E Channel: Sprint PCS, Nextel Lead Online Pack, Study Finds

Posted: 11/2001

E Channel

Sprint PCS, Nextel Lead Online Pack, Study Finds
By Josh Long

Smaller U.S. carriers are doing a better job acquiring customers online and enticing their current subscribers to spend time on their web sites than giants Verizon Corp. and Cingular Wireless
LLC, according to a recently released Jupiter Media Metrix report.

Sprint PCS and Nextel
Communications Inc. convert almost three times as many web-site visitors to pages secure for transactions than the top two wireless carriers, Verizon Wireless and Cingular, the research firm found.

Secure pages indicate either visitors appear ready to make a purchase online or are reviewing their current accounts.

Sprint PCS and Nextel convert 66 percent and 62 percent of their visitors to secure pages, respectively, compared to 23 percent for Verizon Wireless and 12 percent for Cingular, Media Metrix ratings data show.

Verizon Wireless spokesman Brian Wood says the carrier consistently has increased the volume of sales on the web, and that it has improved its web site.

In May the carrier said highlights of the redesigned web site include customer service information, plans and pricing comparisons, an equipment page including 3D phone demonstrations, a price plan map and calling features. The site also features Internet and data information and a text-messaging page, which allows visitors to send a text message from their PC to a Verizon Wireless customer using a digital handset.

After Verizon Wireless upgraded its web site, the carrier realized that its daily online sales run rate almost doubled, and page hits nearly tripled by May, compared to the first quarter, Wood says.

“It is still a growing channel for us,”

he says.

Cingular declined comment on its


According to Jupiter Media Metrix, Sprint and Nextel have been effective in encouraging their customers to access their web sites. Sprint, for instance, tells its customers on a customer service telephone recording that they probably could resolve their questions faster and easier by visiting the carrier online, says Jupiter Media Metrix analyst Dylan Brooks.

However, Brooks cautions that as carriers encourage people to visit their web sites through various distribution channels, including traditional advertising, they must be careful not to alienate people who may not be web savvy or inclined to spend time online.

Brooks says Nextel has carved out a niche among blue-collar workers, especially those working in manufacturing or construction trades, who need to access information remotely, such as inventory, on a wireless device.

Brooks says that on average, wireless carriers generate between 1 percent and 1.5 percent of their total revenue online, but many of them anticipate growth up to 4 percent of revenue online next year.

Analysts say a strong e-commerce strategy is important for consummating sales online, and it can strengthen relationships with customers and draw potential subscribers to outlets in the real world.

For every online sale, 10 transactions are made outside cyberspace as a result of research shoppers conducted on the web, says Brooks.

He also says that carriers should encourage Americans to access the web because it gives them greater visibility regarding data services available on wireless devices. As he puts it, carriers need to let “people know they don’t have to wait for 3G. There is lots they can do with their phones today.”

Large U.S. carriers have not been very successful educating people of even simple data capabilities such as text messaging, a wildly popular service in Europe, which can be accessed over any digital network, according to Brooks.

He says that a billion text messages are sent in the United Kingdom and Germany each month.

Jupiter’s report also found:

  • AT&T Wireless Services Inc., the third largest U.S. wireless carrier, converted 38 percent of its visitors to secure pages, lagging behind Sprint PCS and Nextel.

  • VoiceStream Wireless Corp., the smallest U.S. wireless carrier among those included, converts 53 percent of its visitors.

In related findings, Jupiter says online advertising doesn’t always draw people to a carrier’s web site.

Data from AdRelevance, Jupiter Media Metrix’ online tracking service, reveal:

  • Although AT&T Wireless purchased nearly 500 million ad impressions from February 2001 to April 2001, Sprint PCS has been more effective in drawing customers to its site with about 100 million ad impressions during that same time period. Each carrier averaged 1.5 million unique visitors during the time period.

  • Despite buying about 100 million ad impressions, Cingular has experienced a decline in unique visitors, from 1.4 million in February 2001 to 760,000 in March 2001.

“Sites with high traffic and low secure page rates likely need better design,” says Brooks.

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