2016’s Top Mobile Rank Tracking Tools

The 2015 Comcast report revealed that the number of worldwide mobile internet users has surpassed those of desktops i.e. 1900 million, as compared to the latter’s 1700 million users. This gulf is only set to widen with increased adoption of mobile devices as a primary source of accessing the web. Marketers, therefore, need to pay close attention to this traffic channel as it is bound to drive a large amount of traffic to websites in the near future.

Currently, there are several SEO tools that provide desktop ranking services, but only a handful few also provide mobile rank tracking.

Below we have listed them along with their key features:

  1. SERPsserps.com

Free trial period of 30-days. Provides the following features;

  • Mobile Friendly Tag Detection (shows how mobile-friendly  your website is)
  • Compares Mobile/Tablet Ranking to Desktop Ranking.

View Pricing Plan


  1. RankWatchwww.rankwatch.com
  • Rankwatch has two different pricing options – for daily and weekly reports. Pricing starts at $29 for 1000 keywords tracking.

View Pricing Plan


  1. SERPLab.co.ukwww.serplab.co.uk
  • Their starting package includes mobile tracking services at a basic cost of $4.99 for 600 keywords and increases by $4.99 with additional 300 keywords.

SERPLab has a unique pricing plan

  1. AuthorityLabwww.authoritylabs.com
  • AuthorityLab also provides a 30-day free trial, which allows you to add up to 500 keywords.
  • A key feature of the software is that it allows side-by-side comparison of the performance of the desktop and mobile version of the website.

View Pricing Plan

  1. Advanced Web Ranking Cloudwww.advancedwebranking.com
  • In addition to mobile ranking, Advanced Web Ranking Cloud tracks and analyses the impact of social media activity on the website.

View Pricing Plan

  1. SearchMetricswww.searchmetrics.com
  • SearchMetrics provides a Free Demo on the services they provide.
  • The Mobile SEO Visibility function is a premium feature available in the Suite Business package or higher.

View Pricing Plan


10 Digital Marketing Trends to Adapt in 2016

10 Digital Marketing Trends to Adapt in 2016

2015 has been a great year for the Digital Marketing industry. Now that 2016 is here, it is time that we gear up for the changes and adapt new marketing trends that we will see taking effect in this year.

1. Live Video streaming
Live video sharing is gaining popularity day-by-day. When Periscope began in April 2015, it reported 1 million subscriptions within 10 days of the launch of the product and later that year in the month of August hit the 10 million users mark. On the other hand, Facebook’s live-streaming function known as “Live” is in already featuring in Facebook’s Mentions app. Facebook bets that people are looking to live-stream, and as a user, even if you haven’t shared a video live, you must have definitely viewed a live video. That alone shows how even the biggest social media platform is making way for video streaming.

2. Video Marketing
YouTube alone has almost 34% of all people on the internet. The independent content creators are gaining popularity on YouTube. According to YouTube, creators have filmed and produced over 10,000 videos which have generated 1 billion views and over 70 million hours of watch time. Facebook’s auto-play function has been beneficial in grasping the attention of people. It has seen the number of video posts increase by 75% in 2015 alone. Therefore, spreading your message through an interactive video has a higher chance of gaining traction rather than just an image or a post.

3. Performance Marketing
Affiliates and Influencers are a great way of gaining followers. Mega Bloggers and industry experts have their own following and they mentioning a brand or product make an impression on their followers. Affiliate Marketing, has been tried by various brands in 2015 and have shown great results, thus, they are bound to increase in 2016, creating a whole new trend.

4. Employee Advocacy
With the increasing competition in on social media, reaching more people organically has become absolutely necessary. Having company employees spread the word personally on social media increases the reach of the company. Getting employees to share company updates on social media is an easier and cheaper way to reach a larger audiences. Not only is it cheaper and easier, but more reliable too as messages from employees are 6x more trustworthy. Employees become brand advocates and a higher rate of conversion can be expected. Increasing competition has opened up the gates for employee advocacy and will be in high demand in 2016.

5. Re-targeting
Reaching the existing clients is going to be absolutely essential. The millennial generation is not a very brand loyal generation. It is all about the shine and glamour that attracts the millennial generation. Although it is difficult to keep getting back the customers, re-targeting is going to be an integral part of the marketing strategy in 2016.

