Initially, YP's new Gas Guru app was a mystery to me. With nearly all of the features found in its original YP app, why would the company go through the trouble of building a seemingly redundant app?
The answer, YP told me, was to better capture an audience through a specific purpose-based app. Sure, much of the gas station location and pricing information is available on YP's main app, but the company hoped to nab users who were specifically searching for gas-centric apps.
YP's strategy is indicative of the challenges that even the largest brands have in the mobile world in attracting users. YP, as its YellowPages heritages suggests, is known for its database of local listings. It's actually widely used, despite the hype around younger businesses like Yelp or Urbanspoon. But that doesn't necessarily mean people use or think about YP for its various capabilities. GasGuru is likely the first of a line of purpose-built apps from the company.
"We want to be able to make this app available and discoverable to other people," said David Williams, head of consumer products for YP. "Our challenge is getting the word out and having them find us. They find us more easily with a purpose-built app."
It's a strategy other developers can learn from: be specific and clear about the purpose of your app. It sounds simple, right? But often times developers make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people.
That's not to say people aren't already using the gas-search feature on YP, Williams said. But people looking to fill up may not necessarily think of YP, and would search for an app that's specifically titled, "Gas Guru."
I've tried the app, which launched on Google Play on Thursday (an iOS version is in the middle of approval now), and it's fairly nifty -- if I actually drove a car in New York. But as someone who grew up in Los Angeles, I can appreciate the features. It's a specific app that dives into the gas station search feature, allowing you to find local gas stations and their prices. With one click, you can zip over to the lowest gas price.
Like the iOS or Android weather apps, you can save locations and pull them up to see the nearest gas stations and their prices. In addition, the app provides info on the other services available, whether you need coffee, food, repair services, and information pulled from YP.
The company hopes the app will lead people to download and use the original YP app, Williams said.
The Gas Guru app could lead to the start of a series of purpose-built apps around YP, although Williams said the company would move slowly to see how the adoption is progressing.
"We're going to evaluate the results from the gas price app," he said. "We've identified other use patterns that might warrant a separate app."
YP, which was divested from AT&T last month, is embarking on a new life outside of the telecommunications giant. The directories and advertising business wasn't exactly a growth area and one of particular interest at AT&T, but YP and the interactive business was a rare highlight within the business.
"I'm excited about the opportunity we've got as a standalone business," Williams said. "As a leader in local search, we were masked by our corporate identity."
I look forward to seeing what YP comes out next as a standalone business.