The Raleigh mobile app startup that made a splash with its Super Bowl launch last month announces today its second major event partnership, this time targeting the 400,000 visitors expected to visit Pinehurst and Southern Pines for the U.S. Open Championship in June.
In partnership with the Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) for that region, Yillio will provide its free route-based search app to travelers in town for the tournament and to hotels, restaurants and retailers hoping to get their business.
Yillio holds a unique patent for search along a route—it helps consumers identify the most convenient places to eat, stay or shop and provides the most up-to-date gas prices (based on real-time credit card data), and businesses can target them with deals or advertising messages.
Yillio’s mission, says president and co-founder Tully Ryan, is to make Yillio an app people use daily. But major events like the Super Bowl and the Open help his team of Raleigh and Boston-area developers get thousands of users at once and demonstrate the usefulness of the app on a journey.
And for good or bad, they also help Yillio work out its kinks. For example, for the Super Bowl, the app only allowed search to and from specific addresses (versus from a current location) and didn’t refresh as a user traveled. That function is being added now.
And Yillio hadn’t anticipated the traffic it received in the days just before and after the game, causing the app to load slowly and crash periodically (Ryan declined to share specific download statistics).
The team has since secured server space through Amazon Web Services, a move that will improve speed and eliminate future operational challenges as Yillio scales its user base. Apple last week approved an upgrade to account for the change.
In preparation for the Open, Yillio and the local CVB (which reached out after learning of Yillio’s partnership with the Newark CVB) will meet with the Newark bureau to study the Super Bowl launch campaign and develop a marketing plan to improve upon it. The CVB will soon demonstrate the app to merchants, helping them set up deals and notifications (a base version is free, but there are paid upgrades) that can be sent to the mobile phones of Open visitors. Several hundred regional ambassadors will also be trained to introduce Yillio to guests.
The partnership will be a first for the Pinehurst CVB, says its president and CEO Caleb Miles. Mobile technology has changed dramatically since it last held an Open in 2005. Plus, more people are expected to drive to attend this year’s tournament.
“When they leave the Open, the message we want to get to them is, you’re only five minutes away from our retail area where there are restaurants, retail and golf at 43 courses,” he says. “The more compelling the offer by our retail community, the more successful it’s going to be.”
On Yillio’s end, the user experience and search will be improved and thousands more hotel and restaurant chains added before June.
“We want to be very consistent,” Ryan says. “So any time a user uses this, whether on a daily commute or at a special event, they’ll have the same experience.”