Posts filed under 'm-Commerce'

Mobile drives the Spark in Startups (notes from MobileSparks conference)

Shradha Sharma of Yourstory.com asks the Startup community to maintain that Spark, regardless of where one is in the journey of life. That Spark may be humility or grace, appreciation for others, lending a helping hand etc. Essentially the point she made, and very well so, that in our “Rat Race” for success in life, perhaps we might have forgotten the more human elements, things which bind us together and a feeling of elevation. Shradha was speaking at the recent YourStory event Mobile Sparks in Bangalore.

I couldn’t agree more. In our quest for success, perhaps we might have forgotten to remember some old friends, or forgot the fact that a good night sleep is more worthwile than achieving a Unicorn status. Big statement, but I insist.

I think the subject is about balance. Nobody is saying that one must give up on one’s dreams. But it must not drive consternation to a level that one forgets the basics of humanity – a desire to do good, be kind, have a positive impact and effect larger good. As many have said, a Startup needs to have an objective larger than valuation, or a profit or loss statement. It is about “value creation” at the end of the day, to quote my friend Manish.

Ok, with that, I come back to the startup notes. The recently concluded event MobileSparks by Yourstory had some great speakers from most of the leading firms – Flipkart, Snapdeal, Grofers, Practo, OYO Rooms, Peppertap, SAIF partners, Inventus, Matrix Partners etc.

Here are some sundry highlights from this event :

Freecharge – Initial adoption strategy – Make first transaction brag-worthy. Eg give away a burger for first recharge.
App installs is not a good metric. Transactions is good metric.

OYO rooms
OYO is envisioning a future of amazing hotel experience. Some potential ideas :
- Manages entire hotel experience.
- App – does booking. Shows nearby restaurants, gets you cab with Ola cab widget,
- Ops team does background audit regularly of hotels
- Alerts – eg room 345 not audited since last three weeks or 5 acs in a hotel broke down
- Correlation between auditor reports and customer feedback audits auditors themselves
- If AC is broken open ticket to get electrician automatically
- Pre-check in from airport. Submit ID card picture before even you reach.
- Could alert property manager that customer is about to reach.
- Mobile key to door
- Reminder to turn on AC or heater from before. Mobile can store customer temperature preference.
- Connect to WiFi automatically.
- Mobile motion sensors based DND (do not disturb). Check if person is sleeping and motionless.
- Checkout from app. Pay from mobile wallet. Feedback on the go on app.

Matrix partners (VC) :-
App distribution -
- Inmobi ads, AdMob, Adwords
- OEMS like micromax lava etc
- App stores.
- Facebook ads
- Google ads
- App Store optimisation or ASO

Lybrate :-
Online consultation app for patients and doctors
- Very less doctors in India compared to patients.
- X axis :- Online, offline
Y axis :-
Discovery – find practitioners
Transaction – create transaction
Delivery – participate in delivery or actual doctor patient communication / consultation
Lybrate is in online healthcare delivery space.
- Got doctors first ie supply first. Then demand ie consumers etc.
- Need hooks on supply side to hold doctors while demand builds up.
Opportunities :-
- Lot has happened in discovery already.
- Transaction and delivery side is left. Healthcare devices can be used. Consumer hardware is big area.
- 70 million diabetes patients in India. Devices for them.
- Revenue model – online consultation commission from user – 5% to 15% of doctor fee.

Flipkart :-
Piyush Ranjan. SVP. Flipkart.
Key idea :- Build a Cathedral. Not walls or bricks.
Eg -
Build for phones with no data. SMS or USSD as underlying protocols. Also phone to phone connection.
Eg -
Reliability is in short supply. Eg IRCTC is not reliable.
Eg -
Build for the low end.
Eg -
Building speed as a feature. Eg google suggest and google instant.
Eg -
A broad base need like education.
So far mostly online classrooms. But how about continuous learning which mimics human whole life ?

Practo
healthcare app for doctors and patients.
Started web-only in 2008. Mobile first now.
Mobile search -
2 lakh doctors
2x non metros
3x conversions
3x engagement
Weekend traffic
UGC declined in mobile though compared to web. Consumers write smaller reviews on mobile compared to web. Struggling with this now.

