Up on Apps

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Enhancing customer relations in the New North through smart phones

Story by Lee Marie Reinsch

If you’ve ever frantically ripped through the Yellow Pages in search of an eatery to take the finicky in-laws to, then you’ve experienced the market drive behind the app. 

Short for applications, apps are smart-phone shortcuts to tasks your phone otherwise would not be smart enough to perform.



Take the Gallagher’s Pizza app, for example. Tap the spinning pizza slice and you launch the Green Bay pizzeria’s complete menu – with prices, too – to ensure there’s something even dyspeptic Grandpa Ernie can eat, before you drag him there and loudly find out otherwise.

Since the app includes prices, you can estimate how much of a financial hit the utopian bread-breaking with the in-laws will cause you, while simultaneously ringing up Gallagher’s to place your order.

“All you have to do is type ‘Green Bay pizza’ and we’re the first to come up,” said Gallagher’s east-side location general manager Mike Poley. He said the app’s been a boon for his business, even though he personally doesn’t have a smart phone.

“We like to level the playing field and make it affordable for smaller businesses to be able to have an app and compete with the big boys on their level,” said Ken Kriegel, owner of JackRussellApps, an Oshkosh-based company that created the Gallagher’s app.

“Pizza Hut has an app on iPhone, and now Gallagher’s can compete with that,” Kriegel said.
Gallagher’s app has contributed to an increase in orders from visitors to the area staying in hotels, Poley said. This could very well indicate that it’s not necessary to know an area in order to find good eats there.

Pope + bubble wrap = common ground?

Apps can be clever, completely insane or, God forbid, even practical. There’s one that lets you pop on-screen bubble wrap, to while away those endless Saturday morning grocery lines you swore last Saturday you’d never get yourself into again.

Another app called Shazam will identify and name music tracks, like the tunes in grocery stores that annoy you, if only because you can’t name them. Navigational apps can tell you where you are at Point A and how to get to Point B, even if you don’t have a GPS in your 1986 Saab.

Google came out with a new app in February that translates speech in 50 languages. So, in theory at least, you could discuss the merits of kimchee with the Korean lady in the grocery line with you, even if her English is less sharp than the bite of the pickled Asian delicacy.

The Pope’s even gotten in on the action. The Catholic Church has sanctioned a “confession” app, available on iTunes for $1.99. So, Catholic or not, you can repent for the swear words you muttered in that interminable line at Groceries R Us.

Unmet need

Ken Kriegel and Bryan Austin founded JackRussellApps of Oshkosh in January of 2010. Yes, it’s named after the Jack Russell terrier, whose personality wouldn’t allow anything but that moniker, according to Kriegel, who is owned by one.

“We were looking for a name and we couldn’t come up with anything,” Kriegel said. “Then my dog jumped on me and we both looked at each other and said, ‘JackRussellApps!’” said Kriegel.

They bill their company as “the only U.S.-based company in the world to provide apps on all six smart-phone platforms.” Those platforms include BlackBerry, Android, Windows mobile, Apple iPhone, Apple iPod Touch and Apple iPad.

“We were looking for a market that wasn’t being tapped yet,” Kriegel said. “We did our research and found out that the only people out there doing apps were doing Apple applications for iPhone.

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Apps more or less simplify sites’ functions. For example, the Gallagher’s app is like one-stop shopping for pizza: With one tap, you get menu, phone dialing, hours, directions. People who use smart phones don’t have to stop what they’re doing and focus on what they need to do. One icon, called a launcher icon, can take them to pretty much everything they need for that particular task.

Many apps take up a lot of memory space, so often people are choosy or reluctant to download them. But JackRussellApps are smaller  – one megabyte or under – and take up less space than most other apps, which range from 2 all the way up to 40 MB, Kriegel said.

Not too surprisingly in this era where breadcrumbs are left everywhere, they’re able to track the apps, too.

“We can see who uses the app and when they use it, how many people download it, and how long they keep it on their phone,” Kriegel said.

He said that between 28 and 68 percent of people who download JackRussellApps keep them on their phone.

Within the first few weeks after launching the Gallagher’s app, JackRussellApps was able to determine that more than 3,000 people downloaded it onto their phones.

It’s a thing now

Last fall, The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project and the Nielsen Co. released results of a study called ‘The Rise of the Apps Culture.’

It said that one in three of us have a phone with apps, and that 68 percent of us routinely use them.

Most app users still go for the freebies – only 13 percent of those of us with apps on our phones have paid for them. The average regular app-user has 18 of them downloaded onto their phone, according to the study.

Pew defines apps as “end-user software applications that are designed for a cell phone operating system and which extend the phone’s capabilities by enabling users to perform particular tasks.” (Phew!)

Most app-users use them for games, followed by news and weather, mapping or searching, and music – in that order, according to the study.

The apps-centric Web site Appolicious said that of the 465,000 apps out there, most – about 350,000 – are for iPhones, with 100,000 for Android phones and the remaining 15,000 apps for BlackBerry users.

