While the news surrounding this year’s Consumer Electronics Show may have started with the lack of a Bill Gates keynote, the show is going strong and product launches include a major move by Hoover’s Inc into the mobile space.
Launched January 8, Hoover’s Mobile is a free application available for iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile smartphones and Hoover’s MobileSP (targeting the sales professional) is a for-fee application available for BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones.
"This is new for us in that the application is downloaded to the phone. It’s an advantage in mobile products because it allows us to utilize some native functionality such as your address book and calendar," explains Misha Rangel, strategic projects manager for Hoover’s.
Results from Hoover’s Mobile searches include standard Hoover’s content such as key numbers, executives, and contact details. The mobile product contains less in-depth financial information and news than the desktop product, primarily because "we’re still seeing what customers will want in terms of additional info," says Chris Warwick, vice president of product development and management for Hoover’s, adding "we don’t want to make it so heavy that it’s not usable." More robust news and financial content may be a part of future releases.
"Queries run off of the Hoover’s API," says Rangel, so searches cover all 28 million public and private companies, 36 million people, and 600 industries in Hoover’s directory. Results can be saved to a company list, emailed, or added to a call queue and the user can also search for similar companies based on various criteria, save to a calendar to create an appointment, or save to contacts. Both the save to calendar and save to contacts features work directly with the smartphone’s native capabilities—appointments will be added to the phone’s calendar including customizable day, time, and notes and contacts come up pre-populated but fully editable. A driving directions feature allows users to set preferences with a default location or to show the company’s position on a map and use the phone’s GPS navigation functionality to obtain directions.
Advanced search functionality allows users to refine searches and avoid scrolling through pages of results on the small display screen of a smartphone, while lists of saved searches, saved companies, and call queues offer users quick access to the information most pertinent to them.
Content is the same on both the free and paid versions—the difference lies in what clients can do with the information. The free version enables users to save information or send it to a friend, but does not include features such as saving a contact or creating appointments.
The products were developed with three clients in mind: the road warrior who is rarely behind a desktop computer, the small business owner who wears a variety of hats, and the large enterprise with a significant field sales force. "What would have been downtime is now productive time," says Warwick of how the product can assist users. A flight delay in a target market, for example, can be turned into a valuable block of time, particularly as people move away from toting a laptop on every trip.
To determine usage habits of customers, Hoover’s conducted a survey last October of paying clients and visitors to the free site. Of 1,400 respondents, 42% travel more than 50% of the time, 77% use their mobile phones at least once an hour, 55% have downloaded an external application to their phones, and 85% said they would access Hoover’s information via a mobile device.
A beta trial of roughly 3,000 people also began in October 2008 and Hoover’s tweaked the product based on feedback from the trial and from a Hoover’s "usability team."
"One thing that was clear was that users of the iPhone really approach the usage of the product around our core competencies: companies, people, and industries. Originally we had a lot of tabs on the intro screen, but this is how they think about the product and want to get at the information," says Warwick. As a result, the iPhone intro page was simplified to include just those three components.
A MobileSP for iPhone product will be available in the second quarter of this year and a Symbian product will follow later in the year. According to Warwick, enhancements to Hoover’s Mobile will be made quarterly. Hoover’s MobileSP is currently available for $19.99 a month or $199 annually.