Pizza Strangeness: Domino’s, Papa John’s, Singing Web Site Updates and Web-Phobic Retail CEOs

Written by Evan Schuman
October 20th, 2010

Of all of the retail chains we cover, quick-service restaurants are their own niche, and deservedly so. Even within the QSR world, pizza chains are the exceptions, the subgroup that seems to get away with defying all of the established rules that everyone else has to live with. But this week, the E-Commerce groups of two of the largest pizza chains have outdone themselves with moves that are so baffling words escape us.

Let’s open this strange-fest with Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s is no stranger to unorthodox campaigns, such as the one the chain launched early this year declaring how stunningly horrible its products had been just weeks before. (If you haven’t seen Stephen Colbert’s analysis of that Domino’s ad campaign, you really must take a peek. I personally promise you that it’s worth it.)

On Monday (Oct. 18), Domino’s announced that its Web site’s Pizza Tracker feature will be more customizable. “Depending on the theme, Pizza Tracker might sing, cheer or even sweet talk the status of customers’ orders from the moment they are prepared to the second they are out the door or ready for pick up,” said a company statement.

Sing? The computer will sing the status to customers? Dare we ask what tunes will be used? (Our secret theory: Domino’s added the option of allowing the computer to “sweet talk the status” to make the singing option sound better.)

(Note: We have now tried the delivery notification system. Yes, it does indeed sing loudly, depending on which character is selected. Will this be a desirable feature? I don’t see it, but don’t look at me for guidance: I’m the guy who never saw the value of ringtones.)

For those cynical among us who think of this as merely a marketing stunt that is going to get old stunningly fast, I say pshaw! As Domino’s pointed out, this E-Commerce feature was not a stunt. It’s a legitimate value-add that will increase the ease-of-use and convenience of E-tailing a pizza. Disbeliever, still?

Quoteth the chain’s statement: “We’re continuing to add to the convenience of Domino’s online ordering and Pizza Tracker, now allowing customers to leave their computers and still follow the ordering process—as long as their speakers are turned up, of course.” (This was a wonderful statement on its own, but it’s the line about turning speakers up that makes it art.)


5 Comments | Read Pizza Strangeness: Domino’s, Papa John’s, Singing Web Site Updates and Web-Phobic Retail CEOs

  1. Fabien Tiburce, President, Compliantia Says:

    You are better off watching a target demographic use your product than use it yourself if you are really not the intended audience. If the CEO believes he is not himself the intended audience for the web platform, I think he is better off letting his 12-year-old son do it and watch him do it (that’s exactly the kind of foresight I’d expect from a CEO). In my experience, watching users use your product is both insightful and humbling as users tend to use your products differently than you expected. So Kudos to Schnatter for knowing when to be hands-on (run his company) and when to enlist the help of an web-buying “expert”: his 12 year old son.

  2. Evan Schuman Says:

    Editor’s Note: That’s certainly true, in that it’s a great idea to watch the intended audience. But to never have used ANY E-Commerce? There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but to trumpet it in the same statement where you are trying to establish your E-Commerce credentials? That was the concern.

  3. Steve Lyon Says:

    I think Evan’s point is right on. How relevant is the CEO of Papa John’s to what is going on if he won’t even learn how to use the fastest growing channel of his business?

  4. Robert Martell Says:

    Even if the pizza is like old ketchup on cardboard, hours of delivery, sizing & pricing, addons (Domino’s were a bit off-putting) all summed up as Convenience and Value for the customer are what should be important.
    The Domino’s here went out of business/franchise years ago. All the others close much earlier.



  5. Dan Stiel Says:

    I agree I’m too cranky to listen to my computer sing to me about delivery timing. And, it is nice to know our educational system is creating a generation of on-line pizza-ordering-savvy youngsters.

    But I would like to know exactly when my pie is going to arrive. Either by watching my computer screen, getting a text message, or even an email to my mobile.

    Perhaps my comment is slightly off topic, but it inspires me to suggest the real sub-plot and opportunity in this story worth following is the potential of empowering consumers to geo-track delivery drivers.

    Whether it is waiting for the pizza guy or Sears delivering your new refrigerator, a fire truck coming to save a life, or the plumber arriving with a plunger, geo-tracking would be a valuable time-management service to consumers who in the past have been relegated to sitting and waiting… and waiting… and waiting.

    Oops, gotta’ go! The pizza guy is at the door.


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