Yesterday Vokl submitted its application, Vokl Business, to Apple’s app store. We’ve been working on this iPhone app since mid-July, and I have to tell you I’m excited to see it in action.
The idea behind the app and the business is simple. We wanted to build an iPhone app that could be a kind of “show and tell” for businesses. As you might expect, the immense success of Instagram was certainly part of the inspiration. A seemingly simple app, Instagram let people take photos, apply filters and post the result – instantly – to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and more. Instagram was so good, it actually made my lame photos look good.
Even before Facebook indicated its interest in acquiring Instagram, the company had acquired 30 million active users. By the time the Facebook acquisition had closed, Instagram was at 50 million users and growing, and today it boasts 100 million users (while Facebook itself just announced that it had reached the 1 billion user mark.) Clearly Kevin Systrom and his team had hit upon something powerful.
I had been thinking for years about location based services and consumer engagement, particularly as smartphones and apps began to become location aware. (At one point I probably had downloaded and used iPhone apps for 100+ location based services.) I have also believed for a long time that harnessing the power of the “camera in your pocket,” would give rise to significant opportunities for app developers on both the consumers and the merchant side of the aisle.
Still, in all of this research, testing and mental processing one thing became glaringly obvious: merchants and consumers were not taking full advantage of the smartphone and the apps created for the smartphone. Location didn’t matter very much. Most local merchants didn’t see the iPhone or Android phone as a conduit for building an intimate relationship with a customer. And most of the more innovative app developers were focused more on building their own walled gardens than on delivering the tools that merchants might use to deliver value to customers.
Vasily (Vokl’s CTO & Co-Founder) had been working with me since the Pavlov Games days, so he and I spent many hours discussing and working through these things. The two of us concluded that Vokl should build the tools and capabilities that could create a kind of bridge between merchant and consumer with an emphasis on creating a kind of “Instagram for Business.” But our larger goal is to facilitate the transition from the merchant-to-customer communications channels of today and those that will drive commerce tomorrow and in the years ahead.
If you built an “Instagram for Business,” what would it look like? How would it work?
Well, a few of the essentials are obvious: access to the iPhone’s camera, the ability to filter photos to make them look great every time, and an instant publishing capability (to your business feed, a chosen Facebook page or a designated Twitter account). But what else would businesses want?
We knew they wanted at least one thing that Instagram didn’t have. Text. They wanted the ability to add a message, a product name, a business name, store hours, a date. You can’t do that with Instagram. But you can do it with Vokl Business. And they wanted the text to look good. They wanted to be able to change the font, the color, the placement, the size. So we built that into the app. With Vokl Business, merchants can do all those things.
That might have been the end of it. But we discovered something even more compelling. Merchants want to be able to create great look content fast. They’re busy. They have a lot to do and little time in which to do it. So the app we gave them had to get the job done well, but it also had to do the job fast. How could we speed up the content creation process? We discovered the answer: templates.
With Vokl Business templates, your business can create content in seconds (rather than hours). Tap a template to replace the existing image. Tap the text to replace or edit the text. When you’ve finished, hit “Publish,” and pick your social network of choice. The idea here is simple, if it takes you far less time to create great content, you’ll be inclined to do it far more often.
And why would your business want to do this? You might do it because you want to show a new product to your customers. Clothing. Food. Autos. Houses. Furniture. Performing artists. You name it. Publish a photo (or several of them), with the product or business name, the date of your special, the name of the person they should talk to, and see how many “likes” you get on Facebook. Notice, too, how many new people come through the front door.
The entire Vokl team is very excited about the app, and we hope you like it too. It should be live in the app store the week of October 22nd. Please check it out, and let me know what you think.