Yo! Should Brands Pay Attention To This “Dumb, Simple” App?

YOMarketers generally react to Yo, the one-touch messaging app, with bemused dismissal. Its sole function lets users ping each other with a single “Yo,” the simplicity of which has sparked no shortage of skepticism.

But no one took Snapchat seriously when it surfaced, and the ephemeral photo messaging platform is now valued at a behemoth $10 billion.

“We see Yo as a communication platform based on simple notification,” said Yo co-founder and CEO Or Arbel. “Anyone can benefit from it, businesses or brands.”

The app has roughly 1.2 million repeat users, according to Arbel, and that number has grown steadily since the app’s debut in April. In August, Yo released a solution for brands called the Yo Index, which functions as a directory.

Instead of getting a “Yo” from a friend, users can opt to receive notifications for a variety of things based on their interests. “YOBAMA,” for example sends a “Yo” to subscribers whenever the president issues an executive order. “YOTECHCRUNCH,” similarly, sends a “Yo” for breaking tech and startup news.

“Lets say a brand wants to communicate with Yo users,” Arbel said. “They can send a push notification with an attached link. The benefits for the brand are, first, to communicate directly with its customers and, second, to drive traffic and raise engagement.”

The index’s current offerings are all over the map, from weather updates to pings for new posts on Instagram and straight through to “SOFTBOILEDYO,” which alerts users when their soft-boiled egg is ready.

The Yo Index is an organic entity upon which anyone can build via a developer dashboard. Brands and agencies are already jumping on board, though Arbel declined to comment on a specific number.

Leveraging The Index

Motorola, an early Yo adopter, used the index in the weeks leading up to its smart watch release on September 5th. The Motorola campaign offered Yo users an exclusive chance to purchase the product ahead of the pack, by sending “Yos” with an attached link to those users who opted in. The first 20 people to respond were offered a chance to purchase the unreleased smart watch.

Another early Yo participant is Razorfish, and though the agency declined to share specifics, it’s working with at least one retail client to alert consumers via Yo when certain products go on sale.

“Yo has been exploding in the last few months,” said Razorfish’s VP of social media marketing, Cristina Lawrence. “Everyone has been talking about how brands can use this, I hate to say, dumb, simple app.”

So what does she like about it? “The brilliance of it is that it’s taken something as simple as, say, a high five, and it’s contextualized it,” Lawrence said. “It’s taken a new type of social behavior and, in a very relevant way, tapped into how social consumers are using mobile.”

Razorfish’s collaboration resulted in one of Yo’s most actionable marketing functions to date. Lawrence was on a team that worked to develop the function, which she described as a “mobile experience that sits on top of the Yo app,” that directs users to a mobile microsite that captures an email address.

“We’re able to push a link, attached to the ‘Yo,’ that drives them back to a sign-up page where we can capture email addresses. They’re opting in. So, using Yo, we’re able to expand our CRM presence because we can tie the users interacting with us on Yo back to our loyalty database,” Lawrence explained.

Brands can leverage the platform in a number of ways, said Lawrence, particularly for things within the social and mobile world that are extremely time-based. Flash sales, for example, or a long-awaited price reduction on a specific item.

Enticing Advertisers

But what will Yo have to do to attract ad dollars?

“The first step is to define marketing strategy,” Lawrence said. “In this case, we’re tying it to products and services that a consumer may want at different points of the day. We’re tying it directly to product demand and sales.”

As for conversion metrics, Lawrence said that tracking through to the path to purchase is possible through the current Yo interface.

“Looking at some of their new features, like the Yo Index, what they have clearly realized is that to attract the marketing dollars from brands they need to offer a service that enables them to turn ‘Yo’ notifications/messages into some form of advert for brands,” said Mediacom head of mobile Jon Hook.

But the question, Hook said, is whether consumers will embrace and engage with these new features at scale. Understanding what data will be available to advertisers is also key, he said, adding that “the opportunity with Yo is the same as with Snapchat: Understand how users want to engage with you on that platform and build a strategy/plan from there.”

Another key consideration is who will control campaign data. When asked if the company is storing data, Arbel pointed to the developer’s dashboard and said the companies that use Yo have exclusive access to that data. “We don’t have and don’t want access to any of that data,” Arbel said. “We’re just the platform.”

The capability for location-based targeting is possible, which could tie into the data storage piece, said Arbel, but consumers will have to opt in.

“Foursquare took their platform down that route,” added Razorfish’s Lawrence. “For a lot of social apps, getting permission for location is the cost of entry. I definitely see Yo utilizing the platform in that way. This platform could turn into anything.”

It’s still early days for the startup, but when asked about a monetization strategy, Arbel said quality and frequency control is crucial at this stage.

“I think once Yo is as big as we believe it can be, it is going to drive a lot of traffic and engagement,” said Arbel, adding that, “the company will charge money from businesses that benefit from the platform. But this is a really early stage for the company, and it’s too early to make those kinds of decisions.”

Without a clearly defined monetization strategy, and with the Yo Index in a state of evolution, questions remain about the platform’s future. But there’s no denying its potential.

“What is clear is that Yo has tapped into the communication psyche of the younger communication, who want simple, relevant and real-time communication from friends and seemingly brands,” Hook said. “So, brands can stand back and wait, or join users… and be a beta tester.”

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