6. Live Chats
With the e-commerce industry booming, the personal touch with the consumers is somewhere lost in the mix. With the introduction to live chats on e-commerce websites, the personal touch will make a comeback in 2016. Not just the website, even on social media, when replying to people’s grievances, it must not be based on templates or standard messages. A lot of emphasis on human communication will be given in 2016.

7. Rich Media Pins
Social media slowly and subtly turning to be commercial platforms. With Pinterest growing the integration with top platforms such as IBM Commerce, Magento, Bigcommerce, Shopify, etc. creating rich pins is has become less of a hassle. With Facebook and Twitter introducing the buy buttons to their social media platforms; it is evident that the “BUY” button will be a hot thing in 2016. Besides, 35% of millennials said they were likely to use a Buy button on Facebook or social sharing platforms.

8. Organic Reach
One of the biggest challenges on search and social media is reaching the customers organically. Facebook’s aim to create the most interesting stream of content has made it easy for people to categorize the news they like to view but at the same time has increased the task of the marketers to reach customers organically. Therefore creating personalized and highly relevant content in order to increase organic reach will be a high priority.

9. Content Marketing
Digital marketing as a whole is becoming content-centric. With the evolution of the Facebook News Feed, more and more stress will be given on creation of new and consumer-friendly content. New options for publishing content online will open up, thanks to instant articles and moments tabs on Facebook and Twitter respectively. The content will become more consumer/industry focussed.

10. Mobile First
According to Global Web Index, 80% of Internet users own a smartphone. In the second quarter of 2015, Google announced that the total number of searchers on handhelds had surpassed desktop searches. It’s newly launched app-indexing algorithm will only boost mobile searches and in-apps data.


9 Essentials to Market Your iOS App

Marketing is a function you need to take up for the launch of any new product and this can be done in two phases viz. Pre-Launch and Post-Launch.

As of May 2015, Apple’s App Store became the second-largest app store with close to 1.7 million apps. Therefore, it is necessary for the developers and firms marketing the apps to know how to get the masses to download their app.

A few simple ways to market your iOS App online:

  • Create a Blog or a Website: It is very important to have a website or a blog when it comes to marketing an iOS app. It’s where users can come and learn about the app or product even before it is on the App Store. Also it shows and proves the authenticity of the app and gives more exposure to your products.If you have more than one app, the blog or website can also be a centre point for the users to know about your other apps and products. The key is not making the website so full of content, that users get bored, for this one page websites are the best. Provide working links to download the app and to attach to your social media. Keep the social media involvement to the minimal on the website.

Websites Collage

  • Videos can Work Wonders
    Marketing an iOS app through a video is the best and easiest way to get your message across to the audiences. A demo video allows you to show in a very short time what your app is all about. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, think of the impact a video can achieve over the masses. A few tips to produce an efficient demo video:
  1. Consider your audience. Keeping your app target audience in mind at all times when creating your script and video is the key in creating a good plot.
  2. Write a script. It’s best to have a short story in place for making a good script so that the video not only has your product in it but also a good meaning and a message in it. The key is keeping it short and sweet within 20 seconds and 45 seconds.
  3. Focus on the benefits and added value of your app. Make it efficient. Keep things dynamic and avoid boring. The goal is to show what your app is all about, but you also want people to remember it and be able to download it.
  4. Keep it simple. If you’re not a video expert, it’s safer to keep it simple so don’t use crazy cheap-looking effects or complicated scenario. A simple structure like intro -> core features/gameplay of the app -> outro is most likely enough. Make sure the app name, icon and a call to action are displayed, inviting viewers to download the app on the app store. Displaying your website address helps, too.

Chipotle and Moonbot Studios together produced an animated film and a mobile game called “Scarecrow” as part a campaign. As a branding initiative, it’s generating crazy results with the advertising video they released. In its first two weeks, the YouTube video saw about 6.5 million views and within four days of the mobile game’s releasing, it was already downloaded 250,000 times.

