Archive for July, 2015

Every Pageview Is A Conversion Opportunity

Friday, July 24th, 2015

Before formulating a food discovery startup’s GTM strategy, we recently test drove its mobile app. The app lists dishes of various cuisines from restaurants in the local neighborhood. Like many hyperlocal startups, this one started operations in one city and then planned to expand to other cities.

As soon as I installed the app and opened it, I saw a registration screen along with the option to skip this step. Given my views on this subject – see When Should Mobile Apps Ask Their Users To Register? – I hit the SKIP button. When I reached the next screen, I was prompted to select my location from a dropdown list. I noticed only one entry, Delhi. Since I was in a different city (Pune), I bailed out.

At first glance, given that the startup had begun by aggregating restaurants only in the Delhi market, its decision to restrict the app to users in the nation’s capital made sense. Technically, that is. But, the app lost a great marketing opportunity.

If the app were redesigned to let users from other cities explore it, it would help the company

  1. Generate pre-launch buzz in new cities and use that to prioritize citywise expansion plans
  2. Acquire a handful of early adopters in a new city (e.g. Pune) even before launching operations
  3. Accelerate onboarding of restaurants in new cities by demonstrating a ready customer base


When he heard this, my friend Paras Kuhad who had connected me with this startup’s founders, exclaimed, “Every pageview is a conversion opportunity!”

I couldn’t have said it better.

Let me explain my rationale by taking the example of UsingMiles, a website that aggregates miles from multiple airlines, hotels, credit cards and other merchants. After registering on the website, I was able to add my Lufthansa Miles & More, IHG Rewards Club and PAYBACK memberships to the platform. However, I couldn’t spot Jet Airways’ JetPrivilege program on it and clicked the “Add Program” button on the website. When I entered JetPrivilege and hit the submit button, UsingMiles displayed a message to the effect that JetPrivilege wasn’t yet featured on it. The website then gave me the option of being notified whenever it onboarded JetPrivilege. A couple of months later, I got an email informing me that JetPrivilege was now on UsingMiles. I went ahead and added this program to my previous list.

Long story short, I’ve now consolidated virtually all my rewards on UsingMiles and recommend the platform to all of my friends who find it cumbersome – like I did before I found UsingMiles – having to visit different websites to track their various loyalty programs.

Although I first spotted it on UsingMiles, this approach could be adopted by apps and websites that start from one city or vertical and expand to other cities or verticals over a period of time. And it is: For example, TaskBob, a “Uber for Handyman” type of app, which operates only in the Powai neighborhood of Mumbai but lets anyone use it.

A similar strategy could also be implemented by cloud software vendors to entice their Freemium users to upgrade to their Pro plans. HootSuite is a great example of a company that does that.


The social media dashboard app displays Pro features even to Freemium users, who, over a period of time, become curious and click around. When that happens, like it did with the Bulk Message Upload link in my case, HootSuite explains the feature and gently reminds Fremium users that the feature is available only on the Pro plan!

Regardless of who uses this approach, it’s key to remember the underlying “Paras Kuhad Principle”: Every Pageview Is A Conversion Opportunity!

Appealing To Millennials – The Challenge For PayZapp Mobile Wallet

Friday, July 17th, 2015

Since I wrote HDFC Bank’s PayZapp Ends My Bill Payment Woes, I’ve successfully (knock on wood!) made a few more payments using the mobile wallet and am even more convinced that it addresses the needs of power users very well.

payzapp12That said, PayZapp faces many challenges in appealing to Millennials and other first time users because this segment of the market tends to assign vastly different weightages to the security-trust-convenience elements of the online bill pay trifecta as compared to people who have embraced PayZapp after trying out other alternatives.


When first time users notice that there’s no need to enter CVV, VbV / MSC or OTP to complete a PayZapp payment, they might undergo a culture shock. For power users, this might not seem a big deal – no American website I’ve used has asked for VbV / MSC or OTP and some have even skipped the CVV entry step – but first time users might bail out when they encounter this entirely “passwordless” experience.


On the face of it, first time users might find MobiKwik, M-PESA, PayTM and any one of half a dozen other providers of third-party mobile wallets to be as compelling as PayZapp. At first glance, they might not sense the risk involved in loading a third-party prepaid wallet or find a big difference between paying a utility and a bank / MNO / third-party payment service provider.


According to legend, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook as a tool to help nerds get dates in US college campuses. In India, on the contrary, tech savviness is a badge of honor that everyone wears proudly. Maybe because IT won a place for India on the global stage or whatever, anything to do with tech is considered cool in the country. For example, if a mobile app crashes while trying to discover a user’s location automatically, the user will figure out how to force stop it, re-open the app and enter the location manually. And go and boast about how he made the app work to his friends. Even girlfriends! Frictionless, by itself, is not so appealing to win customers.