Practo ray
40000 doctors
2x appnts
3x records
3x engagements

Practo tab
Helps in locking in supply
20% richer data

Practo
10 million searches

Snapdeal
Anand Chandrasekaran, Chief Product Officer
- 19 m registered users
- 1.5 L sellers (I am told less than 10000 are active, more on this in a later post)
- wants to achieve 10L sellers in few years (how many will be active ?)
- 5m daily active users
- Freecharge – 2 out of 3 visitors end up transacting

Other ideas that were discussed :
125 million English speaking Indians. Leaves a billion non-English users. Need to tackle them.
300 million internet users in India currently. To grow to half billion internet users in 2-3 years. Mostly via Mobile Web.

 

August 10th, 2015

Online Store Vs. Physical Store With 4P’s Of Marketing

Offline Shopping(shop from the physical store) was the only option for almost 20 years ago, but then came into picture the E-commerce, leveraging Online Shopping model with deals, discounts, offers and much more to the customers. At early stage many prefer to look at a product online and then shop offline from the store, now it’s changing from going to store first, selecting the product and then shopping online from site.  Here are some factors, including 4P’s of marketing on which we can differentiate both the models:

1) 1st P – Price/Cost/Initial Capital - The main factor behind any business is to raise initial capital and finally convert it to profit. Looking at Offline Store, it costs much more for renting the land, building the office and infrastructure. Either you alone can handle the store or you need 2-3 persons to contribute. While the Online concept can easily be implemented without having office space, even some incubators can help initially. You just need to build a online store connect vendors and start selling. But yes, it takes much less time to start a physical store as online needs technical things to be build up first.

2) 2nd P – Place/Location/Access - The traffic of the customers depends on the location of your store, which place it is setup and how easily public can access it. This issue always remains while dealing with physical retail until you start building-up your chain of stores across the glob. Offline stores can be started with only one, mostly, whereas online store can be accessed anywhere in the world with just internet access. Scalability is much harder to achieve in physical store, because more you build the stores, more capital you need. Online is much flexible in this scenario, just develop a site with cart, host it and let any customer from anywhere purchase products from it.

3) 3rd P – Product/Category/Quantity - Giving customers a wide variety of choice increases his second shopping and loyalty probability. This is an challenge with physical stores, they can’t include much categories, their many sub-categories and wide range of products in each sub-categories. This happens as it again requires high intensive capital and warehouse issue. Even if you consider every products, one can’t afford it in a large quantity. Whereas in online dropship model, you can accommodate as many number of products as you can because you neither have to purchase it nor store it, when order arrives, inform particular vendor with product code, they’ll ship it to customer’s doorstep. The category/product management can be the challenge in online store as per the various vendors you are signing, but can be adjusted. Touch-Look-Feel is the main challenge in online shopping as none of the customer can feel the product, get chance to touch it, and try it and that’s the reason why high end products can’t be sold online.

4) 4th P – Promotion/Deals/Coupon/Discounts - Only two things that customer thinks of while purchasing product are, Price & Brand, and that’s the reason for brutal competition in retail business. If one sells 10% disc, you’ve increase to minimum 15% to increase customer traffic. Though offline stores are having these factors to attract customers, but online stores are leveraging these factors day-by-day, focusing on price discounts. You get coupons with discounts, vouchers on sign-up, credit balance that can be used in next purchase, combos and much more. Availing these all things are very hard in physical stores, as you can’t give vouchers to customers as they enter your store, can’t have discounts or credit balance on next purchase and so on.

5) The M – Marketing - Customers will not know your existence in the market until you market your brand. For physical stores, most of them relies on word-of-mouth strategy to increase the traffic, or pamphlets in newspapers or posters in various buildings. Most of them don’t use most common strategies like newsletters, social media, digital media, testimonials, etc. This is the place where online store overtakes the other as most of them are well aware of these marketing techniques and keeping them as their base, word-of-mouth comes as secondary.

The above post was related to start-ups and medium level businesses. Yet many other factors still were not emphasized as the above are the best ones. Offline or Online depends on the personal experience and thinking about to start and grow their model, it’s still two sides of coins, neither of them can be balanced nor compared in every aspect.

