It is quite natural for any company to follow the industry trend of naming pricing plans – after all, use the nomenclature what others are using, as customers (we hope) understand these nomenclatures quite well.
But Netflix took a first-principle approach to this and decided not to use the standard naming of its subscription pricing plans.
Instead, they stuck to keeping things simple and as a function of what-you-get.
After all, if you name something you take up precious seconds during the sign up flow where the consumer evaluates the names themselves, then evaluates the offer.
And you have to spend ad money/attention educating consumer on what the name of the plans mean. If I tell you that you’re on the “3 DVDs-at-a-time” plan it is much clearer than telling you that you are on the “Gold” plan.
Barry Enderwick Former marketing Netflix 2001 – 2012 (Via)
Simple, right? The usual ‘Don’t-make-me-think’ strategy, which has gone super rare these days.
InfoEdge has been running successful products at scale and importantly, given the churn in the audience, the product teams really need to stay agile and keep building for the new audience and their evolving taste.
Here is an AMA we did with Puneet Verma, VP of Product at Naukri on the product management process they follow.
How can anyone make sure that they are diversifying the products along with making sure that it is aligned to the common vision of a company. ?
Organizations usually have core pillars around which they weave their vision and hence product offerings. Once you have solved the core problems which you started with then you tend to jump on the second set of problems. Usually, these problems are not entirely orthogonal to your core product Eg. LinkedIn started with professional networking and then moved towards job opportunities. Similarly, Glassdoor has primary offering as Ratings and Reviews about the organization, and secondary (which perhaps would soon or already has become primary) are job openings.
Whenever you go for diversification you usually try to leverage the existing offering this helps you in getting a strong runway beforehand. Hence, if one would like to diversify then one should primarily look into extending the core pillars of the vision. Having said that, companies with deep pockets tend to diversify in orthogonal directions as well like Snapdeal and Paytm had done.
How do you prioritize your product features / roadmap?
Usually the journey starts with settings the directions for next entire fiscal. Multiple factors viz. Areas we want to attack basis current economic condition (like COVID or IT boom or Make in India), Areas where business is willing to invest to achieved next set of growth, Data from existing set of features and consumer journeys on the platform to identify leakages in the funnel, Sales Team input basis what clients are asking for, Interview/Feedback session with users, etc. aid in deciding the directions. We believe that idea can come from anywhere within or outside the organization hence we keep doing brainstorming meetings with internal stakeholders as well. Once all these have been explored then we design our Annual Product Roadmap which then further split into Quarterly ones. Thereafter Tech team come into picture for T-shirt sizing. Once these high level estimates are available then we take the final call on the basis of RoI.
Do you guys follow the Scrum process? What are some of the modifications you have done to the process?
Yes, we do religiously follow SCRUM. While we try and stick to the traditional process however this doesn’t keep us away from experimenting basis observations and team’s input. Most of the modifications are project and circumstances driven viz. during the start of COVID since it was unexpected for everyone hence to pull off a useful product for all impacted jobseekers that too in a quick time we went into a start-up mode and thus a bunker sort of was created to complete the entire project from conceptualization to Go LIVE state in less than a month.
How do you hire product managers? What are the core qualities you look at?
We hire both from campuses and market. From campus perspective we go to Tier 1 B-Schools only while from lateral the condition of Tier-1 B-School gets an extension of relevant work experience as well. Usually we go for people who are engineer turned management professionals and have worked as or at least with developers during their job post engineering. This helps PMs to communicate with developers and even data scientists more effectively. These are just proxies and of course doesn’t guarantee one’s success in a PM role. After this screening, a few most valuable traits that we check are empathy, comfort with data, understanding the right problem from entire gamut of issues, etc.
Do you guys follow the north star metric principles? I mean, Naukri is a big company with many businesses – so each biz unit has its own metric? How does that work?
Indeed, since Infoedge has multiple companies under its umbrella like Naukri, 99acres, Jeevansathi, Shiksha, Naukrigulf, etc. and each of the brand is focusing on a different Domain x TG hence metrics are bound to be different. However, similar to most of the other organizations in the market a few metrics are holy grail and thus being followed well by almost all brands.