  • Social Media Presence
    No matter how you feel about social media platforms, it goes unsaid that most of your iOS app marketing is going to be done on these platforms itself. This social media presence also works as a mega platform for users or visitors of the app to give feedbacks.
    Make your presence felt. Create a page or group so that people can see and discuss about your product. Use call-to-action buttons to re-direct users directly to the app store. Run a particular type of #hashtag campaign! The hashtag can be either the tagline of the product or something that has to do with the function of the app or tells more about the app. All the social media platforms use hashtags these days, and you can keep a track on the trend of the particular hashtag.
    Don’t be just on one or two social media platforms. Social Media platforms come and go. But, being into IT, you should be on top of the social network, marketing iOS apps on as many platforms as possible, so that you don’t lack on social media presence.

Some successful hashtags campaigns: White House #getcovered, Doritos #crashthesuperbowl, NASA’s #GlobalSelfie

  • Get Feedbacks
    Feedbacks can be received through various platforms such as your Facebook page, Twitter page or people posting with your Hashtags. But the most important place to get a feedback is on the App Store itself by getting the feedback from the actual users, but also you have to make sure to keep only the relevant feedback, for the reference of the visitors. To be better than what you currently are, you can take up pre-launch feedbacks, so that on launch day and after that, you are better than how you started out. These can be done with the help of third party sites, who undertake apps for testing and feasibility study, providing on a feedback at the end.


  • App Store Optimization
    You can’t just market your iOS app without doing a little of App Store Optimization. That only means you should do everything you can to give your app as much visibility as possible on the App Store itself. And convert all your visitors into users! Some of them are common sense, but it never hurts to check. Talking about optimization, Search Engine Optimization is another tool you must use to market iOS apps. This only boosts the search result of your product.Forbes and KissMetrics have broken down and explained in detail the process of App Store Optimization.
  • Cross-Promote Your App
    If you’re serious about building an app business or marketing iOS apps, then you should create more than one app. If your apps are interdependent, then your target audience is more or less similar in all these different apps, then you have a huge opportunity for cross-promotion. This means that even a free app, with no revenue model whatsoever, can be a great first step to a second and third apps that generate revenue and can make good for the first app.
    As said earlier, you can have a single website or different websites for the various apps, and can cross-promote on your app websites, on your blog, on your email list, within your apps, by sending push notifications, on social media, etc. As long as the message you’re sending is relevant to people receiving it. If you have only one app to start with, you can reach out to other developers with apps targeting the same niche (but not direct competitors) and offer them to do a partnership. You can start really small (tweets, in-app messages, etc.), and see where that goes.
  • Paid Advertising
    Paid Advertising is by far the best way to market your iOS app and let people know about your app. Although it may be the best way to promote your iOS app, knowing where to place your advertisement can impact a lot on the entire marketing strategy. So not just paying for advertisement, but also placing them at appropriate places at appropriate times can impact sale and market awareness of the product.There are various platforms that have ready to use tools to advertise. Social Media Platforms allow you to use filters so as to reach your target audience. All you need is the creative content to put in with attractive words so as to catch the attention of your target audience.fb-ad-stream1
  • Launch Day – The Final Kill!
    Launch Day for the app should be the peak of your “marketing crescendo” even though the marketing activities for the app may go on even after the launch.All we talked about up until now leads to this. Except if you went for a soft launch (or released your app in another country first), this is the time you have to create as much noise and buzz as possible.This is when you should get bloggers and journalists to write about your app and give reviews about it (if they post a link to the App Store directly, then make sure your app is actually on there – it takes time for it to become available worldwide).
    You need to inform and intimate everyone that showed an interest or gave you a feedback and helped you, that your app is ready; email list, Facebook followers and friends, Twitter followers, forum buddies, readers of your blog, real-life friends and developers…Everyone!Let them know it’s HERE!Get your app in people’s hands, get great ratings and build momentum.
  • Improve Engagement with Push Notifications
    Push notifications can be great to keep your users informed and go to your app; new content available that they care about, any special offers or some cross promotion, etc. can be done through push notifications.Your users don’t necessarily check out your app often, but if they still have it on their phone it probably means that they have decided it brings them enough value. And you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to them.Don’t abuse it though, or they will soon consider you spam them and won’t want to hear about your app anymore.Take a look at various apps and their offers, and find the right fit for your app and budget.

Marketing your app can’t be an afterthought. Neither can it be a one-time effort.

It’s about:

  1. Building the right app and building it right
  2. Finding what makes users come back to your app
  3. Listening to users and other developers’ feedback
  4. Building an online presence
  5. Engaging people and generating interest
  6. Optimizing your app store page
  7. Reaching out the right way
  8. Doing cross promotion
  9. Choosing the right promo campaigns
  10. Keeping on measuring to know what works and what doesn’t

It’s really not easy. But it can be rewarding, and you’ll learn plenty along the way.

