Any week now, the number of apps available for the iPhone will surpass 100,000. That salivating figure is only an appetizer of things to come as the iPhone is inspiring companies to re-imagine how they interact with their consumers.
Major brands like Zagat Survey have long taken advantage of the unique marketing potential mobile media provides. Ryan Charles, Zagat's Senior Product and Marketing Manager, is responsible for delivering the Zagat brand to restaurant-goers "wherever and whenever they need it."
We’re always pushing evolutionary boundaries on mobile.
Charles was a panelist at the Apps for Brands conference, co-produced by Appolicious and Advertising Age, and discussed his company's decade-long experience in mobile media. He recently shared with us how Zagat views its mobile menu of applications.
Appolicious: Zagat is a pioneer in mobile marketing, having launched an app for the Palm platform nearly a decade ago. Describe how the company is using that institutional knowledge to develop apps such as Zagat's To Go 09.
Ryan Charles: From the beginning, our goal has been to provide consumers with Zagat content wherever and whenever they need it. With nearly 10 years of mobile experience, we’ve learned that a platform agnostic approach allows us to navigate the constantly evolving mobile industry. As platforms like Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and iPhone launched we ensured that Zagat content was available so that consumers would be in the know while on the go. We’ve also learned that while you can’t reach every phone with an app, a dedicated mobile website (ZAGAT.mobi) can act as a universal mobile app.
Finding nearby restaurants on your mobile device based on current location is something we’ve done since 2000. Before GPS, users could enter their current address or intersection and see nearby restaurants. So we preceded the now common use of mobile location-aware searches for points of interest. We’re always pushing evolutionary boundaries on mobile, whether being the first brand to launch an augmented reality app, or first to allow user reviews from a mobile site.
Appo: When Zagat launched its first iPhone app, was there any moment when you/the company realized that Apple forever changed the mobile playing field.
RC: I don’t think there was a single watershed moment for our interest in the iPhone platform. Apple’s creation of a single, on-device, easy-to-use marketplace was always appealing.
Appo: Talk about the company's efforts to leverage the Zagat brand name in the mobile space outside of restaurants. What are you learning with GOLF by Zagat, for instance?
RC: By providing content in other categories such as nightlife and hotels we’ve created additional value and a way to differentiate ourselves from single vertical products. This content also appeals to avid travelers allowing them to utilize Zagat To Go at home and away.
Certain verticals benefit from a digital form. For example, our Golf By Zagat app includes real-time weather conditions by AccuWeather. Ultimately, golf is a popular category in the app store, from GPS course assistants to scorecards and games, so it’s clear that golf aficionados are utilizing their iPhones.