Usually, each business track metric which is directly or indirectly related to the revenue. Let’s say for Naukri an important metric is active user base which factors in 3 major set a) Acquired Users/New registration b) Engaging existing users c) Reviving dormant users
Since Naukri has nearly 5% of Indian population registered on it’s platform hence revival of users become equally important as acquiring new ones.
Coming to other metrics which are more around funnel level and essentially explains the health of different levers which eventually help grow active user base hence revenue.
Are the new companies focusing more on Me too features more than implementing new? For example – the most common features in every product we use are stories, likes, shares, or anything on such. If product A is implementing a feature, Product B will surely be implementing it. Are we trying to create generic products in search of generic features? How can we focus on creating new features and making our customers adapt to them instead of switching to the other platforms which have the me-too features?
Broadly features are originated from one of a few sources including a) Internal data basis the opportunities or leakages you observe b) Customer feedback c) Competitors d) Innovation
In above, 4 sources D is one of the riskiest yet rewarding, and usually, companies which are in early-stage or mid-stage tend to play conservatively unless they have strong financial and advisory backing.
Usually, the founders I have spoken with or start-ups I have been advising are more inclined to follow a success recipe which is to put some traditionally accepted and supposedly trending features on their platform, at times even without thinking twice that if it would really add value to their platform or if it’s contextual to their audience and solution. The driving factor is FOMO here.
Coming to the last sub-question of your set of questions these days retention is quite difficult especially when you try and retain each and every cohort of users on your platform therefore you need to decide your battles first and then work towards fighting them. Usually, companies become uneasy when they start losing some market share of the set of audience that they don’t want to primarily focus on and then they start building features to retain them. This results in a placebo effect for the companies and thus doesn’t help much in long terms growth and vision.
How do you look at acquiring the new generation audience, given that products like Naukri has been around for many years – and there is an age bias to it.
You rightly said since Naukri has users from various segments and each segment has its own expectations. While few are still comfortable or I’d say habitual of usual job search platform which they have been interacting with for ages and they don’t want to get into learning curve again. On the other hand, we have a new-gen audience that has slightly different expectations.
Being a market leader it is expected from Naukri to have a solution that can serve the needs of both worlds. That’s exactly what we have working on and thus you may have seen and would see some exciting features in near future.
Run ads? Go out and start making noise in all possible traction channels?
Finding early adopters of your product is extremely hard – irrespective of whether you are building a B2B or B2C company and the process itself gives you a good peek into the story that lies ahead of your startup.
Early Adopters: How do you define them
First of all, let’s define what are these early adopters? What makes them special?
They are, simplistically put – Curious, Brave and at the same time, they have a problem for which your product might potentially fit in.
By curious what I mean is that most of your startup’s early adopters are, in general curious about trying out new things – they are interested in new technology, new ways of doing things.
Being Brave: What does being brave really mean?
Wells up lots people often tend to look at changing their habit or behavior as a very risky thing to do- for example if I am used to going to airport using my car or I have a very standard cab vendor, why would I risk taking up an Ola or an Uber?
But then, if I am an early adopter I would be brave enough to try out the new products.
Maybe in some cases it will work, in some cases it won’t!
I’ll give an example: A few years back (~2017, I believe), I went out with my family to a restaurant and came across this funky app that enabled us to order food, directly from the app instead of talking to to the waiter. Well, I was quite intrigued by it and remember this was around 2017-18 – I went ahead and ordered the food from the app.
Everything was messed up. We ordered X, got Y. Finally, I looked at the hard copy of menu and realized that there was this serious issue of id mismatch! I was an early adopter, but my family didn’t spare me from that 🙂
Early adopters are brave enough to try out random products, knowing that most won’t work as-expected. It’s the thrill that matters to them.
Find people who have similar problem statements.
Instead of shooting in the dark, we need to really find out the ones who have a problem statement that the product can solve.
For instance, if you are launching a Clubhouse clone, look at pockets where there are people who want to connect with others. They are not too touched by Clubhouse and yet are brave enough to try out a new product. How about say, a network of MBA/Engg college students who want to connect with their seniors and really figure out job / career prospects (especially in the times of Covid)?
You get the drift, right?
Now that we have defined the early adopters, let’s figure out where you find them and how do you bring them to your product.
Where do I find my early adopters?
Simply put, you gotta be where they are.