Read More »


How to make Facebook tabs work on mobile!


You have created a fantastic Facebook Application for your campaign. Great!

You have created the tab for the app on your page and are expecting a lot of engagement on it. But did you know that Facebook tabs have a limitation that they work only on desktops and not on mobile devices?

Here’s a workaround to get your Facebook page tab to work on mobile and reach out to a wider set of audience across platforms.

You can achieve this is 3 simple steps:

Step 1:
Create a mobile friendly facebook application i.e. the design should be responsive.
Keep the original URL of the application handy. This is not the Facebook app URL but the the URL of where the application is originally hosted.

Step 2:
Create a user agent checker URL. Based on the user agent, any LAMP programmer can easily write a code and re-direct it to either the Facebook tab app or directly to the mobile friendly URL of the application.

Step 3:
Use a URL shortener- like bit.ly for sharing the link on your Facebook page or other places. This also helps you hide the new URL.

Here’s an example of how we built a cross platform compatible Facebook app:

Step 1:
We created a Facebook Application called “Dealfie”.
The URL https://www.facebook.com/SocioSquares/app/695391040540854/ takes you to the app. Once you are there, it requires you to accept the Facebook application terms.


Now, try opening the same URL on your mobile.
You will see that Facebook displays Error 404 “Page not found” as illustrated below.


Step 2:
We created a URL http://dealfie.co/landing.php which can check the browser on which the application is being called on and redirect it to either Facebook or a different destination.
On opening this URL on a desktop, it will open as
Now try opening this URL on mobile.
It would open: http://dealfie.co/tab/register
This is same as the url that Facebook calls as an IFRAME on the tab.

Step 3:
Using a standard URL shortener, we created a new URL and hid the landing URL. http://bit.ly/1bIyd1o
This new URL can be used to share on Facebook and other social platforms
Now try opening this url. It will open something like below once you have accepted Facebook app terms.


If you found this hack useful or if it worked for you, share your experience in the comments.


Real Estate SEO: How To Generate More Leads

Nowadays when researching for homes, the internet is the first touch point of reference for most buyers. This is why proper SEO practices in place is crucial for real estate companies.

Here are few of the basic pointers you should follow when starting of your SEO campaigns

1. Carry Out Basic Optimization Practices

Ensure that you have the basic optimization practices in place – add the proper meta tags, robots and sitemap files.

2. Select the Right Keywords

Let’s say your property/home is located in Albion, New York. Your website is perfectly relevant for searches “homes in Albion” and “homes in New York”.

However there would have a greater likelihood of conversion happening for the keyword “homes in Albion” than “homes in New York”. This is because the former is super specific while the latter is a much broader term.

Again competition for “Homes in Albion” is likely to be lower than “Homes in New York”. However the obvious drawback is that keyword searches for “Homes in Albion” might be lower than “Homes in New York” but this approach should see you getting more qualified leads.

3. Get Local Citations   

Google and other search engine like Bing and Yahoo place a great emphasis on citation.  A citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). You should try to get as many relevant local citations for your real estate location as possible. White Spark CA had a comprehensive list of local citations where you can list your website. You can check them out here.

4. Enhance Your Listings

Buying a home is different to buy a hairdryer or phone. If you can give users an actual experience of the feel of the home, then you would have greater chances of conversion.

So here is what you should do –

-          Use high resolutions images of both the house and its surrounding areas. The more, the better.

-          Even better would be to create videos for better user experience

-          Get genuine reviews of existing/past customers to increase trust of future buyers.

This practice should be followed on both the website and the citations that you create.

5. Lead Generation Forms

Make sure to have lead generation forms on your website. Include chat boxes to capture potential leads.

6. Tie Up With Aggregator Portals

Aggregator portals are basically search engines for properties. Get your site listed in quality aggregator portals to increase reach. Few of these portals also allow you to link back to your website which.


Mobile Marketing Cannot Be Ignored: Rajat Gupta, Digital Head LINE India

Mobile Marketing is the new buzz word. With the smartphone penetration increasing rapidly in India, the users are spending more time on the small screen than on the desktops.