July 25th, 2013

10 Things : Must For Any Online E-commerce Website

From the physical store meant for selling goods to customer face to face, a new trend arrived in India from 2000, converting this physical store to online store called E-commerce Model. The basic model remained the same, selling goods to end customers, but as the time passed new innovations were meant to be done in the Online E-commerce on seeing the cut throat competition in the market. And today, the competition is such that it takes just 5 seconds to lose your one customer.

Here are the some factors that reflects the customer satisfaction, trust and loyalty to your E-commerce Web-portal:

1. Loading Speed Of Website - Seriously, no one wants the user to wait for 20-30 secs to open the home page of the website, it should be within 5 secs. If the first loading takes too long, there is 75% chances that your customer will switch on to another website looking for same product. Make the technical changes for increasing the loading speed.

2. Replicate Same On All Devices - You may think that once you’ve created website then you’re done, but you are pretty much wrong. The world is now accepting Smartphones, Mobiles, Tablets compared to Desktop & Laptops. If your website don’t response well on above devices, your customer is gone, first impression is the last impression.

3. Look & Feel, UI - Though you are very professional in business terms, but don’t be too professional in developing the website that has no good look and feel. The User Interface is also one thing that interacts with end customers while purchasing the product, after all your end users are youngsters and ladies, in most cases. Enhance the product images to give a 3-D effect, 360 degree views, close material view, great zoom, easy navigation, etc.

4. Easy Checkout Page - Most of them consider it as a negotiable issue, but if a customer has made his/her cart and your checkout page takes 4-5 clicks to finish whole transaction, customer will not be interested to purchase from you next time. Make the checkout page as one page itself or at least use advanced tech to avoid more user clicks while checkout process.

5. Shipping, Returns, T&C, Privacy Policy - This things can be similar in most of the websites, most of the customers may not even read it while purchasing, but this is the thing that creates trustworthiness in customer’s mind. Clarify each and every statement in the all above things, so that in future customer feels to keep bank upon you, make him think before purchasing on above topics.

6. Various Payment Methods & Options - Understanding the customer behavior is a headache in online shopping, you don’t know what he’ll purchase, how he’ll purchase, etc. Give all possible options to customer in terms of Payment Options, you never know customer is related to which bank or which card customer is having. Also include COD as one of the payment option, most of them opts this option itself and thereby gaining loyalty from the customer for the next purchase.

7. Social Media Integration - 94% of the world population that can’t live without using Social Media in their daily life. Allow users to share their views about your website to their friends, colleagues, mates, etc. Let them comment about your product, getting likes on what they really like, collecting this data helps you to determine some what customer’s behavior.

8. Customer Service & Feedback - E-commerce means dealing with end-customers(mostly) daily and lacking to provide excellent customer service will make you fall from mountain. Fulfill any customer demand, have it 24/7 functionality, accept and react on their feedback, it can be positive or negative too. As hotel manager servers you as his customer, same would be for you in online customers.

9. Related Products - Want to increase the sales directly by customer, try to integrate the related products section in products view page. This concept will make customer more eager to purchase other related products and thereby increasing your sales. Even if he doesn’t buy it, he’ll at least inform his colleagues about the product. One view to customer is enough attract for that product.

10. Search Capability - What if customer didn’t find he came for to your site, do you have proper search functionality to satisfy his demand? Search makes easier for any customer who came directly to your website for letting him search and get what he came for. Even filtering mechanism should be integrated based on many attributes like color, size, brand, material, etc.

Above were the 10 most critical issues that has to be there, even some them attributes are there which are covered above, like, having proper categories & sub-categories, comparing items, wishlist, etc. Somehow these are very common that now a days most of them are implementing, but above 10 were mostly neglecting.

 

July 18th, 2013

E-commerce : Definition & Its Types

E-commerce (eCommerce) or Electronic Commerce, a subset of ebusiness, is the purchasing, selling, and exchanging of goods and services over computer networks (such as the Internet) through which transactions or terms of sale are performed electronically. Contrary to popular belief, eCommerce is not just on the Web. In fact, eCommerce was alive and well in business to business transactions before the Web back in the 70s via EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) through VANs (Value-Added Networks). E-commerce can be broken into four main categories: B2B, B2C, C2B, and C2C.

