Business, Strategy

User Privacy or Website metrics – A tough choice

The other day, one very interesting question came to me, from Raj, one of my students. He was referring to the ad below –


Privacy-settings-internet

Privacy-settings-internet

I browsed for some TShirts and shoes on a top Internet Website. And those kept coming back to me! Again, and again! Everything I do, is being tracked. I get a feeling as if I am being watched! And I don’t like it one bit. 

The problem -

The main issue concerning Raj was the lack of choice that these websites gave him regarding his browsing preferences. There was no choice given to him by respective ecommerce websites regarding what the websites can/cannnot do with his activity. Raj went to the activity settings, and tried to remove the tracking, but to no avail. When he deleted cookies, he found browsing becomes clumsy, because of the absence of tailored recommendations etc.

How much is too much?

All businesses, particularly VC backed ones are under immense pressure to grow their users, revenues and activity. For this, they are ready to take the data battle to the next level, by using advanced techniques like activity targeting, retargeting, social retargeting etc.

Behavioral retargeting (also known as behavioral remarketing, or simply, retargeting) is a form of online targeted advertising by which online advertising is targeted to consumers based on their previous Internet actions, in situations where these actions did not result in a sale or conversion.

What often gets missed in this mad rush is the user himself. Are we taking care of the user? Are we understanding user concerns when it comes to the ads that get planted in this rush to get revenue? Are you scaring users away by these tactics, particularly female users who are very concerned about privacy?

The true question – How can right balance be achieved?

Message me on facebook.com/stratin with your views and we would publish them with your permission.


 

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Business, Marketing, Strategy

Four reasons why Diwali Shopping is different in 2014

Diwali Shopping Phenomenon

Nationwide, its been widely acknowledged that Diwali is the biggest festival in India. And, what does a festival mean? Festival means meeting family, friends, lots of sweets and of course shopping! This has been the norm for decades! But then, 2014 was different for India, so much so, that Minister for Commerce & Industry – Nirmala Seetharaman had to say this about complaints on Flipkart Sale Day

flipkart big billion day

Flipkart’s ‘Big Billion Day’ sale on Monday, that offered steep discounts on various products, has raised concerns among small and big traders that such campaigns would badly affect players in the traditional retail market.
 
“We have received many inputs. Lot of concerns have been expressed. We will look into it,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters here.

So, what has changed? Here are the four things that have changed in the aftermath of the Big Billion Day on Flipkart, and similar discounts on all other players!


Smartphones have gone truly mainstream

Diwali Dhamaka week Amazon

While mobile was there in the pockets of Indians for a long time now, what has happened is that Smartphones have truly gone mainstream. Look at the offers going out – there is a smartphone element to everything . There is such a race to push apps to consumers, that extra discounts are being offered to make the app more attractive. This phenomenon started with Whatsapp going mainstream, and more and more people taking up data connections. The other day, the driver who drove me to the airport in Ahmedabad asked me the following:

Kya iss Samsung pe Whatsapp aata hai? (Does whatsapp work on this Samsung phone?)

This is truly the first MOBILE FIRST Diwali in the country, and the offline retailers just weren’t ready for it!

Online retailers and their funding warchest

Online retail makes anything available everywhere, that too at a great price. Checking top comparison engines tells you the story – flipkart, amazon, snapdeal, myntra are all in a league of their own when it comes to prices. Offline retailers will have to come up with something innovative as well, since Online retailers are entering the market with huge funding – Flipkart recently raised one billion dollars, amazon 2 billion, and Snapdeal too raised undisclosed funding with Ratan Tata himself participating.

Inhibitions to buy online reducing

Even now, roughly 10-15% business has gone online, and not more. Yet, why the offline retailers are feeling the pinch is that these 10-15% consumers were the top buyers. They were the ones who brought ‘Diwali’ to their shops in previous years. Now, with Mobile apps etc, people can shop on the go, and the products get reliably delivered to their offices/homes within 2-3 days. They have seen this with friends, and this has reduced inhibitions to buy online.