Do not run ads. Do not run paid campaigns in the early days. Get off your comfort zone and be where your potential early adopters are.
A lot many founders / product teams often hide behind the world of paid ads, PR etc. In the early days, I’d rather say that be the face of your product.
Face all the rejections, questions and even indifference (helps in your entrepreneurial journey).
How Tinder did it.
In order to get early users to the product, Tinder cofounder, Whitney Wolfe printed a few thousand flyers and paid students $20 to help her put it on car windshields, hand it to people and throw it into dorm mailboxes.
Whitney Wolfe, Tinder and Bumbl Cofounder
She repeated that process with several universities. That process got her around 300 users. One week later the number increased to 1.000 (via).
That is, fish where the fishes are.
That’s the shortest path to find early adopters of your product.
This is how Ola did it
Ola founder, Bhavish stood outside the NextBigWhat’s UnPluggd conference venue in Pune to get early adopters to the product. He knew that a lot of people came from Mumbai to Pune for the conference and would like to go back same day.
Being at the right time, right place will help him connect with the right early adopters.
You gotta fish where the fishes are !
Wanna learn more about building great products? Learn from world-class experts on FWD app.
A visit to Clubhouse these days feels like a visit to ghost town. Very few interesting conversations and importantly, none of the celebrities are to be seen there.
Rewind to 4 weeks and we had Elon Musk, Zuck, Naval et al organizing these lavish parties and we all stood up outside the gate to join those thousands of listeners.
And much of this is attributed to the star power which A16Z gang brought to Clubhouse – pretty much the entire Silicon Valley!
They are gone. And so is everybody. No parties. No fun. No real talks.
Clubhouse was also competing with conferences. It almost took inspiration from these high-profile conferences, where people attend to listen to big celebrities, network with people who are just like them, ahev their wine and go back.
Just that, unlike these conferences, there is very little post-event networking and friendships.
I am not referring to just the Indian market, but also the global conversations – there are very few great clubs happening now.
Well, I am no expert in human psychology, but I believe the celebrity power of Clubhouse GTM has brought in more consumers than producers. I am talking about the intent of usage, which pretty much defines how you will use the product in the long run.
Most now see Clubhouse as a place to listen to celebrities and not a place to talk to people who are like you.
Your community. Your friends. People who are at max 2-3 years senior in the career/startup / life ladder and the ones with whom you wanted to network – you don’t talk to them on Clubhouse.
You don’t talk because they don’t talk. They don’t talk because they are all waiting for Naval and Sriram to talk or bring celebrity guests.
Question : How many of you have ever tried creating your own room at Clubhouse?
The default behavior is to join a celebrity talk show, listen and that’s it.
Almost feels like a rock band that is not gonna play because the lead guitarist and singer are missing.
The audience does not know that they can have fun either ways also. They can sing their own song, play their own music.
The club offers them guitars, drums and all sorts of instrument.
But they are waiting…waiting for the show to begin.
Will the Android app launch bring back the zing? Well, my guess is as good as yours. Wait..let’s talk about it @Clubhouse 🙂
PS: I run a Sunday newsletter for ProductGeeks. Join in.
Pretty much all the important roles in an organization fall for confirmation bias, that is *I know-it-all* bias, and ‘this-is-how-it-works’ bias.
For example, if you have had a very successful run with the launch of a product, the chances are that you will be 100% confident that the next product launch will be super hits (in fact much better than the previous ones).
Why? Because you know how-it-works. How the system works. You know the taste of the audience. You know how to do PR. You know how to create the right noise.
Well, at least you think so.
By the way, remember Nokia? Blackberry? Ouch…. Let’s move on.
How does one stay open to new ideas, then?
Practically speaking, most successful managers/leaders end up surrounding themselves with yes-(wo)men and that just adds very significantly to the *I-am-inevitable* syndrome.
How can one break free from this?
The simplest way to keep learning new ideas is to surround yourself with people who are talking and implementing new ideas.
Where do you find them? Outside your comfort zone. Outside your office. Outside your current network.
What does that mean? How do I figure this out?
UnStage Yourself !
Learn to be in the audience (and not just the speaker).
What do I mean? After a point, most *accomplished* professionals stop attending any event/meetup/workshops (online or offline) as an audience.