Advertisers are responding fast and mobile marketing is becoming more important than ever. Though the size of the pie might be small as of now, brands and advertisers are taking note of the potential of Mobile Marketing.

Rajat Gupta, Digital Head Of LINE India

In this chat, Rajat Gupta, Head of Digital Marketing at LINE India gives an insight on how one of the most popular messaging apps in the world uses mobile marketing and advertising in their marketing mix. He also discusses if brands and advertisers can afford to ignore the mobile as a medium.

How has the mobile advertising ecosystem matured over the last few years?

I think the mobile advertising industry is in its initial stages and what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. The brands are becoming more aware of the changing dynamics in digital marketing and now understand the importance of mobile advertising.

Though the spends on mobile are very small as compared to traditional and digital media, there has been a significant increase in the same. We will see a surge in that in the near future. Currently, not many marketers are aware about the mobile ad inventory options. Once that improves, we will see an explosion in this industry. At LINE, a significant portion of our advertising spends goes to mobile advertising.

What are the creative ways in which LINE is advertising to mobile users?

We do not use conventional targeting options such as location targeting because it is not important where our user is. Users might be chatting on LINE from wherever they are. But what is important to us is that the user must own a good quality smartphone that runs apps and must have a data plan.

We don’t advertise on mobile sites. We try to advertise on banners inside apps. We do not do advertising for branding because it will be difficult for us to measure the efficacy of that. Our advertising is performance driven.

By performance we mean app downloads. By performance we mean that the user downloads the app and registers on it. Install to registration ratio is a metric we chase religiously. Our priority for now is to get new users and increase the stickiness of the app.

How is the average click-through rate and conversion rate on mobile different than other forms of media?

The average click-through rate and conversion rate is higher on mobile than on desktop. One of the reasons could be that mobile advertising is new and people are attracted towards a new medium. A lot of customization can be done for a customer on mobile because we can know a lot about the user. That works because a desktop might be shared between multiple people but a mobile phone is personal.

Another reason for a higher CTR and conversion rate is that the mobile having a smaller screen has lesser distractions than the desktop where the user’s attention moves from one element to other very quickly.

Any innovative mobile advertising campaign that caught your attention?

I will answer this question taking something we do at LINE into account. For us, the task doesn’t end at the user just downloading the LINE app. We have to make sure the user registered after downloading the app and then starts using it repeatedly. We design our campaigns in a way that the communication is different for different users depending on the stage they are at on the user life-cycle.

Let’s say a user downloaded the app but didn’t complete the registration; we will show him ad banners reminding him to complete the registration to start enjoying conversations on LINE. In another example, if there is a user who downloaded the app and registered too but isn’t using it, we design special campaigns so that they start using the app more frequently.

What goes into planning a mobile media campaign? What is the division between targeting behaviours and understanding spending metrics?

It completely depends on the advertiser’s objectives. There can be different objectives like to acquire new customers or to reach out to people who have dropped from the funnel. For someone the objective can be brand building or just brand recall. Based on the objectives, we go for the data and design the campaign accordingly. We then choose the platform that will be relevant for that particular campaign.

Since LINE itself is a platform, we use it to reach out too. We give a high importance to the spending metrics because the cost for every line item in the campaign has to be justified. On the other hand, behavioural targeting is a prerequisite for any kind of campaign, be it for customer acquisition or branding.

What kind of data can an advertiser get about mobile users. Is this data being fully utilized to understand customers?

We can get almost all kinds of usage data about a mobile user. Some parameters that can be obtained are – service operator, the make and model of the phone he is carrying, data plan, area circle etc. Also, we can get data for the usage patterns of the user which tells us how much time he spends on voice calls, how much time is spent on the apps and how much time is spent on mobile internet.

Answering your second question, we use different data during different phases of the campaign. We start off with a wider target initially and the target gets leaner as we move along the campaign. This industry is very dynamic and we have to react to changes in real-time. Hence, the data, though not everything at once, is definitely useful in different situations.

How is mobile advertising helping LINE India to reach out to its existing and potential users? Is there something new you are planning for reaching out your users on mobile?

Mobile advertising is extremely important for us. It forms an integral part of our campaign planning. We are looking forward to try out new techniques and options in the future to make our advertising more effective.

