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Williams-Sonoma cookbooks create extra revenue through new recipe app

Cookware retailer Williams-Sonoma and Weldon Owen Publishing are partnering in a new subscription-based application to capitalize on the forever question, “What is for dinner?”

Recipe of the Day from Williams-Sonoma originally launched for the iPad and is now available for the iPhone as well. The specialty retailer has released many cookbooks through the years and the idea is to bring this content to the mobile screen.

“When they made the announcement, Williams-Sonoma presented the app as the digitization of their traditional cookbooks,” said Nish Modi, senior vice president of product and innovation at SecureNet, Austin, TX. “A subscription model can be seen as a more gradual approach to offsetting the cost of purchasing an entire, digital cookbook.

“Moreover, the approach could be considered similar to news apps that restrict certain pieces of original content to subscribers only,” he said. “Lastly, from a business standpoint, subscription models can offer retailers more precise insights into their customers’ purchasing preferences that one-time downloads and purchases simply cannot.

“In the long-term, this could prove to be a much more strategic approach to customer engagement.”

Williams-Sonoma hopes to become the go-to recipe app for those looking for inspiration but it will have to compete with free recipe apps such as All Recipes.

How it works
The recipe app is available for free download only for iPhones and iPads. Users without a subscription are offered a one-month sampling of recipes, but for the full package a subscription is necessary.

On the app users can access a database full of Williams-Sonoma recipes through browsing and also searching with filters such as specific dietary needs, ingredients, type of dish and cooking technique. There are pictures of the recipes, smart shopping lists, custom timers and a favorites feature to track to which recipes users might want to return.

Recipes appropriate for each season are featured daily, so subscribers do not have to search to have a recipe ready to go.

This is just one of the many apps that Williams-Sonoma has developed such as one for gift registries, a smart thermostat and its original app for shopping.

However, Recipe of the Day is the only subscription-based app.

Williams-Sonoma is known as a high-end brand, therefore it may benefit from having wealthier customers access the app.

However, apps such as All Day Recipes and Cookpad already offer these features and have a large following, so this may pose a problem for the goal that the retailer has set.

Monetizing Mobile
Williams-Sonoma previously tapped Deliv, a crowdsourcing delivery solution, used its physical locations as distribution centers to fulfill online orders and enable omni-channel shopping experiences for consumers (see more).

Across industries, media brands are fans of subscription-based apps.

Take The Economist, for example. It is one of the world’s preeminent business publications, and has always stood out from the crowd. It is printed in a magazine format and yet styles itself a newspaper. It has a large digital audience. And it yields no ground on subscription fees, both to new subscribers and old, and claims not to be advertising dependent (see more).

But there is a key ingredient required for making subscription-based apps attractive.

“Subscription-based apps can be successful if the content is compelling and original enough,” SecureNet’s Mr. Modi said. “Apps like Spotify and Netflix have thrived on subscription models for this reason.

“Recent data suggests more and more mobile users are warming up to the subscription model of service, and retailers looking for new ways to supplement revenue from in-app advertising or in-app purchases could consider subscription models if the content is there,” he said.

Final Take
Brielle Jaekel is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer, New York