Either I am invited as a speaker. Or I am too busy to attend events.
– 99.99% of senior leaders
If you are always the smartest person in the room (i.e. talking and dispersing gyaan), you are definitely not learning. Some of the amazing leaders I know are often attending random Clubhouse events to Zoom webinars to learn and get more perspective from others.
Learn to be an audience. And a great one at it. The first step towards being curious is to become a true learner.
Set yourself up for failure (outside work.. to start with) !
Of course, I won’t recommend trying out this in your core job – but try to set yourself up for failure outside your work.
For instance, start writing if you aren’t doing so. It not only improves your clarity and gets better at work (read: Why Product managers should write). But if writing is not your thing, start a TikTok channel or a podcast or whatever – that keeps you in front of an audience and opens yourself to be judged (and laughed upon).
Congratulations on swallowing up all your ego and pride 🙂
If you want to improve, you must be content to be thought foolish and stupid.
Mingle with Younger Colleagues
Seriously. All the great disruption is happening there.
Plus, culturally, one needs to be a lot more aware of the new new world, and the only way to do is to become good friends with your younger colleagues.
The new jargons/lingos to how they consume products/think of new tech – all of that is a mini-crash course in itself!
“You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way.”
Last, but not the least.
Up-skill yourself. Everyday. Find an app, a group, what’er works for you – but have a dedicated time to unlearn.
For instance, if you believe that email marketing always works – start leanirng messenger marketing or podcast marketing – a new skill will change your entire perspective on how much is there to the world than your own knowledge/skill (plug: this is one of the core reasons why I am working on FWD app, but more on that later).
Is it even feasible? What skills do I need to learn and unlearn in order to transition from QA to Product Management role.
Well, a lot of companies want to hire product managers who have had a QA or support background – but then, they look for that extra spark.
What’s that extra spark? Can anybody do this?
First, let’s talk about the QA role. A great QA professional has extremely sharp attention to detail skills (can identify bugs like a James Bond); and this helps tremendously in the (smooth) transition to a product management role.
QA Can Zoom like a PM
The smartest QA professionals are really good at zooming out and then zooming in.
What’s zooming out and zooming in?
Zooming-out is taking a high-level view – that is, from feature to a product and then to business side of things, from user story to user journey, i.e. evaluate everything from multiple stakeholders’ perspective.
Zooming-in is just the opposite – that is, go deep into the product and the feature set. What works and what doesn’t? How should the user experience be? What should the user do? You wanna have a red button or a blue one? Which one works in what context? What are the edge cases?
Tell me, who handles all these in a product team? Ideally, a curious QA team member !
Note: Not all QA professionals are really fit to transition to product management role. One of the main challenges I see with many QA professionals is that they don’t question others a lot. That is, they do not question the features, the user flow etc and tend to just test without really worrying about the user experience – that doesn’t really fly in product management career.
Wanna transition from QA to Product Management? Get the FWD app!
In this conversation between Ashish Sinha and Nazara Founder, Nitish Mittersain – we discuss the early days of the Internet in India, the magic of Shammi Kapur, and how Nazara not just survived the multiple boom-bust cycles but is now roaring to scale further post IPO.
Very grateful to @AnnieDuke for her guest appearance on #StartingGreatness. She offers many great lessons for ambitious founders.
Summarizing in the below thread…
1/ There are different types of “games” in business and in life. Some are based almost entirely on skill, like chess. Garry Kasparov will beat me 100 times in a row. Luck won’t rescue me.
Some Games involve lots of chance and uncertainty. More like poker.
2/ If I play the world champion for an entire night, I likely lose my money. But in one hand, I might have a 40% chance of winning.
Startups are more like poker than chess. They involve skill combined with uncertainty and chance across thousands of decisions, big and small.
3/ What will customers want most? Is this the right price? Will there be a recession next year? etc.
Too many leaders think of decisions as all-or-nothing. They say “I assert this will happen.”
Annie Duke’s books, “How to Decide” and “Thinking in Bets”, show a better way.
4/ First takeaway: Think in bets
When someone asks your opinion about something where there’s high uncertainties, the correct response is “I’m not certain, but here is how I am thinking about it.”