1. B2B (Business-to-Business)
Companies doing business with each other such as manufacturers selling to distributors and wholesalers selling to retailers. Pricing is based on quantity of order and is often negotiable. The whole organization has to target other one rather than focusing on individual customers. Though the customer would be focused as the goods and commodity B2B has deal with, its going to be used by the end customer.

2. B2C (Business-to-Consumer)
Businesses selling to the general public typically through catalogs utilizing shopping cart software. By dollar volume, B2B takes the prize, however B2C is really what the average has in mind with regards to eCommerce as a whole. Having a hard time finding a book? Need to purchase a custom, high-end computer system? How about a first class, all-inclusive trip to a tropical island? With the advent eCommerce, all three things can be purchased literally in minutes without human interaction.

3. C2B (Consumer-to-Business)
A consumer posts his project with a set budget online and within hours companies review the consumer’s requirements and bid on the project. The consumer reviews the bids and selects the company that will complete the project. Elance empowers consumers around the world by providing the meeting ground and platform for such transactions.

4. C2C (Consumer-to-Consumer)
There are many sites offering free classifieds, auctions, and forums where individuals can buy and sell thanks to online payment systems like PayPal where people can send and receive money online with ease. eBay’s auction service is a great example of where person-to-person transactions take place everyday and now a days its growing in numbers. This business can also be treated as Marketplace, where users get online login in one web-portal itself and these users are nothing but one being buyer and another being the seller.

 

Companies using internal networks to offer their employees products and services online–not necessarily online on the Web–are engaging in B2E (Business-to-Employee) eCommerce.

G2G (Government-to-Government), G2E (Government-to-Employee), G2B (Government-to-Business), B2G (Business-to-Government), G2C (Government-to-Citizen), C2G (Citizen-to-Government) are other forms of eCommerce that involve transactions with the government–from procurement to filing taxes to business registrations to renewing licenses. There are other categories of eCommerce out there, but they tend to be superfluous.

July 12th, 2013

Types Of Marketing Techniques : For A Business & Its Brand

Marketing is very powerful tool that every business model has to deal with, either a small or giant, tech or non-tech, online retail or offline retail. Until you are not spreading your business name, you’re not doing business. The Brand of the business depends on the effective use of marketing strategies, people shouldn’t know you by your name, but by your business brand. Let’s take a look at various marketing techniques.

1. Direct Marketing - Direct Marketing deals with spreading your business by interacting with customers/business executives, face to face. It can be very effective as you are talking with your direct contact inperson, expressing your feelings and emotions that he/she can get very straight idea about your model. It can even be time consuming process as a single meeting can be minimum of 2 hours.

2. Outbound Marketing - Outbound Marketing is what most of them opts for. It gives an opportunity to cover nice number of audience and getting some of them as your loyal customers. It can be implemented by brochures, pamphlets, newspapers ads, etc. You are forcing end customers to view your ads and may create a feeling to go for it. This is an expensive technique as it requires some of your money power to be invested.

3. Inbound Marketing - Its bit reverse process of the previous one. In this form, you have to let your customers reach you for the need of product, instead you approaching them. This process starts in very slow manner but when expands rapidly, you have created a good brand of your business. It can be implemented by Search Engine Optimization(SEO), word of mouth, desperate customer need, etc. This is very inexpensive technique as you are not investing much in spreading your word, customers themselves are doing on behalf of you.

4. Social Media Marketing - A very niche, booming and effective technique that most of them now-a-days are going for. There is no need to prove the previous line as 95% of World Population are engaged at least 2 hours daily in one of the Social Media Site. It can be implemented via some social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, etc. This technique can be implemented in both the ways; expensive way where you have pay for ads, or in inexpensive way where you can use the platform with limited resources.

5. Newsletter Marketing - A very old and effective technique that most of them are using as their default marketing strategy. Nothing more has to be done here, simply create a mail database in thousand numbers and start sending them the newsletters covering all the stuffs of your business, product, service, etc. But yes, newsletters requires a very useful information that should attract the end customer to open it, read it and redirect them to your website directly. Newsletters can be represented in informative way, graphical way, hybrid form, etc.

6. Article/Magazine Marketing - Don’t get confused with Outbound and this one, both are logically same but physically different. In this one, you can’t cover a large number of audience as Article/Magazine Subscribers are very few compared to newspapers. But, the customers that you’ll get here would be mostly above middle class and professional & luxuries in nature. The company creditability increases highly as you are making a good relationship with the genuine customers and even the cost of publishing is bit higher.

