Q&A with Brad Richter, Marketing Director, Pizza Hut
Q: Why did Pizza Hut decide to create an app for Windows 8? Did you identify a gap in the market?
A: The Pizza industry has changed rapidly over the last 5 years, as more and more consumers engage with digital platforms to order their pizzas. No longer is it acceptable to only offer a desktop ordering website, but for future business success it is critical to keep up to date with the latest technology and trends and offer consumers a broad array of platforms in which to interact with your brand, inclusive of mobile websites and phone/tablet applications. What we recognise is, just like pizza, technology is personal to everybody, so we want to make sure that we give everybody the opportunity to be a Pizza Hut customer, no matter what device they have, thus the creation of the Windows 8 application.
Q: When did Pizza Hut start on this journey to develop Windows 8 apps?
A: I would say it was about October, 2012. If we go back further than that I think over the past three years, there’s been a shift in the consumers to the digital platform. When Windows 8 launched we saw this as an opportunity and we wanted to align our business to it.
Q: What is some of the functionality that you took advantage of from a Pizza Hut perspective? How did you look at designing the app to take advantage of some of the features within Windows 8?
A: When we got to the design phase of Windows 8, it was really a partnership between Pizza Hut, Altaine and Microsoft. Microsoft really came to the forefront in delivering some of the best know how and best practices on how a native user to Windows 8 would interact. We wanted to make sure that whatever a customer already does, we don’t actually change that work flow. It reduces the barriers for customers using the app.
Q: Do you provide a consistent experience across each of the platforms or have you seen a specific opportunity to market this platform to your consumers?
A: It really is more of a consistent opportunity, so we’ve made sure that all of our functionality in the sense of what a customer can get from A to B, whether it be meal deals or coupons, is the same across all channels. We know it isn’t about driving a particular feature on Windows 8, it’s about providing an access point for the Windows 8 consumer.
Q: Pizza Hut is definitely pushing it from both a Windows phone and Windows 8 perspective, how do you approach that competitive landscape against your competitors in Australia?
A: We’ve really stepped back and taken a back end look at how our applications work. When we invest in an application like Windows 8, it’s about making it the best consumer experience possible. It delivers loyal customers, who are native to the devices, a real rich experience. For us it’s very much about maintaining things like ease of access to ordering, speed of order, those type of things, to make sure we’re true to that richness.
Q: Is there any data in terms of the demand from customers who want to order from their smart phones and tablets?
A: We’re seeing that this industry is the leading mobile search category for Google. For searches such as pizza, over 50% of them are coming from mobile and tablets, so we recognise this is a big prize to win. We also recognise that a lot of our customers are now also native to the landscape. People aren’t investing in desktops any more, they’re moving to the tablets and smart phones so it’s really making sure we’re following the customer. We’re seeing that mobile devices are the fastest growing digital sector, so they’re not necessarily the biggest ordering channel yet, but they’re the fastest growing channel. When you look at the app type of experience, your customer conversion rate is higher than conversion elsewhere. The reason is that it’s a loyal customer, someone who is wanting to interact with the brand.
Q: If we look at your product lifecycle, how does Pizza Hut approach adding new features and services to their respective apps to meet the consumer demand?
A: One of the joys of social media is that you’re open to feedback whether you like it or not, so customers are telling you exactly what they want. It’s about looking at what the customer hasn’t told you such as features that reduce the barriers for customers to interact. Whether it be one touch ordering or how they interact with putting in their user names and passwords, all that type of thing, it’s really looking for new and exciting technology that makes sense with the pizza consumer.
Q: Pizza Hut partnered with Altaine to help develop those applications, how big is your internal and external team?
A: The Altaine development team is around 18, but there’s a core group of about three people that work very closely with our team of a similar size at Pizza Hut. If we include our back end developing as well, which is another external agency, it would be around eight or nine people. That’s Pizza Hut people and the team we work with for our online apps.
Q: What’s the back end that powers the app, are you using Windows or are you using a competitor’s product, maybe like Amazon?
A: The back end for the app is a commerce engine, it’s an Altaine product called Queue Jump. It’s running on a viewer for Pizza Hut, but it is a complete Microsoft technology back end, so it’s SQL server and II etc. Pizza Hut is obviously a very large organisation so the commerce server in turn interfaces with the restaurant and kitchen management system.
Q: Microsoft has announced general availability for Windows 8.1, is Pizza Hut already working on an updated app to align to that?
A: Absolutely, we’ll always look for the benefits and whether we need to invest in updating to meet the consumer demands. It’s a two way street, what the consumer wants and what the business is offering to the consumer. It’s about making sure we’re integrated and aligned on both fields.
Q: How easy was it to port the Windows Phone app to the Windows platform?
A: From a technical point a lot of the code from the Windows phone app could be ported across. Our project was a little different because we were also adding in a wide range of new features to the app itself. That consisted of some more sophisticated options around meal deals and coupons and some wider product range offerings. Also with Windows 8 you obviously have more screen real estate, so the user interface is a little different, but basically there’s a good platform to move from the Windows phone environment into the pure Windows 8 environment.
We work on a lot of platforms, but the Windows 8 user experience provides a lot of standards that assists in providing an uncluttered, yet quite sophisticated user experience. It looks clean, but it can be deceiving in how quickly customers can do repetitive actions. Things like the app bar gave us standard tools and options that customers can quickly access and the charm menu enables us to put non-core things in a place that customers are familiar with. We also have all sorts of various view states that help within the Windows 8 environment. So if the customers wants it in full screen or snap mode, it’s all possible. For us it’s a clean and intuitive environment and that’s reflected in the finished product, which I think is a really good, supportive product for the Pizza Hut brand.