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Pizza Hut exec reveals how branded app achieved 2 million downloads

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.

?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.

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.

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.

Development
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."

Final take
Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor of Mobile Marketer
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