7. Promotional Marketing - One of the great and effective way to attract the customers to your product/site/business is Promotional Marketing. Everyone knows 85% of customers will see the price first then the actual item, whether its branded good quality item or average one. This technique targets 3P/4P of Marketing, that are, Promotion-Price-People. Promotions are the only thing creating a very cut-throat competition, no matter you are able to make Profit or Loss, but what you get is good number of traffic. This can be done by using discounts, deals, offers, coupons, stock clearance sale, etc.

8. Viral Marketing - This type of marketing relies on the message of a marketer being spread quickly through various social networks in order to increase brand awareness. The name viral marketing stems from the rapid spread of viruses in general. Typically, a viral marketing campaign will not last as long as other marketing efforts, but if a company can come up with a good idea for viral marketing and reach the right people, it will become highly successful in a short amount of time.

9. Mobile Marketing - Even this form is emerging along with Social Media/Internet Marketing techniques. As mobiles(smartphones actually) are very common to see in every individuals hand, marketer is targeting a large number of audience. It can be done on all of the Mobile OS platforms and many manner. Showing ads while playing games, showing related apps while downloading one, direct SMS of your new product, etc. There can be even scenario where user can mostly neglect your ad if it doesn’t suits to his/her requirement, and that’s the reason it has to be done in very effective manner giving at least 10% clicks of the target.

10. TeleMarketing - A very expensive way to show your business/product to end consumer is this form of marketing. This includes TV ads and it requires a lot of financial capability and that’s the reason why only big companies go for it. This technique can’t be adopted by mid-level or start-up firms, in-fact it shouldn’t be adopted. The way of displaying your ads is the main thing to concern here, by hook or by crook, you have to convince your consumers that why your product stands out from others, and its done.

 

Excerpts – Bruce Jones

July 2nd, 2013

Facebook not quite “Home” yet on mobile phones

Apparently, Facebook “Home” is not to be, not yet at least.

The Android application launched by Facebook to create an FB overlay on the Home screen of the phone was supposed to be the big bet by FB to control the first touchpoint screen for a smartphone user. But due to poor reviews by initial analysts, Facebook is said to be revamping the FB Home application. The device which was supposed to launch this was HTC One and in US, AT&T was to be the exclusive carrier for this. In UK, operator EE and Orange were planning to launch it. The social network is said to be encouraging the carriers to delay the launch to give the firm more time to create a more palatable user experience.

The battle for the phone user is becoming more intense as time goes by. With smartphones overtaking web users globally, it is of paramount importance for tech firms to own the phone customer and drive more and more smartphone traffic to these firms’ offerings, in order to attract ad revenue and other commerce monetizations.

Without a doubt, Facebook social network application remains one of the top apps on all mobile systems including Apple iOS and Android. But Google, Facebook, wireless carriers and other media are jostling for more and more of user attention on phones as well as real estate on the limited phone screen, which are the next evolution of internet cycle.

Facebook released the following statement on Thursday evening via Engadget: “Following customer feedback, Facebook has decided to focus on adding new customization features to Facebook Home over the coming months. While they are working to make a better Facebook Home experience, they have recommended holding off launching the HTC First in the UK, and so we will shortly be contacting those who registered their interest with us to let them know of this decision. Rest assured, we remain committed to bringing our customers the latest mobile experiences, and we will continue to build on our strong relationship with Facebook so as to offer customers new opportunities in the future.”

htc-first-2

HTC First aka “Facebook Phone”  (Photo: Courtesy / HTC)

After extremely disappointing sales of the HTC First, Facebook will reexamine the Facebook Home before expanding its operating system to more phones in more countries.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he would’ve rebuilt Facebook as a mobile exclusive app if he had the chance, so clearly offering a solid mobile experience means a great deal to Facebook. In this regard, the Facebook phone was a brilliant idea and makes a great deal of sense — like Google and Android, a true Facebook phone would allow Zuckerberg & Co. to have complete control over the user experience and ad strategy. The HTC First was the company’s first attempt at such a device — Facebook would focus on software while HTC would focus on hardware — but with the phone failing so soon after its initial release, Facebook will need to take a long look in the mirror. 

