Rocketing through the recession|
Mar 30, 2009
Published: March 19. 2009 4:00AM PST
In an economic pinch, consumers often reach for value, shaking up old habits in the process.
one way Fred Boos, the founder and president of RocketBux, a Bend
startup that delivers digital coupons to cell phones, describes the
company’s recent growth despite the recession.
consumers are more willing to hand out their mobile numbers to
marketers, as the fear of spam is slowly replaced by the promise of a
“With this economy, people are looking for some type
of discount and businesses are looking for new ways to reach
customers,” Boos said. “This is a huge tidal shift. If people can save
money by getting an ad on the phone, they are going to do it.”
shift in consumer attitude and the growth of mobile marketing also is
spurring growth at RocketBux. Boos would be disappointed if the company
doesn’t grow from its current 17 employees to 45 by year’s end. The
company has offices in Eugene, Palo Alto, Calif., Richmond, Va., and
Calgary, Alberta, but many of the new positions would be at the Bend
office, where five now work. Boos said he’ll be primarily looking for
sales staff and information technology workers.
“I hate to say it, but it seems like the bad economy is good for us,” Boos said.
technology is centered on text messages that it sends on behalf of its
clients, generally advertisers or businesses with direct marketing
campaigns. Customers either opt to receive the text messages by
providing their mobile numbers to an advertiser or they send a text
message to a specified number in an advertisement, which triggers the
immediate receipt of a coupon-bearing text message.
billion text messages were sent last year, according to CTIA The
Wireless Association, nearly 1,000 percent more than in 2005.
Stewart, the owner of a Dutch Bros. Coffee franchise in Junction City,
is a RocketBux client. She gives her customers a one-time $1 discount
on their orders if they give her their mobile numbers, which she then
uses to send out coupons. Stewart said that at roughly 5 cents per text
message, the return on investment is “huge” and the results are
“I can have a slow Tuesday afternoon, and I can sit on
my computer, type (a text message), send it and instantly have
customers come in. We can adjust very easily to what’s going on,”
That immediacy helps Stewart sell cold drinks on
hot days and muffin tops when inventory is high, she said. There’s also
a sense of value, she said, that helps drive more sales, as a customer
drawn to the coffee stand for a discounted mocha also might buy
something extra, like another drink or something to eat.
said she has not received much push-back from her customers when shes
asks for their mobile numbers, noting customers can opt-out at any
time. More importantly, she said, in a town of roughly 4,500, more than
1,200 customers have signed up.
In Junction City, hit hard by layoffs at nearby Monaco Coach Corp., people are grasping for bargains, Stewart said.
town has been hit significantly, (but) it’s worked well in the sense
that it’s very easy to sign up because it doesn’t cost them anything
and it doesn’t cost them anything to do it,” she said.
At work in Bend
Bend, Newport Avenue Market is using RocketBux’s technology in
conjunction with an advertising campaign developed by Every Idea LLC.
radio ads for the market, the advertisement invites listeners to text
message the store — technically, they are texting RocketBux — to
receive a special coupon code in return, such as a code for a 49-cent
loaf of bread or 99-cent pint of ice cream. The consumer then announces
at checkout they have a cell phone coupon, at which point the checker
asks for the coupon code and enters it into the register.
Deborah Yaw-Dory, co-owner of the market, said the technology is fun and a new approach to getting customers in the door.
that jump on it have the opportunity to save money, and hopefully this
will grow in acceptance,” she said. “This is the latest and greatest
thing and we like to be the first in the market to try things.”
said another plus for the technology is it provides businesses with a
way to track how effective an advertisement is by counting the number
of coupons redeemed.
RocketBux also has the ability to send text
message coupons with bar codes, enabling the phone to be scanned at
checkout. This technology only works for newer phones with graphics
capabilities, such as Apple’s iPhone and other next-generation smart
Tech’s next big thing
veteran of the Bay Area’s dot-com heyday in the 1990s, Boos moved to
Bend — drawn by the region’s quality of life — and founded RocketBux in
2005. It is privately held and holds patents on much of its technology.
background is in startups and RocketBux’s Bend office looks it. Boos
likes the office’s “open pit” environment, with no walls between five
employees sharing a roughly 250-square-foot space, their work stations
covered with empty Styrofoam instant-soup cups and a video game console
in the corner. Boos travels a lot and keeps two phones — an Apple
iPhone 3G and a BlackBerry — to stay connected.
Boos said the
mobile application industry — those companies that are developing
software and applications for mobile phones — is in the same
hyper-growth stage Boos witnessed during the Internet’s early years. As
smart phones continue to evolve and provide the functions once reserved
for desktop computers, more people will continue to adopt them and make
them a part of their everyday lives, and reap the rewards as a result,
“If you don’t adopt new technologies, it costs you
more to participate in society,” Boos said. “This recession is changing
behavior, so you have to choose technology if you want cheap bread at
Newport (Avenue Market).”
Andrew Moore can be reached at 541-617-7820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.