Coming to the second part of your question, frankly, we don’t follow the industry; we sit down with tech architects of top mobile companies to figure out how we can sharpen our targeting.

We have real-time problem statements and our job is to create solutions for them. We are not following a trend; we are setting a trend here. We keep on slicing, dicing and targeting people to make our marketing more effective. The user behaviour keeps changing and we have to make informed experiments based on the limited past data we have to adapt to the change.

So if something doesn’t work, you go back to the drawing board to rework?

In this industry, we are always on the drawing board. Everything is real-time.

With this, he signs off.


David Bell and CMOs on retail and e-tail marketing

The interaction was on the latest trends in retail and e-tail marketing. Prof Bell discussed some interesting case studies and findings from his research

David Bell and CMOs on retail and e-tail marketing

SocioSquare (part of AKG Technologies), a Mumbai-based Social Media marketing company organised an interactive session for CMOs with Prof David Bell, Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) in Mumbai recently. Prof Bell is also an angel investor in SocioSquare and previous angel investments included Diapers.com, which was acquired by Amazon. The interaction was on the latest trends in retail and e-tail marketing. Prof Bell discussed some interesting case studies and findings from his research.

Senior Industry Professionals present for the sessions were Vivek Biyani and Sandip Tarkas (Future Group), Nishant Nayak (eGitanjali), Ashish Mehra (Mahindra Holidays), Sheetal Choksi (TRRAIN – Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India), Mukesh Jagwani (TOPPS), Damodar Mall (Reliance Retail), Deepak Jayaram (Group M) and Ms Nearose Suares (Vodafone).

The excited Gaurav Mendiratta, Founder & CEO, SocioSquare said, “The conclave was a great opportunity not only to learn from Prof. Bell’s research but also a great platform for attendees to ask questions based on their experiences in India. I believe the questions which came up were all real problems retailers face here and Prof. Bell did a stupendous job addressing each one of them.”

This post had first appeared on Samachar and has been re-published here.


Online Retailers Should Aggregate Customers Rather Than Splitting Them: David R Bell

Online retailers should think of clever ways to aggregate customers and deliveries rather than splitting them, David R Bell tells Masoom Gupte

David R Bell
David R Bell

In your article ‘What matters most in online retail’, you have said, “For internet retailers, the best market opportunities are with customers in locations where offline retail shopping is limited and costs (including sales tax) are high.” But isn’t there an immediate concern about distribution costs as the reach goes deeper in the country. How can online retailers deal with this dichotomy?

This audience (where offline is not as well developed) is the most receptive to e-commerce considering our need for e-commerce is lesser in Mumbai where you can go down to the Phoenix Mills mall, right? Even in other countries like China, this observation holds true that growth and demand for online retail comes from Tier-II and Tier-III cities. What needs to be figured out on the supply side is how you can deliver profitably into these cities, whether it is by charging for shipment or having different price points or simply choosing wisely what services can be given away free.

Consumers like to touch and feel the products they are buying. In one of your papers you’ve called this an ‘experience attribute’ and that uncertainty about it decreases the frequency of purchase or dollars spent. How can online retailers change this consumer mindset?

When Jeff Bezos started Amazon, the number one category that was selling in catalogues in 1994 was apparel. Instead he went to the 25th popular category in catalogues – books. He realised that books are the easiest to sell online as there are no surprises there.

There are three things that e-commerce players can do to address this experience attribute concern. One, they can remove this uncertainty by providing free two-way shipping. So if you want to buy a pair of shoes and want to know which size fits, let the consumer order three pairs and return the ones that don’t fit.

Two, use technological solutions. For instance, a consumer could upload a simile of her body and the clothes can be tried on this model. There should be some feedback on that basis as well to make the purchase choice easier. Three, have some offline footprint. Many US companies like Warby Parker and Bonobos that started as pure play online companies have partnered with retailers or got a section in a store focusing on their products.

You spoke of brands that started off as pure online players but who went offline, even if in a limited way. The corollary to that is offline players increasingly making an online play. Is it then less about an online-plus-offline presence, and more about offering an omni-channel retail experience?

Absolutely. In a few years time, people will see shopping as one seamless experience. There will not be this distinction between online and offline. While offline gives a sense of legitimacy to the business, online gives much broader access to customers. Both mediums have their strengths and weaknesses. Pure online players are going to realise that some offline presence is critical for their growth and offline guys will realise that there is a lot of untapped opportunity available online.

