If you’re antsy about getting the best deals this Black Friday, you probably wish the deals could come to you instead of hunting them down all day. Isn’t there a better way to learn about sales!?
That must be what the innovators at Google thought, too, because they recently launched a new service that alerts customers via text message about sales and deals.
“People can click to subscribe to a Google service that tailors promotional messages to products they’re interested in,” Google’s AdWords team shared in a Google Plus post earlier this month. So far, the program is only available for cellular customers in the U.S.
Since I am a person who loves receiving tailored messages — the “products you might be interested in” section of Etsy was my gateway drug — I signed up.
Here’s a review of my experience, plus my verdict, so you can decide whether these alerts are worth your time.
How Google’s New Sales Text Messages Work
Notice the Google team described this new service as “promotional messages.” That’s corporate-speak for advertising.
It means Google isn’t necessarily curating the deals they send to you to make sure they’re worth your time (like we’re doing on our Black Friday live blog). Instead, they’re offering placements to companies who are willing to pay to reach consumers.
Maybe I’m a total sucker for volunteering to have advertisements sent to me. But Google knows people spend lots of time researching shopping options on mobile devices, thanks to a 2013 research study it did with Nielsen.
More than half of those people researching a potential purchase on their phones want to be able to buy something within the hour, Google learned.
So the company’s helping advertisers corner customers by cutting out the search element altogether, hoping the novelty of deal discovery wins over consumers.
What does this mean for shoppers?
Google has three numbers that send text alerts: one each for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and general holiday deals. Signing up was as easy as texting “join” to each number. I sat back, relaxed, and waited for deal offers to arrive.
And I waited.
Giving Google’s Holiday Deal Texts a Try
More than a week after I signed up, finally I started getting text messages on the “Black Friday” line. Let’s get this holiday shopping party started, shall we?
“BuildDirect: Black Friday sale on BuildDirect floors. Up to xtra 45% off. Order free samples b4 sale starts.” The link went to BuildDirect’s mobile homepage.
I don’t need floors. Hard pass.
The next day: “PBteen: Find The Perfect Gift At The Great Gift Event! Enjoy 20% Off Your Order Until Sunday Only at PBteen.”
What the heck is PBteen? Clicking the link revealed it’s Pottery Barn for teens. But the site didn’t explain whether the 20% off was good immediately, or only during Thanksgiving weekend.
Then there’s the whole “I’m not a teen, nor do I live with one” thing. So far, these messages didn’t seem very tailored.
Next, came an alert from a store I had never heard of:
“Rep Your Team Spirit With 20% Off All Mobile Orders Over $50 On Fanatics.com! Some Exclusions Apply.”
My request was soon answered with a text reading:
“Stage Stores: Stage Stores’ Black Friday sneak peek! $19.99 Rampage boots, $96.99 Beats headphones and more.”
Headphones! But when I clicked on the link, all I got was a page that said, “Oops! We’re really busy today. Our associates will fix the problem as soon as possible.”
(I didn’t even know what Stage Stores was. I later figured out it’s a department store chain far from my home.)
One last submission for your review: A text offering half off a Sony TV. “Abt Electronics: 50% off on Sony 4K HDTV @Abt.”
Visiting the Abt Electronics site revealed, halfway down the page, the 43” TV as a featured sale item. The price wasn’t visible, so I had to click on the product to find out the list price is $1,599 and the sale price is $698.
I don’t need a TV, but I considered the deal. The price was right, and I was surprised to find that the website offered free ground shipping just like the big-box stores.
But did I want to spend $700 with a company I had never heard of, to get a product I could also get at the Target down the street? I wasn’t sure price alone would convince me to try a new retailer after learning about them through a text message.
Verdict: Skip Black Friday Texts, Keep Holiday Alerts
The big shopping weekend is almost upon us, and all I’ve gotten are lackluster Black Friday discounts that don’t seem incredibly exclusive or time-sensitive. I haven’t received a single Cyber Monday alert, although I expect my phone to explode that day.
The Verdict: If you’re looking for red-hot deals from big stores you already have on your shopping list, Google’s SMS alerts probably aren’t worth your time.
But if you’re curious, the general “holiday deals” text line might come through with some interesting deals.
The only text message I’ve received from that number so far has said, “Pottery Barn: 40% off All Robes and Slippers Only Today!”
Clicking the link in the message took me directly to the “robes and slippers” sales page that highlighted only those discounted items. The pictures were big, the text was clear, and I could focus on the sale I had come here to explore.
Now that’s a mobile shopping experience I can endorse.
Your Turn: Have you tried Google’s text alerts? Did you get better options than I did?
Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!
Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor, and podcaster living in Washington, D.C.