The Power of First to Market in the Digital Age: The Avis iPhone App

Even the most basic marketing textbook espouses the importance of being the first to market with new concepts, but most of these books were not written in the internet age. The internet has an incredible amplifying effect on being first. Jim Lecinski, Managing Director at Google, gives a great presentation on speed to market in the internet age. Without stealing Jim’s thunder, ponder two facts:

  • YouTube and Facebook went from zero to millions of users in 18 months
  • Betty Crocker launches its recipe of the day in June of 2007. Kraft launches a much nicer recipe of the day in December of the same year. Betty Crocker has 10x the number of users

For Roundarch, we have seen this front and center with our development of the iPhone application for Avis. A year ago we were discussing an iPhone application with Avis, but they were coming off of an expensive redesign of and looking into the teeth of a nasty recession. But in the end, we both felt it had to be done.

The application has been a success in terms of incremental reservations, but its largest benefit may end up being the free advertising it has garnered Avis from Apple. In a single week, the application was featured in full page ads in the New York Times, Time, Newsweek and National Geographic Traveler. We are trying to calculate the dollar benefit of the brand impressions generated from this exposure, but we don’t need the calculations to know that being first has yielded huge benefits.

But even with all this success, being first is not without risks. The ratings on iTunes for the application are relatively low. Most of the low ratings are due to complaints that the application does not have all the functionality the user would like. We are working on expanding the application, but would we have been as successful if we had waited until we had 100% of the desired functionality? I don’t think so. Working in the digital age means that you have to move quickly and take more risk than in the past.