In the current retail environment though, offline trade is worried about showrooming (where consumers check products in stores but buy online for cheaper prices) as a growing trend. How real is the problem?

Showrooming is proving to be a tremendous problem in certain categories like consumer electronics. People go to shops that are known for their expertise, spend about half an hour getting a lowdown on which stereo to buy and then probably log on to cheapstereos.com and make the purchase. This is a nightmare for offline trade which provides a service in the market that someone just free rides and takes away. That’s why we’ve probably seen Circuit City go bankrupt, Best Buy is under tremendous pressure. I don’t think the problem has been figured out completely yet. But, people are thinking about using the store’s real estate creatively. There has been one move in the US. It’s called BOPS: Buy online, pick up in store. It is a little way in which retailers are fighting back. Such innovations are being experimented with.

When you look at online retail in developed markets and observe the space in the Indian market, are there innovations in terms of service or business model that stands out?

Provide insurance for the transaction and clean up the payment process. Next, minimise the two-way distribution, particularly in crowded cities. One of the innovations which we are seeing in the US is pertaining to the last mile distribution. Therefore, you see that all the deliveries in a particular area are sent to the local CVS Pharmacy (the largest pharmacy chain in the US) outlet that is open 24 hours, instead of individual deliveries being made. Think of clever ways to aggregate customers and deliveries rather than splitting them.

Is online retail unsuitable for products with higher price points?

I saw a presentation in February 2012 by the CEO of modaoperandi.com. She said that when the internet first started people thought it was about three things: standardisation, speed and low price. But, she said, it is exactly the opposite: really slow, really expensive and everything I sell is really exclusive. So she was selling $60,000 handbags, $10,000 dresses and taking four months to deliver them.

She recognised that even the fashion market at that very high end is broken. For example, when a fashion designer showcases his work, out of the 10 dresses displayed, the top two sell but the other eight don’t. But there may customers in another country who would probably have bought one of those eight dresses. Modaoperandi.com wanted to fix this ecosystem.

She said the internet is ultimately about access or experience, and not about standardisation, speed and prices.

The e-marketeer

* David Bell teaches marketing management in the Wharton MBA and MBA for Executives Programmes and empirical modelling in the PhD programme. He also teaches an elective course in digital marketing and e-commerce on both the Wharton, Philadelphia and Wharton, San Francisco campuses

* He specialises in the study of consumer shopping behaviour and his interest areas in research cover digital marketing, e-commerce and retail. Bell’s research has been published in several academic marketing journals. Till date he has published over 37 papers, such as What Matters Most in Internet Retailing (MIT Sloan Management Review), From Point-of-Purchase to Path-to-Purchase: How PreShopping Factors Drive Unplanned Buying, (Journal of Marketing) etc.

* Outside his academic career, Bell has advised and invested in e-commerce start-ups such as Bonobos.com, Diapers.com (which later got acquired by Amazon) and WarbyParker.com. He has even invested in an Indian social media marketing agency called, SocioSquare.

This post had first appeared on Business Standard and has been re-published here.


I Saw An Opportunity In Social Media Marketing: Gaurav Mendiratta, Founder, SocioSquare

“I saw opportunity in social media marketing rather than in creating content people are still not ready to pay for.” – Gaurav Mendiratta, Founder, SocioSquare

SocioSquare is a social media marketing firm founded two years ago by Gaurav Mendiratta, the entrepreneur famous for his earlier creation NyooTV, a social Bollywood entertainment portal which offered paid content in 2009. Mendiratta started NyooTV in Philadelphia, US, while working with American entertainment firm Comcast.

While NyooTV was still in the beta stage, Mendiratta felt the need to capitalise on his social marketing skills and shifted focus to SocioSquare in 2011. The company focuses on social media marketing products and services about 20 clients, including the Zee Group, the Times Group and The Mobile Store. SocioSquare host of services include social media optimisation, search engine optimisation, Twitter advertising, Web site development, customised social media tool creation, Web and social app development, digital media planning and buying, and email marketing. It has developed two products that solve common problems for brand marketers in the realm of social advertising and social content creation.

