M-Commerce

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Go800: You Text Us, We’ll Call You

As business offerings go, Go800’splan is simple: It gives mobile consumers a quickkeyword connection to a call-back from vendors. The vendor’s ad lists an easy-to-remember keyword, a ready-to-buy viewer texts that keyword to Go800, and a moment later the viewer’s phone rings with a call from the vendor. The system attempts to bridge the chasm between text/SMS and old-fashioned tollfree numbers, noted the new company’s president and founder, IkeSutton.

Go800 launched April 15.

The patent-pending idea could give vendors a new approach to marketingand selling via the mobile phone. A company could use a text messagefrom a potential buyer or link from Internet advertising to generate anear-instant phone connection with the vendor.

“Similar to calling an 800 phone number, the system allows customersto send a text message to a vendor to connect to the company’s callcenter or customer service center. The phone rings six seconds laterwith an instant phone connection to a live person instead of callingin and navigating through voice prompts,” Sutton told the E-CommerceTimes.

Out With the Old

From the consumer’s end, the process seems quite efficient. Shoppers nolonger have to make an 800 call to get service. Instead, the vendorcalls the mobile consumer back.

In their day, 800 numbers were a handy marketing tool. A potentialcustomer would have to look up a toll-free phone number for a vendorand then make a free call to discuss a purchase.

But modern-day mobile communications takes that process a stepfurther. In the process it could leave behind vendors who continue toexpect their customers to look up and then remember a ten-digit phonenumber, according to Sutton. Even when the mobile phone carrier findsthe number and places it, too much waiting time is consumed.

Embedded Call-Back

Buyers on the go expect more instantaneous access. Under his company’s system, they cantext a business name to “Go800” (46800) and get directly connected totheir bank, hotel or even local pizza parlor, said Sutton.

That is precisely what Sutton’s new service provides. New York-basedGo800 bridges the divide between SMS and toll-free numbers.

Sutton’s database currently has over 5,000keywords. The sender does not have to include an actual message. Inresponse to the text message, the mobile phone rings within andconnects the consumer to the desired business.

How It Works

Sutton’s service works with both brand names and generic regionalbusinesses. He sells or leases keywords monthly. A national listingcosts the vendor US$500. Vendors can also lease an area code to cornerall of the consumer inquiries to a particular category within a particulargeographic region.

For example, texting “Chase” to 46800 results in Go800 ringing yourphone and connecting you to the Chase Bank customer service. Text”flowers” to 46800 and Go800 rings your phone and directly connectsyou to 1-800-Flowers.

“There is no need to search for phone numbers. It’s an immediate anddirect connection. Besides enabling easier contact, Go800 also saves businesses money byoffering cheaper connection fees to their existing 800 lines,” saidSutton.

Go800 also has direct response capabilities. Clients canskip the hard-to-remember ten digit toll-free number and instead telltheir audience to text just a short code.

Room to grow

Go800 is registering keywords from large companies, small companiesand even a few private executives who want their own vanity channel,said Sutton. He has plans to rapidly expand the service options.

“The first phase is limited to what is now in the database. Thisallowed the company to quickly get started,” he explained.

Other phases aim to improve the technology as new devices and technologiescomes out. He plans to implement a lot of bells and whistles.

Inside Track?

Go800 could well become the leading force that moves this technologyforward. Few competitors are going in this text-to-callback direction,according to Sutton. However, his visions of a relatively clear field maybe a bit obscured.

“The new service is very interesting from a vendor’s standpoint,” NeilStrother, practice director for ABI Research, told the E-commerceTimes. “The Mobile Market Association (MMA) has guidelines that make a de factostandard for this sort of service. It’s fairly standard process torent short code.”

Much of Sutton’s success in selling his service concept to vendorswill depend on the funding available, said Strother.

“A number of players do something like this with links to a company,but a callback is a new concept. The question to be answered is, will acallback be enough to overcome existing services?” he said.

No Easy Launch

Despite the innovative concept of marketing by text through Go800,Sutton admits he had his hands full in pitching the idea to getvendors on board. His original idea was based more on using text-basedconversations to initiate sales between consumers and vendors.

However, that approach proved to be burdened with far too many legalproblems. One of his biggest obstacles was convincing corporationswith large IT departments that they could not effectively do thismarketing plan on their own.

“There were too many legal hurdles with original plan of text-to-textmarketing. I learned the hard way. Now I have a product not connectedto IT department,” explained Sutton.

Uphill Battle

Convincing corporations to try his new marketing concept was a hardsell for Sutton, who had a five-year background in the mobile phoneindustry.

“It took me two years of hard work to figure this out. About 80percent of the media still follows the old way. We don’t change asquickly. But businesses are slowly migrating to new media. We are abridge between old and new,” Said Sutton.

Go800 gives businesses one more event to get customers. Tapping in tothat opportunity is often hindered by peoples’ short-sightedness, hebelieves.

“I decided to give a product that is very simple for companies. Peoplestill want to talk to a live person,” he noted.

Planting the Seed

The concept behind Go800 was Sutton’s alone. He started the companywith two cofounders, an intellectual property attorney and atechnology expert in the mobile space.

He formulated the idea after two or three years of marketing andmeetings to make his original texting idea work. The technology wasavailable but needed to be modified. As Sutton describes it, thetechnology to do this is not rocket science, but he did have to workout the conversion.

“This is a huge idea, it is a billion-dollar marketplace that willattract a lot of people to the table,” he asserted.

His goal is to expand the offering worldwide. He is currently workingon building case studies to show a company how many of its customerscan text.

Reaching that goal will be a tremendous challenge, he admitted. It’slike putting a little toe in the water to test it before diving in.Eventually companies will want to do text-to-text, he believes.

Rocky Road

Selling his callback marketing method might be a tough road to travel.Go800 has a new twist on an existing concept, warned Strother.

“A lot of companies are getting into this space. I’m not sure whathe’s solving. It does give the vendor an edge,” Strother said. “If thebackend is human-powered, that’s expensive.”

Marketing this could be a problem. The obstacles are showing a clearproblem it solves, focusing on who the customers are and how toeducate consumers about short code, he explained.

“I give him high marks for adding the human voice callback. Thenegative side is, are there other alternatives? How do you scale it?It’s a challenge. The mobile market is tough,” Strother said.

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