Domino's (NYSE:DPZ) recently ran a series of commercials which proclaimed that "failure is an option." Those commercials were referencing the company's chicken bites with pizza toppings, but the philosophy certainly applies to its new pizza ordering virtual assistant.
The tool, named Dom, has been added to the latest update of the Domino's app for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and Android. It's an interesting novelty that lets customers order by voice rather than the traditional method of making a phone call or hitting a few keys on the company's website.
"Mobile customers are not only going to love the ease of this landmark ordering experience, but they now have the opportunity to have some fun with Dom himself," said Patrick Doyle, Domino's Pizza president and CEO in a press release.
Dom is playful, prepared to answer silly questions, and essentially works like a pizza-ordering specific version of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Cortana or Apple's Siri.
The only problem is that Dom may be a clever solution to a problem nobody has.
How Dom works
The app is accessed via a button which looks like a microphone in the bottom left corner of the Domino's app. I used it Tuesday to place a lunch order for my office with the caveat that my coworkers would accept whatever pizzas were delivered -- even if it was not the large chicken and mushrooms and a gluten-free sausage pizza we intended to order. Here is how the interaction began (all commands are verbal unless otherwise noted).
Dom: Hi, welcome back to Domino's, will it be delivery or carryout today?
Dom: That we can do, after all, we are the delivery experts.
(The app then prompted me to enter an address via typing)
Dom: "What would you like to order?
Kline: A large pizza with chicken and mushrooms.
This caused a small hiccup as the app froze for around 30 seconds before correctly adding the pizza to my order. Dom then prompted me to continue ordering and it added the gluten-free sausage pizza without delay. Closing out the order involved a few non-verbal steps, but Dom was easy to work with, and our pizzas showed up about 25 minutes later. The need to input my address and log-in by typing rather than verbal commands was frustrating and overall the experience took longer than placing an order on Domino's excellent website.
How does Dom compare to Siri and Cortana?
Telling Apple's Siri, "I would like to order a pizza," brings up a comprehensive list of local pizza places. Cortana does the same thing. In the case of both personal assistants a specific pizza place can be called, in a single step if the pizzeria is in your address book, but no actual ordering help is offered.
Dom is built to help you order a pizza (or even place a complex Domino's order) while the other two voice assistants are more broad in focus.
For what it's supposed to do Dom performs well, but it remains hard to imagine a scenario where using the voice tools is easier than simply calling or ordering through the web or app. Dom is better at helping you order from Domino's than Cortana or Siri, but none of the three are an improvement on the traditional way one procures pizza.
What is Domino's trying to do?
In recent years Domino's has changed its image. The company has poked fun at its own pizza through its "Pizza Turnaround" ad campaign where it essentially admitted its product was lousy. It continued those efforts in the "failure is an option" ads where the company playfully showed off its failed Cookie Pizza product. Through those efforts the brand went from being perceived as a last resort pizza option for college kids or when no other (i.e. better) pizzeria would deliver, to an earnest company trying to do well by customers.
As this was happening Domino's chief rival Papa John's International (NASDAQ:PZZA) has stuck with its "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" tag line which, if you have eaten there, begs the question, better than what? Worse yet, as Domino's was making people think of it fondly, Papa John's got involved with no-win political issues, including President Obama's health care package and the minimum wage.
That's where Dom fits in for Domino's. It's not meant to revolutionize the way people order pizza, it's meant to be a fun, semi-useful tool that makes people think fondly of Domino's. Much like Siri, the app is programmed to be a bit witty and continue the Domino's rebranding that has resulted in same-store U.S. sales steadily climbing growing by 3.5% in 2011, 3.1% in 2012, and 5.4% in 2013.
While its competitor is being mired in a political debate Domino's has shown off its fun side, featured employees (not its owner) in its ads, and Dom continues that dialogue with consumers. The voice assistant may answer a question nobody is asking, but it does so in a fun way. Domino's should benefit from the publicity the app generates and the continued goodwill created by something that, while silly and unnecessary, is still pretty cool.
Daniel Kline owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. He thinks Domino's makes an excellent gluten-free pizza by the standards of gluten-free pizza. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Papa John's International. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.