Appolicious predicted that apps will become so smart and responsive to their users that, with the help of GPS tracking, they’ll be able to determine whether users are riding in a car or walking. They will be able to listen to phone calls so marketing can target those phone users. For example, a smart phone user debating with a friend where to meet for lunch will get suggestions, deals and directions to certain eateries, according to Appolicious.

The Nielsen end of the study found that app users tend to be young, affluent and male.

“An intimate experience”

Dr. Phil might find this amusing, but apps can improve relationships – customer relationships, at least.

Oshkosh Corp.’s defense sector has an app especially for showcasing its military vehicles at trade shows. Instead of loading up trade show attendees with piles of brochures and promising to follow up with a phone call later, defense sector reps use their app to display the features of the vehicles to the attendees.

“All of their photography and information are on the app,” said Lynn Douville of The Karma Group, a Green Bay-based creative agency which designed the app and registered it with Apple. “(Clients) have a more intimate engagement in reviewing information and technology. It generates a discussion; the person from Oshkosh can talk in an engaging situation, rather than handing them a piece of literature and walking down the aisle.” 

The iPads are set up so that the Oshkosh reps can email literature from the app to the potential client’s email.

“They eliminate the paper expense and the attendees’ having to carry around a big stack of paper,” Douville said.

Since the people who would be looking for military equipment tend to be high-ranking military and government officials, maintaining privacy can be a factor. The app eliminates that risk by keeping contact information confidential, Douville said.

Another plus: When information changes, updates can be relayed to servers which update the app.

“Information doesn’t have to be reprinted every time it changes,” Douville said.

Many apps are consumer-based, but not Oshkosh’s. “What we are talking about is an app that is designed specifically for B2B use,” said Tonita Proulx of The Karma Group. “We developed this to put on iPads for Oshkosh defense employees only.

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Another task the app accomplishes: it shows the world that Oshkosh Corp. is in the forefront technologically.

“Oshkosh has repositioned itself from a company that makes trucks into one that is more current with technology, and this app helps demonstrate that they’re on the cutting edge,” Douville said.

So much for the ‘I couldn’t find it’ excuse

One might successfully argue that the first year of college is just not the same without the ritual of bumbling around blindly from one end of campus to the other in search of one’s classroom.

Alas. All of the fun has been wrung out of the experience of erudition at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, thanks to Jamie Ceman.

She’s the instigator behind the college’s app, which practically steers students around campus. Its interconnected online directory and campus map let them find their classes and identify where they are, in contrast.

The UW-Oshkosh app also links to UWO Today, the Advance Titan college newspaper, UW-Oshkosh’s Twitter and YouTube accounts, along with safety info like the campus police and the safe-walk program.

Ceman, who is assistant director of multichannel marketing and Web development for UW-Oshkosh, said her school is starting out small as they test the app in beta, but plans to add more functions once it gets off the ground.

Students will then be able to keep tabs on their TitanCard account balances, look at class schedules, and register for courses.

“What we want to do is make daily functions more accessible to them,” Ceman said. “We want to make sure we are keeping pace with them (technologically).

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Ceman said the school keeps close tabs on how people are accessing information about UW-Oshkosh, and they noticed in recent years a significant trend in accessing through mobile devices.

“We saw it happening, and I feel like a university has an obligation to keep up with how faculty and students are accessing information,” Ceman said.

The app works mainly on iPhones and Androids, but a Web-based version will enable anyone with a mobile device to access it, Ceman said.

Green Bay chamber: ‘Progressive offering’

The Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce launched its own app in early March during its Business Expo at KI Center. It aims to help people navigate their way around, not only the chamber Web site, but the community, according to chamber marketing and communications manager Lori Kaye Lodes.

“Chambers and apps aren’t often mentioned in the same sentence, but it’s a rather progressive offering,” Lodes said. 

“Chambers aren’t typically the first ones out of the gate with the newest technology. We are excited to be at the forefront.”

JackRussellApps developed the chamber app, which Kriegel said they wanted to keep clean and very simple.

Its nine launcher icons include tools for the member directory, checking out the chamber’s calendar of events, accessing the member toolbox of chamber resources, logging on to three social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), finding directions to the chamber offices, direct-dialing the chamber offices, and navigation via a GPS function.

The app is free and downloadable at app stores for three platforms of smart phones: BlackBerry, Apple (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) and Android.

“It doesn’t cover everybody under the sun, but we are hoping it reaches the majority,” Lodes said.

This won’t make local printing companies happy, but the chamber’s app replaces thousands of dollars worth of printing jobs. For years, the chamber printed 10,000 to 12,000 copies of its member directory, and bid the job out to its member printers.

“Over time and given the feedback of members, we have realized relevancy of that is not there,” Lodes said. “That is one of the precipitators for our doing a smart phone app. We wanted an accessible, mobile, on-the-go app for people to look up everything they could look up in a printed member directory. They can just take their phone out, and there it is.”

An alumna of Ripon College, Lee Marie Reinsch is a freelance writer based in Green Bay.