IPhone App Doesn't Deliver For Papa John's
But not all marketers are necessarily impressed once they hit the App Store shelf. Jim McDonnell, marketing manager, emerging channels for Papa John's International, sounded a rare cautionary note about iPhone apps during a panel on the topic Wednesday at the OMMA Mobile conference.
McDonnell explained that the national pizza chain had decided to launch an iPhone app last year after being bombarded by mobile companies about taking the step to boost business and after seeing so many other companies introduce apps. The Papa John's app allows users to find local outlets and a shortcut to connect directly to the main mobile site ordering screen.
The results haven't blown him away. "So far, we haven't seen anything that really delivers for us as well as mobile display advertising," he said. He pointed out that smartphones, and the iPhone in particular, have been big factors in driving its mobile business. Smartphones account for nearly all traffic to its mobile site, and the iPhone alone about half.
"My motto is that people who spend money (to buy) smartphones are the people who are spending on phones," he said. But the lack of business being driven from its iPhone app has diminished the company's enthusiasm for launching apps in other app storefronts being opened by Apple competitors including BlackBerry, Palm, Microsoft and others.
"We haven't seen numbers that really made us think we need to be everywhere else yet," he said. McDonnell's skeptical take contrasted with the mostly boosterish views that typically surround any marketing discussion of iPhone apps.
Jordan Berman, who leads advanced ad solutions for AT&T, said that the company's Yellow Pages iPhone app has been downloaded 750,000 times. As the exclusive service provider for the iPhone, AT&T benefits indirectly from the success of the App Store. But it also casts a large shadow over the operator's own mobile storefront, the AT&T MEdia Mall, and similar e-commerce efforts by other carriers.
One of the built-in advantages Apple had with the App Store was the established success of iTunes in selling music and other downloadable content. Unlike in mobile carrier stores, users can make payments easily via credit card.
"This was an existing ecosystem that had overtaken Wal-Mart in selling music," noted Jonathan Zweig, CEO of Jirbo, which has created almost 50 gaming apps for the iPhone and iPod touch including "ESPN Cameraman" and "Paper Football." As one of the first app developers for the iPhone, Jirbo was able to get a jump on the competition.
With more than 35,000 iPhone apps now available, however, it's far more difficult for any one entry to get noticed. "Now you have to use display media to push traffic to your app because they're not easily searchable beyond the top 25," explained Phuc Truong, managing director, U.S. mobile marketing, at Mobext, the mobile arm of Havas' Media Contacts unit.
A recent study by Web measurement firm Compete found that most iPhone and all smartphone users found apps by browsing on their own. But marketers and agencies don't seem content to rely on serendipity or word-of-mouth to promote their wares.
Another key unpaid way to propel downloads is for an app to appear in one of the three promotional slots across the top of the App Store home page. The three spots rotate, so six new apps are showcased each week, according to Zweig. "But you can't buy that home page feature," he said. "Either they like you or they don't."