Millennials view online bill payments in a very different light compared to power users. It’s against the backdrop of their vastly different perception of PayZapp that HDFC Bank must find ways to appeal to them.

This is not easy. Let me take my experience with the security element of the trifects to illustrate the challenges faced by the bank in doing so.

Since I was familiar with Apple Pay Provisioning Fraud, the first thing that struck me when I onboarded PayZapp was, what stopped a fraudster from creating a PayZapp account with my credit card information and going on a shopping binge at my cost?

In its FAQ, HDFC Bank rules out the possibility of this happening. While I wouldn’t claim that I fully understood the bank’s explanation, I felt comforted that HDFC Bank had raised this question upfront instead of pointing fingers at users and / or merchants if and when provisioning fraud happened at a later date.

But that’s only me.


To Load Or Not To Load Is The Question!

It’s highly questionable how many first time users would take the trouble to download a PDF, understand the finer points behind the bank’s cryptic assurance that PayZapp is not susceptible to provisioning fraud and go ahead with adding their card, especially debit card, to PayZapp (Despite my comfort feeling, I only linked my credit card). When power users hestitate to link their debit cards to PayZapp, like I did, it’s not a big deal since they can link their credit cards, like I did. However, most Millennials and first time users only have debit cards – there are 500M debit cards in India versus 20M credit cards – and any hesitation on their part to link their debit cards to PayZapp will deal a severe blow to PayZapp’s customer base.

Moving on to the trust and convenience elements of the trifecta, PayZapp has strong differentiators compared to other modes of payments. However, it’d be wishful thinking to assume that first time users would readily appreciate them.

It needs concerted efforts by the bank to articulate the strengths of PayZapp in the context of the security, trust and convenience considerations of first time users. How well the bank does that will determine PayZapp’s success in winning Millennials over. Going by the confused messaging it’s giving out on key features of PayZapp, as illustrated in the above picture on the left, HDFC Bank has a long way to go on this count.

Launching Conversion Rate Optimization For BFSI

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Logo_FrictionlessSolutionsIn a recent interview with McKinsey, Citigroup CEO Michael L. Corbat alluded to shopping cart abandonment when he mentioned that today’s digital customers “just stop filling out the application” for financial products when they’re asked for “things that weren’t necessary”.

Long a bugbear of ecommerce, this problem has started hampering the BFSI industry’s efforts to boost digital distribution of checking accounts, mortgages, certificate of deposit, insurance policies, and other financial products. Since these are generally more complex than books, CDs, gadgets and the other “usual suspects” purchased online, banks and financial services providers tend to suffer even higher abandonment rates than ecommerce companies.

But, with our CRO for BFSI, it doesn’t have to be that way. Under this service targeted exclusively at the Banking, Financial Services and Insurance industry, we test drive your digital sales process, identify friction hotspots and suggest remedial measures, which could help you to convert more browsers to buyers and multiply bang for your digital marketing buck as illustrated below*:


More details on our offering, methodology and success stories can be found here. The impact of CRO on your topline is best illustrated by the following graphic:

Acutely sensitive to the compliance challenges faced by the BFSI industry, our methodology does not hinge on intrusive testing or rely on insertion of tracking code into your website or mobile apps. Since we focus exclusively on CRO, we’re not subject to the usual conflict of interest faced by digital advertising providers who benefit by recommending higher ad spends. While we’re second to none in technical skills, we pride ourselves on our unmatched domain expertise in BFSI as a result of our involvement in fintech with several financial services companies in USA, UK, Middle East, North Africa and India for over a decade.

Over the years, many companies have benefited from our CRO service, one of whom is a leading private sector bank that pioneered the online sale of bank accounts. We enhanced the CX of this bank’s Instant Account portal by recasting its language and navigation around product specifications, branch nomenclature and email delivery timing, to name a few areas. To find out the identity of the bank and know more about how our engagement helped it to multiply its rate of converting browsers to buyers, click here.

Should banks, financial institutions and insurers wish to explore ways of using our unique combination of CRO expertise and experience to bolster their digital sales, we’d be happy to discuss further.

*PS: The tagline in this stock image is not entirely correct: 1 Sale to 8 Sales is an increase of 7 Sales i.e. 700%, not 800%. 10% Conversion Rate to 20% Conversion Rate is an increase of 10 percentage points, not 10%. The line should read “100% Lift In Conversion = 700% Increase In Sales”, which is still quite impressive!