Failure of the HTC First may be blamed on Facebook’s decision to make Facebook Home features too accessible to other mobile users on Android and iOS, or maybe Facebook will realize that the Facebook Home features were not that stellar to begin with.

Facebook has fumbled on mobile before, when it launched it’s first mobile site using the mobile browser channel – with poor user feedback on that approach, Facebook later changed course and focused on more cleaner mobile apps, but this was much later in it’s lifecycle; Facebook mobile has a history of bouncing back. The early years of Facebook mobile efforts were limited to working on a common mobile website version of it’s platform addressing multiple platforms like iOS and Android with one approach. It later realized that that approach did not augur well and got into building platform specific Facebook apps, which have been superb hits since.

The last note above take one back to mobile site vs mobile app debate, which continues to simmer in the mobile development world. So far, it seems, the Apps are winning with many firms (eg Financial Times) having switched from a common http://m.xyz-firm.com approach to custom mobile apps for each mobile platform. More on this later in this space.

(with extracts and ideas from International Business Times article dated May 24 by Dave Smith)

May 26th, 2013

HBR Article review “Advertising Analytics 2.0″

(excerpted from Harvard Business Review article on Advertising Analytics dated March 2012)

HBR has an interesting article on Analytics 2.0 which is driving advertisers and brands to fine-tune their effort allocations to the various media mix. Presented below is the crux of the article by the author Wes Nichols, CEO of MarketShare, an Analytics firm in LA, USA.

Until now, the advertisers are measuring ROI using swim lane tactics, which means that media spend on one channel is measured for ROI independently – it has to do with revenue attribution due to direct impact of that media channel advertising. In reality, the media is more complex, the various media have impact on each other which causes complex mixed media effect on consumer purchase decisions. Eg a TV spot on a Toyota Camry car may lead a user to dish out her smartphone to google search the Camry. The Google search shows a sponsored ad by a nearby Toyota dealer as well as it may lead the user to a sponsored YouTube video ad which plays the motion picture of the car ad. The user is thinking about Camry but purchase decision is still forthcoming. Later when the same person is driving down the highway, she notices the billboard advertising the Camry.  She remembers the sponsored dealer ad and decides to drive by that dealer. This concludes in a purchase decision to buy the Camry.

In the above scenario, each media channel has an impact on each other and it is hard to attribute revenue to one or more media channels directly. As a result, firms do not know how much to spend on various media channels and how these channels cross-impact each other.

Such analysis of one data campaign revealed that swim-lane measurement grossly underestimated the revenues attributable to social-media marketing and display advertising while overestimating PR and paid-search revenue. For firms like Ford, which have a $1 billion advertising budget each year, such analysis is crucial to derive maximum bang for the advertising dollars.

Statistical models that reveal the effect of advertising on consumer behavior and business results must account for hundreds of variables related to market conditions, marketing actions, and competitive activities. A software analytics engine uses those models to attribute each variable’s effect accurately, to optimize the marketing mix, and to guide spending allocation. Data on consumer response and business outcomes feed back into the engine, allowing marketers to fine-tune their cross-media spending in real time.

Analytics 2.0 requires that advertisers assign an elasticity factor between each impacting media – eg Paid search will have an elasticity factor due to TV ad spot and also from other media channels. So each media format is assigned an elasticity factor from every other factor that is likely to impact it, this is referred to as Assist factor. Such factors can include non-media factors like weather, competitive advertising, unemployment rates and like. This leads to a complex cross-dependency scenario across a wide gamut of factors. From here, the advertiser has to assign revenue attribution to each media factor followed by optimization and finally budget allocation. Optimization involves war gaming various scenarios across the factors in question to arrive at optimum marketing conclusions. Finally, this leads to re-balancing budget allocation to achieve the maximum efficiency marketing scenarios.

Factors -> Attribution -> Optimization -> Allocation-> Consumer Response -> Business Outcomes  …….. -> Attribution again

The Business Outcomes influence the Attribution in real time so it is a constant feedback loop.

HBR gives the case study of Electronic Arts (EA) which used the above cycle of Attribution, Optimization and Allocation to increase it’s ad spend efficiency dramatically for the launch of it’s new Battlefield 3 online game. It seems that EA was placing heavy emphasis on TV spot ads for its game launches but these were having only a marginal impact on the success of games sales. An Analytics study led EA to shift advertising dollars to online and paid search, and the game launch revenues improved remarkably for EA.

