AT&T today announced AT&T Alerts, a service to help make shoppers aware of nearby deals via opt-in discounts delivered directly to their phones by SMS based on geo-location data. At launch, participating retailers include the Gap, Staples, Duracell, Motorola and more. AT&T is clearly trying to capitalize on the same opportunity being targeted by Groupon, startups like Roximity, and other larger companies like Google, to name just a few.
AT&T Alerts isn’t coming out of nowhere, however. The carrier had previously introduced a similar deal delivery service with e-commerce company Placecast. Placecast’s white label tech allowed AT&T customers to sign up to receive text messages about deals related to specific locations, and debuted in February with limited availability in New York, LA, Chicago and San Francisco. At the time, AT&T said it would be rolling out ShopAlerts nation-wide eventually. The carrier doesn’t mention Placecast in the release describing AT&T Alerts and this broader launch, but we’ve reached out to our contacts there to see if Placecast is still involved. Update: AT&T confirms Placecast continues to be a partner for AT&T Alerts.
There are plenty of startups out there trying to make location-based deals a reality, including TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon winner Roximity, which partnered with Ford in March to deliver location-based deals to drivers of its vehicles via SYNC in-car information and entertainment systems. Groupon also seems to be keen to capitalize on this kind of opportunity, having teamed with both foursquare and Loopt in the past to offer location-based deals.
Location-based deals is fast-becoming a crowded market, with Google getting in on the action via theField Trip project from its Niantic Labs division, too. It’s definitely fast becoming a crowded space, with recent entrants like ShopNear.me also trying to put their own spin on things by trying to focus on local merchants only.
AT&T’s system has some advantages out of the gate, since it works independently of any individual app, and because AT&T’s reach and access to subscriber data is much more broad than an independent developer’s. But there are some significant limitations, like the fact that it doesn’t work at all with iPhone 5. Ultimately, this is also a race that will probably have more than one winner, since consumers will likely embrace multiple ways to save, instead of limiting themselves to just one.