Unconventional tactics – Customer focus and unlimited choice

Check Snapdeal today on SnapdealOne big change that online players have brought to the table is customer focus. In order to attract customers, Online Players are taking customer service and customer focus to another level. Product bunding, discounts when shopping above a certain amount, same day delivery etc are taking customer focus to another level. Such level of customer focus isn’t found in the offline world. Just creating a huge offline store for customers to come and shop isn’t going to be enough from now on. True problem solving for customers is something that will win customers from now on. This has stumped the offline retailers in some way.


The future – will it be Online all the way?

So are winds blowing the online way only? I wouldn’t say that just yet! I would still back offline giants to come strongly back into the ring, with innovative solutions to overcome these challenges. They surely can, and thats when it would be interesting!

But this Diwali, the true winner in this hullabaloo has been the consumer! ‘Grahak Shakti’ has truly been on view in Diwali 2014, and that is the prime reason why 2014 Diwali has been different!

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Entrepreneurship

Four Ways to Think like an Entrepreneur

The Premise


Entrepreneur in you

Today, a lot of things don’t work like they did before. And as a student, you know what’s happening in the world around you. A student has better idea than an existing professional about what the future is going to be, since she/he is already using stuff that would grow more popular in the future, thats the nature of your demographic. The best way to use this situation to your advantage is to think like an entrepreneur!

Why to think like an entrepreneur


 

Ownership -

The real reason why entrepreneurs are so valued is the sense of ownership that they bring to the table. In many ways, corporates and Startups alike love those people who take ownership. The ones who take responsibility, and own a particular metric, balance sheet, growth objective, business target – these are the people who are truly respected in the firm.

‘Hiding’ Information is not a long term competitive advantage -

In many ways, the truth about majority of industries today is that information has become much more fluid than before. This means that a lot of information, industry tips and tricks are available freely. An example of this is Google and Facebook share more data about their ecosystem than top media companies ever did. This means that you have to start thinking differently in order to stay ahead.

Achieving targets -

Every sphere of professional life is associated with a Business Goal. An entrepreneurial spirit is something that can drive you to transcend the ‘achievement’ aspect but in fact it should be ‘finding easier and scalable ways of achieving a target’.

Ways to think like an Entrepreneur


 

Way #1 – Competitive Benchmarking

One thing is for sure, every business line, right from HR to Analytics, has competition. Some competition within the company, some outside. Its very important to understand what works for these people, and adopt in many ways the best practices. At a firm level, there is also incentive to collaborate with peers in order to achieve a company wide goal. These collaborative projects form an ideal ground for yourself to benchmark against your peers, find your weaknesses and turn those on their head into your strengths.

Way # 2 – Intensity at work

A lot of times, intensity at work is a function of external factors such as push from top management, personal lives, even weather! This is not how entrepreneurs work. The best entrepreneurs don’t let these things act as impediments, but instead give their best intensity at work. That in a way separates the entrepreneurs from te rest.

Way # 3 – Knowhow – Read, Read and Read!

One way to create a difference at your workplace is to keep constantly reading about developments in and around you. If you are a developer, read about the latest Android update. If you are in Finance, read about the latest tool by Intuit. Read about Sales, Marketing, Ops – but surely, do Read!

Way # 4 – Problem Solving

In many ways, life has so many elements that can be traced back to one key theme – Problem Solving. This is the common thread that runs across functions, across seniority and across sectors in the professional world. A ‘Can Do’ attitude is what entrepreneurs bring to the table when it comes to Problem Solving. As such, this is what makes your professional life fun and worth it – whether you enjoy Problem solving in your expertise area or not!

In Conclusion


 

I feel a lot of times, our education system trains us for ‘jugaad’. Find the easiest way of doing ‘x’. To truly prosper at workplace, you don’t need the easiest way for you, but for the organisation. That takes some serious ‘un-learning’. This is the true spirit of entrepreneurship. Do check what Paul Graham has to say about Counter-intuitive aspects of startups and entrepreneurs –

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Business, Technology

Flipkart and its BigBillionDay!

Yesterday, Oct 6, 2014 was a huge day in Indian Ecommerce. It all started with this ad by Flipkart, and Snapdeal tried to ambush it right on TOI front page itself! (Surprise, surprise!) .