For the full HBR arcticle, click here.

May 20th, 2013

The Internet – still an Equalizer ?

Today there is a post in the Wall Street Journal as to how the websites are tracking all user activities, right from location, personal profile, profession, hobbies, likes and dislikes.

Today’s internet is perhaps “too open”, where users information is freely available to retailers, analysts, marketers alike. While this may serve the purpose of “personalizing” offers and deals to consumers, it risks being labeled discriminatory if such information is used to offer different product pricing or search results to consumers. Not to mention the bigger risk of spammers and ID thieves catching hold of such information and launching malicious campaigns against consumers.

A WSJ investigation found that the office products retailer Staples is offering different prices on the same stapler to two different consumers who were just a few miles away.

Retailers are justified in offering different prices to different customers – this is what happens in stores too especially in different stores of the same chain. Retailers argue that local operating costs, real estate pricing, manpower costs and other logistics etc influence local pricing. In that sense, the online differential in pricing is no different than it’s offline cousin.

“But the idea of an unbiased, impersonal Internet is fast giving way to an online world that, in reality, is increasingly tailored and targeted. Websites are adopting techniques to glean information about visitors to their sites, in real time, and then deliver different versions of the Web to different people. Prices change, products get swapped out, wording is modified, and there is little way for the typical website user to spot it when it happens”, says the Journal.

WSJ said that many firms resorted to such price tactics, including Discover Financial, Rosetta Stone, Home Depot etc. Office Depot told WSJ team that they use customers browsing history and geolocation to offer tailored product offers and pricing for online shopping.

Technically, this is all legal, but the boundary line to ethical or discriminatory behaviour is not far. Eg certain racial groups may claim discrimination or local governments may cry foul. It seems that 76% of Americans are opposed to this kind of differential pricing.

But there are advantages too for differential pricing. Eg certain services like movie theatres offer senior citizen and student discounts.

The key takeaways are :

  • the fundamental premise of internet being an unbiased and same-for-all internet is bring eroded now as personalization increases and website behave differently for different people. The INTERNET IS NO LONGER AN EQUALIZER.
  • while differential pricing is normal and legal, it can raise ethical and discriminatory haggles across sections of the society. So retailers need to tread carefully.

What is CellStrat view : Retailers and web commerce firms need to abide by laws and be careful in offering personalized offers and pricing. Tailoring offers based on user information or their location has to be considered in view of the prevailing laws and user acceptance. Otherwise, the online commerce firms risk alienating the consumers who took to the internet to find an equal society, in the first place.

(Excerpted from WSJ article titled “Websites Vary Prices, Deals, Based on Users’ Information” dated 23 Dec 2012)

December 24th, 2012

Map wars

Since the launch of Apple iOS 6, one is seeing major activity in the world of Digital Maps. Both Apple and Google have been duking it out recently on this front. Before the iOS 6 was released, Google Maps was the default map application installed on the iPhones. But map application in recent times has become perhaps the most popular mobile app and hence substantial customer engagement and media sales get initiated with the map experience. The primary fruits of iPhone mapping app were being enjoyed by Google, until iOS 6 came along. With iOS 6 and iPhone 5, Apple decided to take the Map app internal and worked on Apple Maps for this version of iOS, thereby dropping Google Maps as the default Map app on the new iPhone.

In it’s haste to release the Map App along with iOS 6 launch, Apple mapping team seemed to compromise on reliability and accuracy in Apple Maps. The error proved deadly, as the Apple Maps app was widely criticized after iOS 6 was launched, being that rest of the iOS 6 as well as iPhone 5 was much appreciated. Apple Map Apps shows incorrect placement of landmarks and is frustrating mobile users around the world who rely on smartphone maps to guide them around cities.

This resulted in Tim Cook of Apple issuing an apology to Apple customers. Google, with a guilty pleasure, enjoyed the Apple Map criticism. Google has since announced that they are working on a custom Google Maps app for the iOS 6 platform. It is expected to come out before the end of the year.

