More businesses are starting to use Apple's popular iPhone as a marketing tool. Haworth, one of the world's largest manufacturers of office furniture and work spaces, recently made an iPhone app available that it publicized using two other trendy platforms: Facebook and Twitter.
Haworth business and IT personnel worked together to create the "Spaces" iPhone application, from conception to distribution, in less than four weeks. Key to that speedy development was iRise, visualization software that lets developers share and get fast feedback from users about application usability and presentation.
The free Spaces app lets potential customers view high-quality photographs of Michigan-based Haworth's furniture displayed in 15 showrooms in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Customers can click through to Google maps of showroom locations, and place a call to a specific showroom from within the application.
The app was downloaded about 1,000 times by users in dozens of countries in the first week it became available in June. Haworth CIO Ann Harten credits the Apple iTunes Store distribution method.
"We know a number of those people who downloaded the app simply stumbled on it" while perusing the iTunes store, she said. "If we were targeting distribution and controlling it ourselves, we wouldn't have the advantage [of attracting] those fishing around iTunes ."
But Haworth didn't sit on its laurels, either. Some personnel at the company posted subtle "leaks" about the application on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. App downloads spiked particularly after the Twitter post, said Brad Ruiter, Haworth's manager of advanced customer technologies. After the initial rush, downloads have slowed down -- but not stopped -- he said, adding that downloads within the first 30 days reached close to 1,500.
At the Neocon World's Trade Fair in Chicago in June, Haworth sales reps used the Spaces app to show off the company's showrooms to attendees. In addition to the visibility the app provides, Haworth hopes it'll also drive more people into its showrooms.
Haworth's research, Harten said, shows that salespeople are still very important to closing a deal, closely followed by showroom visits and the Internet. The use of the iPhone app at Neocon combined all three, she noted. The app helps direct iPhone users to the Haworth Web site, and the site includes a link to the iPhone app download. Haworth continues to enhance the app, and is currently on version 1.3.
The recession has impacted Haworth's sales -- they were flat last year at $1.65 billion -- so utilizing new marketing channels is essential. Other companies that have deployed iPhone apps to boost sales in a tough economy include Pizza Hut, Kraft, and Whole Foods.
The iPhone likely won't be the only device Haworth will use for a customer-facing app, Harten said. The most widely used device among employees is Research In Motion's Blackberry, which is being considered for a Spaces-type app, as is the Windows Mobile platform. Haworth considers itself "mobile device agnostic," Harten said.
Haworth salespeople use an Oracle/Siebel CRM app that runs on the Blackberry. Still, some employees use iPhones, and Haworth is also considering device-agnostic apps that link into SAP Business Suite, which Haworth recently standardized on for business operations.
The furniture company is considering mobile applications that assist personnel with product installations; that help those installers communicate with its factory; and that help factory personnel work more efficiently. Harten said her staff is also looking to develop mobile user interfaces that let employees do their jobs without having to navigate a standard SAP screen.
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