In any ways, here’s what I thought of the whole thing –

  • I thought largely the BigBillionDay was executed well
  • Of course there were aggrieved customers, and posts from an ‘esoteric’ blog about how prices went up and down, but still I thought, a lot of consumers actually did prepone their buying decisions and that was great for the ecomm players.
  • In fact, even other ecomm retailers benefited in this frenzy! Won’t be surprised if one found out that other players like Amazon, Infibeam, Snapdeal also benefited from the #bigbillionday
  • This was basically an attempt by Flipkart to emulate Alibaba’s strategy of achieving 5x sales, which Alibaba routinely executes, and with aplomb on Singles’ day – Nov 11 in China. -Check this BBG article to know more!

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s largest e-commerce company, broke its one-day sales record by more than 80 percent as it heads toward an initial public offering that may be valued higher than Facebook

Taobao and Tmall, Alibaba’s two main platforms, topped 35 billion yuan ($5.75 billion) in the 24-hour period, surpassing last year’s sales of 19.1 billion yuan, the company said on its official Twitter Inc. account. Yesterday was China’s Singles’ Day, a local twist on Valentine’s Day, and e-commerce firms marked the occasion by flooding the Internet with promotions and fueling demand on China’s biggest online shopping day

What’s more, Flipkart has got a lot of marketing eyeballs, for free as well! Flipkart, and Indian Ecommerce is slowly reaching heights that few have reached, and to me, this is just the beginning! Quite exciting times for Indian Internet space, I say!

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Reflections, Strategy

Three Tips for your Self Zeitgeist 2013

Yep, its that time of the year when Zeitgeist stories take centre stage again. The time before holidays start and the time when a lot of people start looking forward to the year that will soon start with a lot of hope!

Its at these times that Zeitgeist type of stories work the best. Whats a Zeitgeist in the first place?

Zeitgeist – The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

Here are the top Zeitgeist stories I have found so far which would help fashion a Self Zeitgeist –

1. Facebook Stories - Found Facebook stories to be a compelling read. You can view the most inspiring Facebook stories here or check your own ‘Year-in-Review’ on Facebook by typing the following link on your browser – https://www.facebook.com/yearinreview . Found the Year in Review very compelling because you feel like you are going through what you did in the year all at once.

Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist on Facebook Stories

2. Slideshare Zeitgeist – Perhaps the most shareable & readable content in the world – both text and visual is found on Slideshare today. So, its quite natural that Slideshare Zeitgeist would be awesome too. Check the same out below –

SlideShare Zeitgeist 2013 from SlideShare ( Click on this link if you cannot view the Presentation in the email newsletter)

3. Self Zeitgeist

– I feel creating a Zeitgeist for oneself at these times would be quite awesome too. It will help you take a self evaluation on what could be done better and try and make efforts to better that. For example, one thing I realised while thinking back is there is a necessity for me to be consistent in my efforts towards a certain goal. I had, still have a habit to go with the flow, but that really doesn’t help. At some point of time, consistency / persistence is what may lead to a long term reward.

What is your Zeitgeist? Please share in the comments section!

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Business, Entrepreneurship, Technology, Web

Housing.co.in – RightMove for India!


housing
Having witnessed the success of RightMove in the UK, I always wondered why there wasn’t an Indian Counterpart for it. Seeing Housing.Co.In yesterday answered that question :)

Housing.Co.In enters the tricky domain of Indian Real Estate! A market with innumerable dealers – who in many ways survive on the fact that market is not transparent and illiquid. Want an apartment to rent in a new city? Get ready to deal with thousands of agents, no certainty who is the landlord, no knowledge whether you are overpaying or not – absolutely no information. Want to rent out your apartment? Again get ready to deal with many many agents, always demand a big housing deposit, ask neighbours how much are they charging! In the digital age where the entire city maps are online thanks to Google – how can this still be the case?

