Thursday, March 3, 2011

Local retail: Outspring develops and launches iOS apps for local restaurateurs in the California wine country

In my newspaper days as an advertising director, one of my biggest frustrations with management was their willingness to let business opportunities escape them. This was (and still is) especially true when it comes to local retail: if it isn't a quarter page print ad, then it's just not worth the time of the reps to sell it. As a result, new competitors keep stealing the business.

One of the reasons for this is basic misunderstanding about where the marketing money for local retails is spent -- not everyone has a separate print advertising, digital advertising, and marketing budget. Most often it is just one lump sum, spent however the retailer sees fit.

In the eighties, the "new competition" was coming from tabloid publications of real estate and autos. It also included direct and marriage mail. Today, of course, some of the new competition comes for hyper local websites, though most are driven by a content strategy that precludes much of an aggressive advertising effort.

New iPhone/iPad restaurant apps from the developer Outspring

My frustration, and one of the reasons I was lured to McGraw-Hill and out of the mainstream newspaper business, was an unwillingness on the part of the newspaper industry to compete head-on with these new competitors. Some newspapers started their own mail programs, which was wise. But most felt that getting into the auto or real estate publication business would dilute their classified sections. I guess last Sunday's half-dozen paged classified section in the Chicago Tribune is proof enough of the success of this strategy.

The other option is to partner with some of these new "competitors", and this is where app developers might come in.

All this is a long way of explaining why I am highlighting some restaurant apps. The developer, a Santa Rosa, California-based Outspring, currently has about a dozen and half apps in the iTunes App Store, the majority of which are for local restaurants. The apps, for such well-known (at least to me) restaurants as Bouchon, ad hoc and Zazu, work on both the iPhone and iPad, and while identical, take advantage of each device's strengths. For instance, the menus look beautiful on the iPad's display, while the reservation and map features are perfect for a mobile device like the iPhone.
Outspring has its own platform called Outbound that is specifically designed for the restaurant trade. The free apps serve as both marketing pieces for the restaurants, as well as direct drivers of new business through their in-app reservations capability, maps, contact information, etc. These well-made apps are, no doubt, the tip of the iceberg of what is possible in this area.

Jeff Baudin, president of Outspring, says the platform will allow his company to serve other retail segments in addition to restaurants, such as nightclubs and wineries. The key here is that Baudin's company is working to serve the marketing needs of local businesses and one has to wonder where this money will come from, and who will be losing business now.

This is why I said early in the life of TNM that a smart publisher, if unable to build their own app development teams, would be wise to find a good developer to partner with. A company like Outspring is but one example, but a pretty good example if you ask me.