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Pizza Hut exec reveals how branded app achieved 2 million downloads

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut has been in mobile since 2008

NEW YORK – Taking a brand and bringing it to the mobile market effectively means listening to customer feedback and acting accordingly, said a Pizza Hut executive who presented at the Mobile Shopping Summit.

Pizza Hut’s mobile Web site and iPhone application are not new, but the executive explained that it took a lot of revamping to get the mobile properties where they are today.

“We initially launched our mobile Web site in 2008,” said Baron Concors, chief information and digital officer of Pizza Hut, Dallas. “The mobile site was slow and customers were complaining.

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“We have several customer feedback channel and consumers were very vocal on which aspect of the site they did and did not like,” he said. “We then decided to launch an iPhone application.”

Pizza Hut is part of the Yum Brands suite of fast food brands. It is the largest restaurant company in the world, serving more than 25 million customers daily.

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Pizza Hut taps Green Tomato for its ordering app

IPhone app
When Pizza Hut began to explore the possibility of an iPhone application, the company knew one thing for sure. It had to make the order process fast and easy.

At first the target audience was those who rarely prepare or consume home-cooked meals. The average age was 24.

Customers were complaining that the purchase process takes too long and that transactions were too hard to complete.

Pizza Hut targets iPhone users with unique mobile

Pizza Hut targets iPhone users

Also a large amount of consumers felt that products were hard to find.

Pizza Hut took all of this into consideration when developing and enhancing its iPhone application.

As a result the company was able to get the experience to be easy for consumers and the application has been downloaded more than 2 million times since launch.

App features
The application uses iPhone and iPod touch features such as the user interface and accelerometer to make ordering menu items while having a fun and customized experience.

The pizza ordering section allows consumers to virtually build their own pizza.

Customers can pinch to select size, drag-and-drop toppings onto the pizza.

If a customer adds too many toppings, the pizza explodes and toppings go flying across the screen with an alert to make their pizza happier with fewer toppings.

The Pizza Hut mobile commerce application is driving sales in a major way. Last year the company announced $1 million in sales just via the application.

Digital strategy
Pizza Hut's digital strategy is to offer multiple digital ordering channels.

Mr. Concors suggested that brand be bold and take calculated risks when it comes to their digital strategy.

“Engage customers on their terms,” Mr. Concors said.

Pizza Hut’s ecommerce framework relies on delivering online orders to 6,000-plus stores.

“Currently we have no scalability concerns because our current ecommerce operations handle large traffic events,” Mr. Concors said.

“Additionally, there is no training required at stores when adding new online channels,” he said.

Pizza Hut concentrated on quality assurance with the launch of its iPhone application.

Testing requires additional steps to compile and load the application on iPhone. Integration testing was important as well.

As for deployment, Mr. Concors said brands need to register as an iTunes developer early, since it takes some time.

“Thoroughly test before submitting to Apple review,” Mr. Concors said. “Rework cycles are costly.”

Spreading the word
Pizza Hut did quite a lot of marketing to promote its application and gain 2 million downloads.

Mr. Concors suggests that brands use all existing media to promote their application and mobile Web destinations.

Pizza Hut used its PC Web site, YouTube, Facebook, the App Store rankings and Twitter to promote the application.

Apple was pretty impressed by the application. The company included the Pizza Hut application in its television commercial.

“Pay attention to bloggers, professional reviews as well as iTunes comments,” Mr. Concors said. “The first release of an app is generally accepted as not perfect.

“But brands must aggressively fix identified issues and introduce new functions,” he said. “Apps are for loyalists and mobile Web is for customer acquisition."

Here is a photo of Mr. Concors at the Mobile Shopping Summit in New York

Final take
Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor of Mobile Marketer

Giselle Tsirulnik is deputy managing editor on Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily. Reach her at giselle@mobilemarketer.com.

Related content: Commerce, Pizza Hut, iHut iPhone application, Baron Concors, mobile commerce, mobile application, iPhone application, Mobile Shopping Summit, mobile marketing, mobile

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Comments on "Pizza Hut exec reveals how branded app achieved 2 million downloads"

  1. Suhasini Goranto says:

    October 28, 2010 at 7:56am

    hi I do agree to patrick comments, as sms seems to be more comfortable and convenient compare to other options available
  2. Patrick Young says:

    October 26, 2010 at 1:47pm

    The last phrase”Apps are for loyalists and mobile web is for customer acquisition”is just so WRONG!

    This is a subject that burns me up. Two reasons; my iPhone (Apple) and Pizza Hut. I hate them both due to their improper application of technology. KISS.

    SMS text is so much better for acquisition. It is more effective when someone is given a call to action rather than wait around for them to find your mobile site. Once your SMS text campaign reels in a prospect they can then be lead to the mobile site and app store. If you dare take that treacherous road.

    I have been asking people for the past year the same question. “How would you prefer to order a pizza? By Phone? Online? Or Text? The overwhelming majority say TEXT! Based on response percentages, almost no one wants to order on line. I have no plans to add iPhone Apps to the list of possible responses. Maybe in a few years when the iPhone is essentially dead and Android rules in the land of smartphones. Yes dead. The only thing mobile market forecasters agree on is the iPhone is going nowhere. iPhone's market share is now peaking.

    If more were to think creatively about how SMS Text can be used not only in marketing but in operations as well, they will discover amazing possibilities.

    From a decision maker's point of view, Apps have the appearance of maximum capability. What is not so apparent is the complexity associated with capability. So many things can go wrong.
    And they do! Apps is the lazy decision and its the exacting, burdensome, decision as well. The simple concept requires someone to THINK. Who has time to actually think? Unfortunately nearly no one. No discoveries. No creativity. No amazing possibilities. No satisfaction.

    Simple can be implemented with elegance. It's a very rewarding challenge to take something simple and create a masterpiece. Master Chef's do it. That's why they are called Masters of the trade. Simple is associated with Success so much more than complexity. Complexity is more often associated with Calamity. No one likes the C word.

    If Pizza Hut had put their effort in to an SMS Text campaign they could have engaged a lot more than 2M people. And frustrated less. I am an iPhone user and I find it elitist when I hear an iPhone app has been released. An iPhone app is so exclusionary and in all probability it will not meet its objectives. For far too numerous reasons to explain here.

    Because I have an iPhone does not mean I have the desire, ability, time, etc. to download your app. It is not a elementary task to make an app simple enough for any one to use without getting frustrated. Even with their enormous budget Pizza Hut could not get it right. I know from experience, a pizza order entry app is one of the most difficult apps to create. Think coupons, meal deals, half and half specialty pizzas and no training required. Not simple stuff. Do you really want to make your loyalists feel frustrated?

    I was once a Pizza Hut “loyalist”. I bought a Pizza Hut pizza once a week for years. After an unpleasant encounter with a Pizza Hut employee, they lost my business for over 15 years. Then along come my kids. They want Pizza Hut. I get online. Create a Pizza Hut account. I find creating an account detestable. When I phone in an order, I don't have to create an account so why should I be required online? Then being required to input unnecessary information. This is already an unpleasant task, I hate to fill out forms. When the order is complete and I click the final Submit...and CRASH!. I was so furious with the Pizza Hut site, not only did eat elsewhere and Pizza Hut will NEVER EVER see another dime from me!

    The point being SMS Text is a simple, effective, economical, and SAFE way to acquire new customers. Apps and Websites are the way to lose “loyalists” if not implemented perfectly. Who is perfect? At what cost?
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