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OpenTable exec: Forget about apps until mobile Web site is complete

SAN FRANCISCO – An OpenTable executive who spoke at ad:tech said that 10 percent of the company’s online reservations are booked via mobile and stressed the importance of having a mobile-optimized Web site.

During the “Mobile Marketing: Big Changes Brought on by Little Apps” panel, the OpenTable executive discussed how mobile creates incremental booking opportunities. The session was moderated by Tina Unterlaender, account director at AKQA Mobile, San Francisco.

“Mobile is driving real restaurant businesses,” said Scott Jampol, senior director of consumer marketing at OpenTable, San Fransisco.

“Before mobile, you used to walk to a movie theater and you looked to the left and saw a Chinese restaurant and you look to the right and it’s a diner and you decide where you can eat,” he said. “Today you open up a mobile app, secure a reservation and look at the device’s map functionality and walk there.

“There are new use cases where consumers are not by a computer and booking reservations.”

OpenTable rolled out is first application for Palm devices in 2000.

Mr. Jampol said that companies looking to enter the mobile space should see how their Web site looks on a device and if it is not optimized then that should be their first step.

“Forget about mobile apps until you work on a mobile site,” Mr. Jampol said.

When developing a mobile site, companies should definitely include the basics such as an about us section, directions to the restaurant and a contact us and reservations tab.

They are the main use cases that consumers are searching for when making reservations, per the executive.

“Our goal was to get consumers to use our mobile site,” Mr. Jampol said. “We also made sure that folks who are looking for us on mobile can find our app.

“This is just a good example of what kind of experiences that you’re delivering to people,” he said.

Mr. Jampol also said that it is important to embrace feedback.

The executive said that the company answers every question it gets regarding its mobile products.

“If you’re helping them solve problems, your apps become more important,” Mr. Jampol said. “We have dedicated people that answer these questions and this goes into our roadmaps and we prioritize what needs to be updated.”

Mobile change
According to Patrick O’Neil, managing director of brand and advertising at Charles Schwab & Co. – who also participated in the panel – apps have the power to change the way that people engage with their money.

“We see our client base taken to our app in droves,” Mr. O’Neil said. “We certainly weren’t the first ones out of the gate with a client app, but they’re able to engage with their money in terms of seeing their banking and mortgage.

The beauty of this is not only its simplicity, but that it’s also fast and secure,” he said. “It removes that complexity.”

Additionally, the company using its social channels to gain input on how they can improve their applications.

“You’re going to see a flurry of releases this summer across iPhone, iPad and Android devices,” Mr. O’Neil said. “We see a lot of potential with mobile.”