5/ When we express our level of confidence by saying “I’m x% sure,” rather than as an all or nothing, we open the door for others to collaborate with us better, tell us what they know, and act like scientists in our shared quest for the truth.
6/ Acknowledging that decisions are bets based on our beliefs, getting comfortable with uncertainty, and redefining right and wrong are key first principles to good decision-making in uncertainty.
7/ Second Takeaway: Don’t assume a good outcome means you made a good decision; and vice versa.
If you ask most people, “what were the best decisions you made in 2020?” more times than not they will answer with the things that went well.
“I’m glad I bought Bitcoin in 2020.”
8/ But it’s important to avoid the mistake that Annie calls RESULTING, which is confusing the quality of an outcome with the quality of a decision. The reason is that there are way more possible futures than the one that actually happens.
9/ When you are dealing with high uncertainty, you need to consider a matrix of potential outcomes.
On one dimension you have a good decision vs a bad decision.
On the other dimension, you have a good outcome vs a bad outcome.
10/ Imagine I play a single hand of poker with Annie Duke and I get lucky and win.
If she assumed I was better than her just because she lost a single hand, she would miss the opportunity to separate me from my money before the night is over.
11/ Or, imagine I gained false confidence after winning the first hand against Annie. I might lose all of my money even faster because it might cause me to take foolish risks.
12/ Making matters worse, we tend to let “memory creep” cause us to remember things differently from how they actually happened. We tend to think we knew it all along, especially when things go well. It seems like it was due more to our decisions and foresight than it really was.
13/ Which brings us to the final takeaway: Document your thoughts and learnings constantly
In “How to Decide”, Annie tools such as a Knowledge Tracker, Decision Tree, and Premortems for every key decision.
14/ When you create a knowledge tracker, you document what you knew and when you knew it.
The first thing you capture is stuff you knew or assumed before the decision.
Then you focus on the new stuff you learned after making the decision and the precise time you learned.
15/ By tracking what you thought you knew and when you knew it, it helps you resist the temptation to have hindsight bias based on the outcome. It also lets you look back in time and see what factors you might have overlooked.
16/ The second tool is a Decision Tree. For every decision, you identify the reasonable set of outcomes, including the range of bad outcomes and horrible ones as well as expected outcomes and better than expected outcomes.
17/ Then, you identify your level of preference or dislike for each outcome. If one of the potential outcomes could ruin you, make sure you call that out.
Next you estimate the likelihood of each outcome.
18/ You look at your options and decide which probability weighted option best matches your preferences. A decision tree also helps you understand if you framed the decision well.
If an outcome is highly unexpected, maybe you can frame the possible outcomes better next time.
19/ The last important tool is a Pre-Mortem. You identify the goal you are trying to achieve or the decision you are considering.
Then you figure out a time in the reasonable future. You imagine it’s the day after and things have not worked out.
20/ List up to five reasons you failed due to things within your control and list five reasons you failed due to things you can’t control. This is far better as a team exercise where everyone lists the reasons separately and then compares notes.
21/ Or, you can approach a glass half full perspective. You imagine a time in the future, but you achieved the goal. You list the five reasons you succeeded due to things in your control and five reasons you succeeded outside of your control.
22/ Startup life, like poker, is a long game, and there are going to be a lot of losses, even when you make the best possible bets. You will be happier and perform better when you realize we’ll never be sure of the future.
23/ This mindset shift changes our task from trying to be right every time to navigating through the uncertainty.
By framing decision-making and leadership as a quest for truth in the face of uncertainty, you can reduce personal conflicts and counterproductive beliefs.
NextBigWhat’s upcoming conference, UnPluggd Conference 2019 is all about building product-led growth businesses and will bring together 1,000+ product leaders, entrepreneurs, product managers, geeks and investors.
The conference, taking place on Dec 13 & 14, 2019 will feature over 30+ speakers that have scaled products, created big businesses and importantly, are willing to share it all. UnPluggd and ProductGeeks Conf together (Day 1 & 2) will bring you the entire spectrum of product, growth and disruption.
Introducing to you, the next conference speaker: Vijay Arisetty, Co-founder and CEO of MyGate, an app that simplifies access to gated premises. Facilitating over a million check-ins per day, it has also partnered with brands like Swiggy, Zomato & Dunzo.