  • Housing.Co.In provides a great layout which simplifies these things.Choose your location, Rent, Buy or Sell, Enter desired location and instant results on a map! Prices, Pictures, Reviews, Commute, Neighbourhood – basically everything you want to see before actually going to see the property.
  • Transparency: Specially in the Indian Real Estate Sector where the market is always higher when you want to buy and always lower when you want to sell! Its a boon for everyone! Initially property agents might not like it but I believe in the long run it is beneficial for them as well – as with transparency we will get more transactions!
  • Ease of moving: Going to a new city? Switching jobs? The main question becomes housing! Sir par chat to honi chahiyen na mere bhai …. hopefully this solves such issues
  • Information: Many such property websites have now started publishing market reports and market status – giving more information to users, government, industry and so on. The information advantage is also huge.

Do try it out. The number of cities are 9 for now but they cover most metros. Pretty good effort and will be interesting to watch its growth from now on …

 

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Business, Marketing, Strategy, Technology, Web

Loyalty Card and Analytics together via Apps! – Way to go GBK

 

Everyone knows that Apps! are serious business. Instagram acquired for $1 billion, over billions of apps on iPhone and Android, to a large degree windows phone and blackberry failing due to lacks of apps! There is Facebook App, LinkedIn App, BBC News App, NDTV App, Hotel Booking Apps, Amazon Apps – many many apps! Most of the apps however are of 1 category – taking interaction from the user from the computer to their mobile device – which makes sense as it keeps the user engaged all the time.

gbkTill now, I have not seen many real consumer based companies moving to Apps to keep the user engaged and also gather useful analytics for themselves. This attempt by a Gourmet Burger Kitchen in the UK seems like a clever entry point.

Loyalty Cards have been around for a long long time. They give the user an incentive to come back, generate more revenue for the service provider and many times the user introduces other users to the brand as well. All this has been fairly well understood. Till now – loyalty cards existed like cards and not Apps!

By introducing the GBK App as a loyalty card – GBK gets so much more information and in turn helps grow the business.

  • User Analytics – App helps you measure number of repeat visits (per week, per month, per year)
  • Customer Retention – If the user starts using the app but does not come back then surely you can give them some special coupon to get the repeat business!
  • Location – When you are in the restaurant business, one of the most important things for you is Location! Through this app though you get to know exactly how many people and which people frequent which areas for GBK.
  • Paperless and Convenience - We all want to be green! And no one wants to look for bits of paper when you can have it in your smartphone.
  • Customer Categorisation – As the user needs to use to app before ordering to get the discount – you know their usual order size and margins – better of all you know the customer details. You can focus on the most profitable customers!

I believe this is just the start of the move of loyalty cards – maybe one day the term itself will change to Loyalty App!

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India Trending topics
Marketing, Strategy

Are Facebook updates and Tweets equal to Mass media popularity

Over the past few months, I have been trying to gauge if yesterday night’s top program was indeed on twitter or not, in its Trending topics section I mean. As an example, Sunday Night’s top Program in Mumbai was the Champions Trophy final, billed as the last clash between Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. Empirically, the correlation stands. Even at 7.45 AM on Monday, these programs were on Trending topics of twitter. Check it out –

mass media to twitter trends

Trending topics on Twitter and correlation to Mass media spends

The real question here is – Can & should mass media be swayed by the “socially” active programs? Should mass media advertisers truly ascertain value to such twitter trending topic presence or Facebook Trend presence? Lets look at both sides of the coin here –

Continue reading

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Marketing, Technology

Whatsapp – The meteoric rise and Impact in India in 2013

Whatsapp and its rapid market capture in India

Whatsapp groups are immensely popular in India

When the world talks of Social Networking, they talk of Facebook or twitter, but when India talks about social networking in 2013, Indians talk of Whatsapp. Facebook is still the application that the web-enabled junta use, but in terms of engagement, whatsapp has clearly beaten them all.

In fact, a lot of Mobile telecom companies are claiming Whatsapp to be the trigger why people have started using their GPRS or 3G plans. Whatsapp has become THAT utility which has started making people look at stuff like 3G seriously. While this sounds incredulous, India as a country is totally capable of actually exhibiting that behavior.

