You may have seen the story that at the recent OMMA Mobile Conference, a major exec from Papa John's Pizza, Jim McDonnell, expressed his disappointment with the company's iPhone app. There's only one problem - his company doesn't have an app available at the App Store.
If you own an iPhone (or Touch), you know exactly what I'm talking about. The charm of the iPhone, and the main reason it has exploded in sales growth and customer satisfaction is the App Store - a virtual candy store of apps where new ones come in daily. Our Tech Poll indicates that better than 8 in 10 iPhone owners download apps - free or paid. It's the key driver why the iPhone has become the leading mobile device.
When I read the story about Papa John's, I went to the App Store to see why their application wasn't working for them. And of course, they don't have an app. A follow-up article about the conference reports that Papa John's has an "iPhone-enabled mobile site" that includes a store locator and a speedier way to order pizza.
So two problems:
1. If you're playing around with apps (and I emphasize "playing"), it's time to rethink the strategy. Or in fact, develop a strategy. Just being available on an iPhone doesn't solve any problems, nor does it address consumer needs. Too many potential clients come to us here at Jacobs (or jacAPPS, as we're now calling our business), and simply asking whether they can buy an app. While the interest is flattering, our next step as developers... and marketers... is to sit down with them to discuss the goals and strategies behind the app.
In the case of Papa John's, there's no driving strategy here, aside from making it a little easier for pizza eaters to find one of their stores. There are so many other things their app could contain - menus, coupons, a pizza trivia game, and even the user being able to custom design a pizza. And of course, it would help Papa John's if they actually had an app.
2. If you're serious about your brand being a part of the iPhone, and you're not providing an app that's available at the App Store, you're making it difficult for consumers. The essence of the iPhone is elegance and simplicity. It shouldn't be hard to find and download your app. But if it's not searchable inside the App Store, and not available with a one-touch download (just like every other app), you're kidding yourself about what you're truly offering consumers. I don't care how many other cool features your app delivers. If it's not in the App Store, it's not an app.
We've now developed more than 60 apps for clients who are enjoying their position inside the App Store, and these apps have now generated more than 600,000 downloads in just six months. That's not a bad contribution toward Apple's one billion total, and our app business continues to grow. We're now developing apps for festivals, personalities, as well as games for other brands.
There's a learning curve here, as Papa John's is finding out. It's like "Brave New World," and mistakes will be made. We're studying the analytics, and beginning to conduct research into app usage, accessibility, and utility. It's part of our responsibility as marketers and developers to figure this thing out, and better serve the brands that want to be a part of the mobile device revolution.
In many ways, it's like 1993 all over again, when a small number of companies had built websites, and the other 95% were thinking that perhaps it was time to start thinking about building one of their own. So, again, two pieces of advice.
1. Get a strategy
2. Get inside the App Store