Vijay Arisetty is an alumni of National Defense Academy (NDA) and was a helicopter pilot with the Indian Air Force for a decade playing a pivotal role in managing disaster relief operations. He later went on to graduate from the Indian School of Business (ISB) and worked as a VP at Goldman Sachs before conceptualizing and founding MyGate along with co-founders Abhishek K, Shreyans Daga and Vivaik Bhardwaj.
As the founder of a pioneering startup that created a category from nowhere, Vijay has many insights and learnings to share when it comes to product, product-market-fit, MVP and evangelizing digital products to markets who might be reluctant to change.
What would you like to hear Vijay talk about? Let us know by tweeting to us @NextBigWhat
Date: Dec 13th and 14th, 2019 Venue: MLR Convention Center, JP Nagar (Bangalore) Registration: You can use the widget below or purchase from conf site.
UnPluggd is happening on Dec 13 and 14th at Bengaluru. Grab your super early bird tickets right away and avail 35% discount!
NextBigWhat over the years has always been about bringing to you the latest in Indian and global startup and technology news, keeping you informed, up-to-date while at the same time ensuring an emphasis on up-skilling and actionable knowledge via our courses, meetups and community initiatives like our marquee conference UnPluggd, which will be celebrating its 17th edition come December.
Today, we are happy to announce version 4.0 of NextBigWhat: leaner, sharper and more meaningful than before.
Version 1 of NextBigWhat was a startup blog (Pluggdin!) – highly opinionated, lots of action and debates.
Version 2 was a startup news and communityplatform – it is something which remains close to our heart!
Version 3 has been a mix of being a community and a discovery platform.
Version 4, which we are unveiling today is all about you. And our sincere attempt at enabling you to become future-ready and information-smart.
If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.
Jargon aside: What exactly are we doing? Three things:
#1: Focus on deep-tech.
We are the home of deep tech content in India. And to this end, we are interviewing founders / business leaders from AI and EV companies. Expect 2-3 deep interviews per week (some free, some pro).
Again, these interviews aren’t meant for everyone – these are meant for the ones who believe in shaping the future, prefer to have a skin in the game in shaping up the new world.
I am happy to announce the launch of 4 new courses, which will go live very soon !
We continue to stay focused on our mission of enabling you to Build, Grow and Repeat(incidentally our tagline) – i.e. scale product-led growth businesses using actionable knowledge and wisdom from our courses as well as community efforts.
TL;DR: We are not doing any media/newsy content on NextBigWhat anymore (unless it belongs to deep-tech segment).We have totally moved away from the media-centric business model and while we continue to play the role of curator, we are now deeply focused on our courses and conferences – delivering you signals and actionable insights.
We strongly believe that there is info overload on the web (=distraction) and if you are the kind who respects his/her time and on continuous lookout for more signals (that help you become better at your work), you’d find NextBigWhat 4.0 super helpful !
We respect your time and would rather be a partner in your journey towards creating great product-led businesses!
I personally believe that the golden moment for Indian product ecosystem is just around the corner and it’s time to push the pedal !
This is why we started and happy to go back to our roots – of product and tech!
Inch Wide. Mile Deep.
Of course, we continue to bring super actionable content via our conferences and community initiatives (meetups, AMAs) and do expect a whole lot of new initiatives in the coming days.
Next step? Go ahead and signup for our newsletter (if you haven’t already!).
If you are part of a deep-tech company, we would love to talk to you (just contact us).
After 5 years of construction, Beijing’s $11 billion Daxing International Airport will be opening for passengers on September 30, ahead of China’s national day celebrations on October 1.
What’s interesting about the airport – designed by architect Zaha Hadid – is its state of the art AI powered security system said to be the country’s most advanced. Passengers at the sprawling five terminal building will be able to check in and board their flights via face recognition systems that will require little human intervention.
As per the state broadcaster CCTV, passengers will require to only go through a single check that combines passport control and security screening before boarding their flights.
More than 30 high-tech infrared monitors have been placed at gates in the arrival area, which will check identity, collect body temperature and scan luggage within seconds.
Beijing currently has world’s second busiest airport with Beijing Capital International Airport that handled 101 million passengers last year. The new airport is expected to double the air transport capacity of the city.