2013 could be summarised as a year of true smartphone adoption ( even commoditization in India) . With such smartphones, users are becoming aware of the utility of 3G etc. For example, my family members today ask me of 3G availability in some region of India before they leave for that place. But in this age, conventional wisdom would have placed a bet on Facebook becoming more and more dominant on mobile in India. However, that hasn’t happened. How did whatsapp actually capture mindspace in India? Here are my top three reasons  why Whatsapp became so popular in India -

1. “BBM for all” – Around 24 to 30 months back, Whatsapp actually started growing due to its positioning as a cross platform messaging. At that time, BBM was immensely popular in India.

2. Made free by Android – As part of Android’s growth, Google was promoting Whatsapp as a free app on the Android ecosystem which lead to zooming adoption rates across the world, particularly India

3. Simple, ad free & Social – With the social network coming on Whatsapp, there was an inherent lock in, and now, it was further increasing due to simple usability of Whatsapp per se.

Whatsapp – the utility and impact it has caused -

1. Largest personal & enterprise social network + collaboration – A lot of teams at the workplace have an internal whatsapp and this is increasing collaboration

2. Largest Alumni networking tool – Be it your school group, college group or graduation class group- every major institution that people joined have a corresponding Whatsapp group now.

3. Always on, Always Live, easiest - You can whatsapp when travelling, listening to music or as a refresher during office hours. This wasn’t the case with Facebook as it was blocked in a lot of offices

Right from a wife telling her husband that she is safe but under the rubble after a building collapse in Africa to wishing Happy Independence Day to Indians all over India, Whatsapp has had a deep impact already & in my opinion would be the top mobile app in India by a long way.

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Business, Marketing, Technology

The Smartphone Commoditization era

Yesterday, I was watching one of those typically bollywood movies – Phata Poster Nikla Hero. Why – well, funny as it may sound, I like the senseless dance, plot, storyline etc once in a while. However, while doing so, I noticed a very curious thing – everyone in that theater had a smartphone and all of them looked absolutely similar. This happened with me in the local train compartment, at the bookstore, at the Ganpati festival line everywhere. That made me wonder – are Smartphones getting commoditized – so much so that Smartphones are now classified as FMEG ( Fast Moving Electronic Goods!) ?

Smartphones now getting commonplace in India

Smartphones now getting commonplace in India

With Android getting increasingly dominant in the ecosystem, and so many players jumping on to the Android bandwagon there is a definite possibility that smartphones will become the de facto standard of the mobile world. Just counting the number of companies with at least one Android 4.2+ model launched successfully in India gives you a staggering number – 15! – Samsung, LG, Micromax, BenQ, Karbonn, Sony, HTC, Intex, Xolo, Spice, iBerry, Videocon, Huawei, Gionee, Lava and many more if you dig deeper! Also note that all of these companies have multiple models at various price points. On a related note – The lion’s share of the profits on Android phones globally have been made by one company though – Samsung. However, smartphone commoditization presents a different set of challenges. I try to name a few here –

1. Early adopter disenchantment - From the day when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in June 2007, there has been a cult of early adopters – to smartphones, to tablets, to app stores and to ecosystems. Commoditization leads to disenchantment among early adopters. These early adopters will now find some other pasture to buy their technological marvels.

2. Eroding margins – If everyone is selling basically the same product, the only way to compete becomes price. Unless there is massive cartelization, prices are bound to come down, even if Moore’s law is applied to smartphones. While this is good for consumers, I doubt if the mobile industry can take such a situation. The raw material cost etc is high and increasingly, quality cannot be compromised in front of a consumer who is getting more technology savvy by the day.

3. Power of alliances and marketing grows – In such a situation, the carriers will become increasingly powerful and career bundling may again come into the picture for India. With the smartphones increasingly getting commoditized, alliances on the carrier side, retailer side, marketing side, mass media side and distribution side will become vital to stay afloat for these firms.

4. Consolidation – While some of these firms have enjoyed tremendous profits and have deep pockets – unless they diversify, there is a definite possibility of consolidation happening in the Device manufacturer industry. Similar consolidation has already been happening in the app manufacturer industry, gaming industry, e-commerce industry and I don’t see why this industry won’t see consolidation in the near future.

What is your opinion – Is Smartphone commoditization really going to happen? Let us know in the comments section! ( Image – 1)

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