Why we all need a Hero (Device)

As you know, at Tesco.com we targeted iPhone first. Yet if I was to draw a Venn diagram containing two circles – one representing the population of Tesco online shoppers and the other the population of people with iPhones – you would see that the overlap between the two circles is only very small. However, if we created a third circle representing a phone that has a large overlap, we would find that it would be largely incapable of running anything.

Our core online grocery shoppers are busy Mums with a hectic lifestyle thanks to their kids, and they tend to have mid-range handsets. Their phones are cheap or free and are used to make phone calls or send text messages. We can’t reach them with a decent internet web service or app until they enter the upgrade curve naturally to a smart phone over the next 18 to 24 months. They feel no hurry: very few of our busy Mums are frustrated this morning because they can’t pre-order an iPhone 4 now Apple’s order books are full.

So why did we continue to target iPhone with our apps when our own data shows that the majority of customers are not using them? To answer this question, let me come at it from a moment of recent experience:

Early yesterday evening I sat in the corner of The Only Running Footman, an olde London pub in Mayfair. I was there to kill an hour between the end of a conference in nearby Piccadilly and before a business dinner engagement, and I thought I would use the time to catch up on email and news.

So I whipped out the iPad, asked a member of staff for the wifi password and got started.

I soon noticed admiring glances (and not at me!) – within 15 minutes no less than five people had come over and asked if they could have a look at it.

The good news for me was that the Footman is the sort of place that attracts clientele who would want their own iPad rather than want mine, so I was happy enough to show them. All five admirers were wowed by the iPad and told me they now plan to buy one.

The iPad is, therefore, an example of a what I call a “Hero” device. It attracts a crowd, it is considered ‘best of breed’, and (importantly) the journalists who might discover and write about your app have one.

I first mentioned the concept of “Hero” devices at MobileMonday this week, and I note that several attendees to that session have quoted me talking about the benefits of targeting these devices first, and admitted to poor uptake when they targetted the actual phones used by the main demographic of their customer base.

So back to our first app being made for the iPhone. As I have said in a previous post, we chose it because I have an iPhone and so it was a good starting point. Talk about the right choice: even when I blogged that our first app was rejected by Apple, that made headline news. When we finally managed to get Tesco Finder into the App Store, again a round of journalistic column inches resulted. In addition, the whole company has felt good about having a presence in Apple’s App Store; it has given Tesco a sense of being innovative and forward thinking.

If I had targetted a non-hero phone first and blogged about our app in that phone-maker’s app store then I dearsay journalists would have yawned and a few of you would have removed me from your blog reader having been instantly bored.

“Hero” devices enjoy more kudos, craving, and column inches than any other device. This gives you access to a halo effect of marketing and general brand feel-good that you just don’t get when you target any other device.

You may find that your core customer base doesn’t have a “Hero” device. Don’t let that stop you having a presence on it.

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