Why are Map Apps such a big deal after all ? In an App survey conducted by Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta, Google Maps was rated as the most popular mobile app. That means that navigation and directions via smartphone maps has become the most key use of these phones. One knew that Mapping Apps were popular and widely used, but who would have guessed that Map App is “the” most popular mobile app out there. Especially Google Maps. Obviously, smartphone users really use this app in their daily movements.

Maps are also used for the most cutting-edge of phone applications, that is Location-Based Services or LBS. LBS refers to finding businesses nearby and guiding customer traffic to those businesses. LBS also enables local advertising and shopping. LBS is key aspect of SoLoMo – Social Local Mobile – a concept referring to convergence between local commerce, mobile phones and social shopping.

Maps also facilitate searches now – Search is more relevant if locational aspects are added to it. Search Advertising has been a revolutionary concept and LBS makes Search even more relevant.

When the iOS 6 Apple Maps app faced ridicule, Tim Cook suggested that iPhone customers download Bing or other Map Apps from App Store. Google, of course, had not planned a iOS 6 compatible Map app, until it realized that iPhone users were clamoring for the Google version, after having experienced the cloogy Apple Map App. Apple Map flap has caused many a casualty at Apple office – with many execs including one of the most senior execs, Scott Forstall, being asked to leave. Just today, Apple fired another manager in charge of Map App.

With the Apple Map app mess, other mapping programs have gained eg Embark and Bing Maps.

Mapping wars are front and centre in the smartphone evolution, the various map providers need to check their coordinates in this new war.

November 29th, 2012

How to enable SoLoMo for a commerce firm

SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile) has become the new fad in town for most commerce firms and retailers, as well as technology providers. This concept refers to the idea of enabling hyper-local retail via mobile convergence and providing a social interaction between users and retailers for engagement, sales growth and loyalty.

What are the technologies which enable SoLoMo ? What products provide best of breed solutions in this space ?

Below is a sample list of some of the leading firms / products which offer solutions in this space :-

a) Digby – Leading Mobile Retail convergence solution. They have potentially the strongest Mobile Retail convergence solution and are considered a SoLoMo specialist – Digby solution provides integration between web store / offline store / mobile commerce / social commerce / QR code solution / real time messaging. Digby Localpoint software enables brands to create geo-fences around their stores and other points of interest and embed those geo-fences into the brand’s app

b) Capillary Tech - leading retail CRM / loyalty solution – one of the hottest startups from India, now a global phenomenon. High quality retail CRM / loyalty / retail analytics solution

c) Facebook Connect and Twitter API – for close Social integration to enable Social commerce

d) Pluck from Demand Media – Pluck is interesting as it allows social engagement, social commerce and social loyalty solutions. Pluck enables these concepts via communities, content generation and gamification.

e) Foursquare Enterprise solutions may offer robust gamification solutions –  Foursquare is considered leading gamification firm around communities.

f) Groupon / LivingSocial / Snapdeal / mydala – these firms are known for the Group shopping experience and offer LBS capabilities. These are not products but full-fledged startups in the area of Social Commerce.

g) Antenna Mobile Platform / IBM Worklight / Sybase 365 - These Enterprise Mobility platforms offer Mobile app development which can enable a retailer to publish engagement and commerce apps for its customers. This includes Mobile POS on smartphones / tablets, mobile wallet and in-store apps.

h) Telibrahma – Telibrahma has solutions in the areas of virtual reality and LBS, which empower the consumer to have a closer interaction with the retailers. Telibrahma LBS relies on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi proximity marketing to allow retailers to engage the audience in the nearby vicinity.

i) ZipDial – ZipDial provides an intuitive missed call voting and feedback system, which allows a retailer to leverage the mobile shoppers in the store to respond to a retailer survey instantaneously. This helps retailer drive business intelligence and customer feedback about the store experience.

Here are some relevant links in this area :
www.digby.com, http://www.capillarytech.com, http://www.pluck.com/, http://www.groupon.com, http://telibrahma.com/, www.zipdial.com

A combination of the above technologies / products will enable the SoLoMo experience for a retailer or service business.

CellStrat’s next conference, the India Digital Forum on 07th Feb in N. Delhi, will address a lot of the SoLoMo topics and technologies outlined above. Be sure to book your seat today and hear from top speakers in the Social Commerce space.

November 27th, 2012

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