Around 2008, Pizza Hut decided to launch a mobile platform and was discussing whether to do an APP or something else. The company decided on an APP, which paid off in the end – it’s now one of the most downloaded iPhone APP’s out there with more than two million downloads to date, according to Baron Concors, Chief Information and Digital Officer, Pizza Hut.
“We are in the food business, which at the end of the day is a commodity business,” said Concors. “You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight – so we came out with an APP that customers were going to enjoy.”
When the initial discussion happened, the target for mobile sales was the “eating machine,” a 24-year-old college (most likely male) student who wanted something fast and easy. The company quickly realized that they were wrong in narrowing their target – a much bigger demographic was interested in the APP. So Pizza Hut, a part of YUM!, the largest restaurant company in the world which includes KFC and Taco Bell, decided to tackle the market with vigor, putting a lot of time, resources and investment into the APP which would please and target not only brand loyal customers, but smartphone loyal customers.
What resulted is a highly interactive APP, which Concors demonstrated at the Mobile Shopping Summit on Monday. A customer wanting to buy a pizza can use almost every feature the iPhone is equipped with to go through the fun, interactive process of ordering food at Pizza Hut. S/he chooses a pie, sizes it with the shrinking or growing finger feature, drags which topping s/he wants onto the pie and tilts the phone if s/he wants the toppings to appear on only one side of the pizza. If the customer is interested in another food option like wings, s/he will choose the size and sauce, then after watching the sauce pour onto the wings, the consumer literally shakes up his/her iPhone to integrate the sauce throughout the wings.
As Bernardine Wu from FitForCommerce said, who would have thought that one day we’d be shaking our cell phones?
As Concors said, Pizza Hut used all these various features because, “We feel if people are buying an iPhone, that’s why they’re buying it!”
Of course, getting this APP to market came with challenges. Concors advises that in considering such an APP, retailers must make sure they can consolidate code and do not skip out on testing, he advises. If you create an iPhone APP and submit it to Apple with any bugs or issues, you will face lots of delays as Apple has no set timeframe with which it will approve your APP – you’re at their mercy.
“Developing an APP is like buying a horse – you have to feed it and care for it,” said Concors.
Pizza Hut has properly cared for its horse of an APP, and has seen payoffs besides the millions of downloads: Forbes awarded it the best branded APP of last year and Apple used it in its own commercials – a benefit the company never expected that resulted in millions of dollars of re-branding.
Pizza Hut’s well-equipped, cared for APP, has satisfied its hungry customers and in the process encouraged them to have fun.