the magazine, introduced in 2000, was inspired by Japanese publications for women devoted to shopping.

"Lucky is a magazine about getting your hands on the stuff and enjoying what's exciting right now," Ms. Golinkin said. "How apt to the DNA of Lucky is it to have one of our programs be devoted to the future of commerce?"

One reason the promotion is using the PayPal Mobile Text2Buy service is that in a survey of Lucky readers, 83 percent said they were familiar with PayPal, she added.

Among the other advertisers participating in "Live Buy It" are AG Jeans; the Mark line of cosmetics sold by Avon; Perry Ellis International, for its Original Penguin apparel; Le Tigre clothing; the Bulova division of the Loews Corporation, for Bulova and Wittnauer watches; Report shoes; and Sunsilk, a new line of hair care products by Unilever.

One advertiser, the Ford Motor Company, will be modifying the promotion to "donate to buy" from "text to buy," Ms. Golinkin said. The company will contribute the proceeds from sales of tote bags to its Ford Race for the Cure program, which benefits the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

The results of the initial "Live Buy It" promotion have been deemed successful enough, Ms. Golinkin said, that Lucky will offer a second program in its December issue, centered on a theme of "text to try."

•The idea would be to offer readers merchandise in smaller or sample sizes that "would help them decide what to give as gifts for the holidays," she added, "and buy it all through their cellphones." For example, readers could order from a fragrance maker miniature bottles of scents to try.

"I hope to be on the street selling this in 10 days," Ms. Golinkin said.

Here is how the PayPal Text2Buy service is meant to work. Cellphone users log on to paypal.com/mobile to create an account or activate their existing PayPal accounts for mobile commerce. Each product taking part in the promotion will be identified on an ad page with a number and a one-word code like "angel," "crewneck" or "mark."

The cellphone user sends a text message with the code word to the number. An automated call asks for a personal identification number and confirms the order; a receipt is sent in an e-mail message. The product is shipped to the cellphone user.

Or as Alfred Hitchcock might have put it: text "M" for "mobile commerce."

 

Stuart Elliott, The New York Times. July 10, 2006.

Copyright © 2006 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.