HDFC Bank’s PayZapp Ends My Bill Payment Woes

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

I get around 15 bills a month from a variety of telcos, utilities, and other billers. Being an omnichannel freak, I don’t have any bias towards how I pay them, with my choice of payment channel depending largely upon where I am when a certain bill falls due: If I’m close to my laptop, I pay at the biller’s website; if I’m in the biller’s neighborhood, I pop in to its office and pay at its counter. I’m a user of what bill pay insiders would call the “Biller-Direct” option of bill payment.

I’m also a big fan of rewards, deferred payment and enhanced fraud protection offered by credit cards. No other payment mode – debit cards, electronic fund transfers, cash or cheques – match these benefits of credit card. So, when it comes to the payment instrument, credit card wins hands down – whether I pay online or offline.

Of late, credit card payments have become very painful in India. While I’ve blogged about this subject many times, here’s a quick recap:

With a regulatory framework that doesn’t seem to care about throwing the payment baby out with the fraud bathwater, there’s a lot of friction in both online and offline card payments in India.

Online payments follow a very circuitous route and inevitably time out midway, leading to failed payments.

As regards offline payments, India is perhaps the only country in the world that has implemented not just Chip or Chip + PIN but Chip + PIN + Signature. Many billers who used to accept card payments earlier are not longer able to do so under the PIN regime because their POS machines can’t support PIN or, as is the case with one of my MNOs, they bungled their kiosk migration to PIN.

Loath to forfeiting rewards, I went on a search for alternatives to the Biller-Direct model so that I could continue to pay with my credit card.

I tried Vodafone M-PESA, MobiKwik, PayTM and many other third-party mobile wallets who support the Aggregator-Direct option of bill pay. I’ve blogged about my experience with M-PESA here and will cover the others in a follow on post. Suffice to say that none of them addressed the delicate balance between convenience, security and trust to my fullest satisfaction.

Therefore, I went back to my default biller-direct option. My bill pay woes continued as usual but soon hit a low point recently when three of my online payments failed in a row and two of my billers couldn’t accept credit card at their stores – all in a day’s work. This was when I started yearning for a Cash on Delivery option for bill payment – credit card rewards be damned.

Instead, I got PayZapp.


PayZapp Supported Payments

Launched by India’s largest issuer of credit cards – one of which I hold – PayZapp allows users to store HDFC Bank-issued debit and credit cards on their smartphone and make bill payments in one tap. I downloaded and installed the app. The onboarding process went through smoothly, which was a pleasant surprise given my perpetual crib about how banking applications are rife with friction. To make a payment, you open the app, enter your 6-digit PIN, enter your biller reference number and the amount you wish to pay, tap a button and voila, your payment is done. No need to load money first.  No need to enter CVV or VbV or wait endlessly for an OTP. No need to crack complex CAPTCHA codes in between.

PayZapp is an authentically-mobile app that leverages the features of a smartphone unlike many other mobile apps that merely work as mobile version of the desktop web.  It stores a cryptic device signature on the user’s handset during onboarding. By using this signature to authenticate the payor during each transaction, PayZapp claims to fulfill the regulator’s two factor authentication mandate for card payments without – and I can vouch for that – making him or her jump through a hundred hoops.

From what I could make out when I tried it, PayZapp seems to do all the heavy lifting between the issuer, network, acquirer and merchant systems by itself.  Therefore, I’d imagine that the risk of failed payments would be low in the case of PayZapp (Time out faced by a user when s/he is shunted from one website to another is the primary cause of failed payments when users pay directly on a merchant’s website.) This matched my experience – all four payments I initiated on PayZapp this past week sailed through smoothly. Each transaction took barely 10 seconds. And all this happened on the same Internet connection on which I’d suffered the aforementioned three failed payments in a row during the previous week.

I know that PayZapp operates in the Bank-Direct model of bill pay rather than my default Biller-Direct model in which I pay the biller directly. In plain English, it means that, when I use PayZapp to pay a bill, I’d need to trust HDFC Bank to send my money to the biller. For reasons I’ll explain in a follow on post, I find that easier to do than trusting a third-party mobile wallet startup to do the same in the case of an aggregator-direct payment.

While it’s still early days, PayZapp has come closest to ending my bill payment woes. Some analysts have called PayZapp a game-changer and India’s Apple Pay moment. I tend to agree with them and predict that PayZapp will gain rapid adoption – but only among power users who have tried other options and found shortcomings with them.

When it comes to first time users and users of third-party mobile wallets, PayZapp faces several hurdles in winning them over. More on that in a follow on post. Watch this space.