With over 200 million users in India, Whatsapp is unsurprisingly now one of the most attractive ways for brands to interact with their customers via chatbot. Although the official launch of the Whatsapp Business API took place in late 2018, the process for acquiring it, as well as the best practices for implementation – at least in India – remains somewhat elusive knowledge.
Keeping this in mind, NextBigWhat spoke to a number of stakeholders & people familiar with the system to share their learnings in successfully integrating Whatsapp APIs.
In this post, I’ve distilled our conversations to give you a clear round-up of what we were able to gather i.e you will learn how to go about getting access to the API as well as what you should ideally do once you have it.
How to access the Whatsapp Business API?
The Whatsapp Business API is available only via certified Commercial Service Providers (CSPs).
Reach out to any one of the above vendors and initiate the application process. It is advisable to go with the Indian vendors as rates work out the lowest for Indian customers.
You must receive Business approval from Whatsapp. No fixed number/Whatsapp account is necessary for this step. This process takes 3-4 weeks on average.
Once approval is received, choose a number for your official Whatsapp channel. It is advisable to have two numbers – one for production and the other for staging as testing might get tricky otherwise.
There are two main types of messages you need to be aware of: Template Message & Session Message
As the name suggests, this is a message that is templated with placeholders for dynamic data. The templates have to be approved by Whatsapp before use, and the approval process takes between 2-3 weeks.
These messages are triggered by user actions outside of Whatsapp i.e a conversation that hasn’t been initiated by the user on Whatsapp. Template messages are chargeable and cost 29 paise/message (as per latest info). They can have upto 4000 characters and support emojis as well as non-English languages. However, images reportedly aren’t supported in the current release.
Messages initiated by the user are called Session Messages i.e when the user sends ‘hello’ or any other keyword to your Whatsapp number. You have a 24 hour window to respond to the messages and this channel is usually used for support.
Explicit outbound marketing, healthcare related services, government services, adult content etc. are strictly not allowed currently.
Whatsapp API Messages Pricing
Template Messages are charged at 29p/message in India according to sources. We still haven’t been able to verify the charges for Session Messages, but we are in the process of doing the same and will update this post as and when we receive confirmation.
Things to keep in mind and best practices:
Order of delivery is not guaranteed:
The order in which the messages get delivered may be haphazard – both on the user end as well as the business. You can control this on your end by maintaining a certain gap between multiple messages, however there is little you can do on the user end. Sometimes, the internet connection could be a bit iffy or the user may send messages when he/she is offline and the messages get sent much later when they do get online.
You should be prepared to deal with grasping the context in mixed order messages by building a feature set on top of the Whatsapp API as they do not offer anything of the sort currently.
Differences with traditional chatbots in terms of collecting input:
Unlike traditional chatbots, you have no option to present buttons on Whatsapp. Your flows must incorporate lists (‘Reply with 1 for…’) and keywords (‘Reply with Yes for…’) and be intelligent enough to attach intent to each conversation so as to not lose context.
Be prepared for a variety of responses:
Users may respond to lists with keywords and keywords to lists. They may use sentences, synonyms, emojis or even slang in their replies. You should be aware of this while building your conversational flows. In India, many Whatsapp chatbots reportedly also receive audio messages in response.
Although incorporating NLP via audio may be a bridge too far for most companies, you can however build intuitive flows that are ready to deal with a diversity of text-based responses and scale that approach.
Be creative with your copy:
The last thing that users want to be reminded of while speaking with a chatbot is that they’re speaking with a chatbot. Have folks from your creative team design the copy for your messages which incorporates personality, spacing, bolding, ASCII art, emojis and more. With inspired copy you can reduce your drop off rates and keep users engaged, ensuring that a lot more of your support requests are resolved at the bot level.
Personalize your messages as much as possible:
If you have access to enough data to be able to segment your users by demographic or taste or any other relevant filter, you can personalize your messages to suit them. Hence a ‘Hello Neeraj ji’ to North India based users may elicit a better response than a ‘How’s it going?’ that may be better suited to a younger audience in metros.
You can also personalize by making your system smarter in learning probable causes for contact. If a user reaches out within a few hours of placing an order, it is likely that it is with regards to that particular order, and hence a relevant query can be sent out immediately to confirm if that is the case, before moving forward.