“I saw opportunity in social media marketing rather than just creating content for which people were still not ready to pay for,” says Mendiratta, who started SocioSquare in India. In the last two years the company has raised two rounds of angel funding and is present in Mumbai, where it is headquartered, San Francisco and Delhi. The plan is to enter more cities in the US and the Asia-Pacific in six months. Menditratta joined Comcast after a Masters in Telecom and Computer Networks from the University of Pennsylvania.


“I loved my job but always wanted to do something of my own. Ever since graduating, I kept meeting my thesis advisor and mentor Kartik Hosanagar every three to six months to brainstorm new ideas with him. Kartik is an advisor, investor and a director with the company,” Mendiratta said.

On his entrepreneurial journey, Mendiratta said that the initial days were full of struggle. He had started NyooTV in Philadelphia and recruited two developers in his home town Bhopal.

“I rented a 300-sq-ft room. During the day, I used to work with Comcast and at night I worked with my developers in India. It was a painful eight months till I raised the first angel round of $250,000 in September 2009. I quit my full-time job and moved to India in March 2010. When we pivoted to SocioSquare in 2011, we were a team of 10 people, which has now grown to 35,” he said.

Gaurav Mendiratta, Founder, SocioSquare 


However, switching from NyooTV.com to SocioSquare was a difficult and painful task as Mendiratta had to let go of several team members, who had been there from the beginning, as the company was unable to pay their salaries. But the switch was required for the company’s sustenance as NyooTV was not generating revenues. The Indian market had not evolved to the extent then where people would pay for content.

SocioSquare, which is a profitable company now, now wants to transform into a SaaS (software as a service) company and develop product that will help clients do real-time online advertising bidding. It is launching two products in the next three months, in Asia Pacific and the US. The company is targeting revenue of $5 million by December 2014.

Mendiratta feels that the Indian start-up ecosystem has come a long way since he first started. India is a very different market than the US. In the US, you can still raise angel funding on a great idea or a demo product, you can raise venture capital funding if you show a great product and early customers, but in India a solid revenue stream is a must or at least a few paying customers are required to a raise even angel money, he says.

Advising young start-ups, he said that they should invest in good talent no matter what cost that comes at. Besides, a revenue stream which can get going within the first six months of launch is critical as it will help pay 70 per cent of the total cost.

This post had first appeared on The Hindu Business Line and has been re-published here.



Sparkling relationships

I often find myself ‘ERR’ in my relationships, where ERR stands for Enduring, Repairing or Resigning. I created this acronym to decide the ideal path I should take. I am sure knowingly or unknowingly we all have used one or a couple of these strategies in our relationships, and I am pretty sure that resigning from a relationship is the least chosen. But is it often the best solution?

Gaurav Mendiratta Founder & CEO, SocioSquare

I wonder if the other principles of life apply to relationships as well — theories that claim that success comes to only those who work hard and are patient. I fail to find an example of a relationship where we put in hard work and it blossoms. Be it a relationship between co-workers, couples or friends, do you believe hard work or patience or intelligent work can make it a sparkling one?

With couples, men often create situations, where their partners end up resigning or giving up, but here I found myself in a situation where I resigned from a six-year-long relationship. It wasn’t like I had not endured or tried to repair the relationship and I am sure my partner tried the same innumerable times, but the real question is when do you call it quits or resign. While I still fail is to answer a simple question, did I endure for a bit too long or did I resign early?

Even if we look at work relationships or people in our team(s), I am sure we can’t like everyone and it becomes really tricky when we are not on great terms with a senior colleague. Not everyone can be as smart as Dr Gregory House from the popular TV series, that he/she can make his boss miserable and can still survive every work-day. The question again arises: how long do you endure or try to repair, and when you call it quits?

When I’m stuck in such dilemmas, I often admire the West. Yes, they have a high divorce rate and they may seem self-centered, but they don’t see everything as right or wrong. It’s all about perspective for them, which is what I love!

Coming back to our question — should you endure till both parties become miserable and one party gives up? This would make sense if it was a competition, but it hardly ever is. It could be the case with a couple or colleagues at work or between the boss and employee, but unless you are competing for something why endure? Why try to repair? Why not resign and quit early, and cause less pain to everyone?

As Gandhiji once said, the only devils in the world are those running around in our hearts. It is much easier and pain-free to control our own devils, be the bigger person and build sparkling relationships or get out of them in good time.

This article had first appeared on Impactonnet and has been reproduced here.

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