Fevicol Ka Jod

In the urge to go “mobile”, many firms in India seem to have forgotten that it’s very easy to get people to download an app, through emoluments or aggressive marketing but very tough to retain them and increase the time spent by customer . Mobile applications do provide the brand with a stickier experience but retaining customers and encouraging them to spend more time requires a comprehensive strategy with a clear focus on UI/UX which is sadly missing in many brands

If I were to compare three categories – online retail , home delivery and travel, I would say only Travel apps seem to have cracked the UI/UX puzzle in India. They are user friendly, provide a simple guide for usage and make it easy for returning to use the app. While driving increased transactions , even if at a lower ticket size, Ola and Uber are both killing it. That said, TaxiFor Sure did come up with some usual innovations such as multiple destinations that could be saved and a better Wallet system but the acquisition seems to have killed their app innovation cycle. Uber could do well to copy some of the TFS innovations,if not their technical systems which always seemed much better than Ola’s and Uber’s.

Online Retail such as Flipkart/ Myntra suffer from the discount mania. The offers may drive people to download the app but I doubt if people will return considering that it is far more difficult to compare products on a mobile application as opposed to a website. A mobile app may make One click purchasing much simpler (assuming the credit card details are stored) but in India one click purchasing is still an unknown commodity and with recent delivery fiascos and purchase rollbacks, it may be a mistake for ecommerce companies and firms to go all in with a mobile app

Home Delivery apps are horrible. I checked out all of them and was disappointed universally. To the extent that the news that Zomato is coming up with an online delivery mechanism gives me hope. Home Delivery apps need to really focus on presenting the information better and focusing more on better products than providing lots of offers to drive traction.

It is important all mobile app companies are clear on these points of their mobile strategy –

1. Not driving traction through offers as much as through addressing a clear pain point which wasnt accessible through website/ online channels. For example Ola/Uber providing point to point transport options

2. Driving value for vendors and other stakeholders by providing more data and info on customer profile while enabling higher transparency for customers . This helps customers get clarity on what they are paying for and why a premium can be charged (like surge pricing in Ola/Uber)

3. Focusing on a consistent UI/UX strategy while differentiating oneself from others. No Hamburger menus . Focus on simplifying the whole process so even a 60 year old can use it. Ideally the litmus test should be handing over the app to the mobile developer’s parents/ elders to see if they can use it easily

Spamming us to Death

In the last two weeks, I have seen daily front page ads for myriad e-commerce firms, starting from the Big bullies like Amazon and Flipkart to smaller players like Craftsvilla . All these ads proclaim big discounts and scream about sales. Apart from regular sales, e-commerce players and now Mobile wallet companies blast offers through emailers, messages and other channels. As if this is not enough, some companies even force you to download their app when you are trying to visit their website.

Most Indian companies, e-commerce or otherwise have a poor understanding of digital marketing. They reapply the old print and TV marketing techniques of sustained marketing blasts and maximum eyeballs to drive sales, forgetting that these sales last only till the next player spends even more money or the discounts dry up. Worse, over time, the customer gets inured to the nature of these discounts and only reacts when the discounts are significantly larger. In the middle of all this, the brand loses hard earned equity as people concentrate more on discounts and choose to purchase products depending on the discount available.

If one were to measure the effectiveness of these promotions in terms of driving sales, we would probably see a definite correlation. However one needs to ask – is this customer sticky? What enables him to stick to an e-commerce platform or brand knowing that tomorrow another rival brand can offer him a better discount ? Is the cost of acquisition(in terms of discount offered + promotional cost ) valid considering the lifetime value of the customer cannot be calculated accurately?

Equally importantly, one needs to measure the brand impact. With concurrent discounts, app based sales and flash sales, e-commerce firms have created a false expectation in the mind of customers which will last until the VC funds last. Once the discounts vanish, the customer may well retaliate by switching / opting for offline retail outlets. Building a brand identity over time , even if initially costlier might have helped e-commerce firms slowly gain customers.

Traditional media is losing eyeballs and moving to the digital world. It’s high time marketers understood that in this modern world, it’s not sustained spamming and media blasts but quality content which works best. Equally important for a brand is to be innovative and not just reactive. Although Oreo abroad and Amul, in India have a good reactive campaign, its taken them decades of research and work to create a clear brand image. It behooves brands to work on creating their own space online and not blindly copy the existing trends.

Spaces where there exist great scope for marketing and customer engagement include travel, healthcare and education. However Indian brands need to realise branding and marketing isnt just social media and specifically media blasts but also judicious use of channels and innovative content strategy.

One wonders how marketers will survive when email finally vanishes. How will they cope with the loss of traditional digital marketing channels. It’s time for marketers to come up with alternative solutions. After all, this is the age of Slack, Whatsapp and Uber.