Integrate Indian languages:
With millions of non-English speakers getting online and accessing web-based services, it is unquestionable that companies must incorporate Indian language support within their chatbots – be it on Whatsapp or elsewhere. Due to the pre-eminence of English in India, users may even respond in Indian languages via Roman, with the most prominent example of this being Hinglish. Progress in this space has been slow but it is worth taking into account for any company moving ahead with chatbot integration into their support flow.
Manage threaded replies:
Chatbot messages are saved as regular messages on a Whatsapp user’s device, and a user may choose to quote a message that is a month old and reach out expecting a response. Therefore, while it is important to maintain a threshold to close open conversations, it is worthwhile investing time and effort in building a system to maintain contextual metadata of old messages so as to be prepared for such cases.
Intelligent routing to humans:
Make sure that you’re explicit when it comes to the limitations of the bot to the user. Integrate outs within the flow of the chatbot to route to humans to resolve the problem, as being stuck within an unuseful chatbot flow may be highly frustrating. You can be smarter about the routing by, for example, ensuring that users are routed to geographically relevant support teams in the case of a grocery delivery service or any service where local knowledge may prove useful and so on.
Strategically deploy read receipts:
Regardless of the complexity of a process initiated by a user on chat, he/she sees the message ‘delivered’ and ‘read’ via the two ticks and therefore assumes – on a cognitive level – that the message has been read and expects a response, and fast. To manage this, one could, in certain cases, send a 200 OK status code for ‘delivered’ i.e single tick, and withhold the ‘read’ receipt until a response is ready. UX-wise, this may reduce friction.
Keep it simple stupid:
Do not expect to be able to use – currently, at least – Whatsapp for complex data collection as long forms are inherently unintuitive on the platform. Where the net number of questions are low, it may be worthwhile integrating it on Whatsapp. Be careful not to overwhelm the user with information or requests for information though.
Monitor the conversations for learnings:
Relative to industry-based privacy concerns, monitoring conversations will help you learn which parts of your conversational flows are working and which aren’t. You can then further optimize them and the processes attached to them.
Build dashboards for your teams:
You will need to build dashboards for your business, sales and support teams. Track metrics such as delivery rate, response rate, conversion rate, first response time, average response time, average handling time etc.
Be flexible about your flows:
Your conversational flows will change over time, based on requirement, reports, data and change in business structure, hence be prepared for it on a technical level so as to be able to manage repeated changes smoothly. You must aim to eventually build a system that will allow your marketing and support teams to be able to change the flows on their own without hindrance to the backend.
Key lessons from GoIbibo’s experience with Whatsapp APIs
At a recent ProductGeeks meetup, we had Vikalp Sahni, CTO at one of the pioneers of using Whatsapp APIs in India, GoIbibo, conduct a tell-all session revealing their experience and the lessons they learnt.
Using the Whatsapp APIs, GoIbibo was able to boost conversions, bookings, feedback and many more key performance metrics and demonstrate a successful integration.
Do share your feedback/comments by tweeting to us @NextBigWhat.
Rahul is VP/Head of Product Management @Zomato. Also, he has earlier led products at Snapdeal and worked with Twitter product management team.
At UnPluggd Conf. 2019, Rahul Ganjoo will share some of the hard lessons learnt building consumer products (you can also recommend your topics to him).
Scheduled for Dec 13th and 14th (in Bangalore), UnPluggd Conf. 2019 will bring together 1250+ product team members (founders, product managers, geeks, marketers) and is an amazing place to learn/engage and network with each other.
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“In the software world it’s very particular for platforms… These are winner-takes-all markets. So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard phone platform – non-Apple platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win,” [Bill Gates at Village Capital’s event]
From Company G to M
“It really is winner takes all, If you’re there with half as many apps or 90 percent as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom. There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system. And what’s that worth? $400bn that would be transferred from company G to company M”.
On screwing up..
“There is this idea that just small differences can magnify themselves. That doesn’t exist for a lot of businesses. You know, if you’re a service business, it doesn’t exist. But for software platforms, it’s absolutely gigantic. And so that’s partly why you have the mentality that every night you think, ‘Am I screwing this up?’. And eventually we did screw a super-important one.”