Technology & UX

Best Ecommerce platform in India to build your online store – 2021 edition

  • Rohit Uttamchandani
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  • 5 November , 2021
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    • 10 min read

If there is one thing Covid 19 has taught us, is that brands now have a stong and viable channel to connect directly with consumers - and that channel is digital. With thousands of direct to consumer brands springing up, setting up your online store has never been more easy.

When starting out a new ecommerce venture, there are a lot of elements that need to be figured out - right from the ecommerce platform (which this post explains in detail), payment gateway to integrate with your ecommerce site, product photography, social media strategy, customer acquisition, customer retention, search engine optimisation & a whole lot more. There are a whole lot of specialists out there who can help you with each of these elements or you could take a digital marketing course in India or buy a book on digital marketing to familiarize yourself.

The first step when starting out is the ecommerce platform and the number of such platforms and content management systems available has grown over the years. While they are plug and play, many of these offer custom software and platform solutions. In such a scenario, figuring out which platform to use when you’re looking to build your online store can be a fairly confusing task - especially if you aren’t from a technical/ecommerce background.  This post intends to make your research work easier by helping you choose the platform best suited for all your needs.

If you want to skip reading the blog and want our best recommendation, then head to Shopify. With over 16 lakh businesses leveraging Shopify globally its an ideal choice for most.

Managed e-commerce platforms vs. Content Management Systems (CMS)

There are two options available for building an e-commerce website – one can either use managed (hosted) e-commerce platforms like Shopify Zepo and Ship Rocket or open-source Content Management Systems (CMS) like WooCommerce or Magento.

As the name indicates, a hosted ecommerce platform is hosted on a server that you will not have access to, while CMS-based websites are self-hosted on server space (such as Bluehost or BigRock)  you will have to purchase. Which option to choose will depend a lot on your specific needs as well as your level of technical involvement. Below is a list of benefits of both which could help you make a choice between the two based on your business’ current requirements:

Benefits of using Hosted ecommerce platforms

  • Lower development and maintenance – There is no coding expertise required, thereby eliminating the need for a development team. Also, the hosting is shared, which lowers the server costs.
  • Better technical support – Most online store creators have a strong tech-support team to assist users with any issues that may arise.
  • Less complex to work with – The back-end for most of these platforms is user-friendly and is built for ease of use keeping in mind users with limited technical knowledge.

Benefits of using a CMS

  • Better functionality – Multitude of plugins, add-ons and themes available for content management systems allow the addition of advanced functionalities that would not be possible in the case of self-hosted platforms.
  • Better customizability – Content management systems allow the freedom of adding/modifying features as well as building a customized design unique to one’s brand. They also allow for constant improvements and enhancements to the user experience on the site, which plays a major role in today’s highly competitive ecommerce space.
  • Can support large stores and sophisticated websites – Content Management Systems, being self-hosted do not have a limit to the number of products or categories allowed, so they can handle much larger stores as well as sophisticated websites.

The server can also be an important aspect of how your ecommerce site is built and we usually use the Linux based servers being provided by Bluehost or Amazon Web Services. We usually refrain from using Windows based servers.

You could use this flowchart below (Click on the flowchart to enlarge) to help you arrive at a decision on whether you should go ahead with a hosted ecommerce platform or with a CMS, based on your requirements:

Once you’ve made your choice on going ahead with either of the two platforms, here is a list of the 5 best options you could explore in each niche:

5 Best hosted ecommerce platforms

If you’ve decided that an online store creator would better suit your business, then below are the 5 best platforms available for you to choose from. While Shopify would be our top pick, two of these – Zepo and StoreHippo have been chosen with the Indian market in mind, as being mostly domestic players, they might have a better understanding and feel of the local market.

Shopify:

Shopify is one of the first names that comes to mind when one thinks of an online commerce platform. With close to 1.6 million sites using Shopify, it is the most popular hosted ecommerce platform, coming second only to WooCommerce (8108 Shopify sites are live in India, as of 17th Dec, 2020).

Pros:

  • Large number of add-ons as well as beautiful and professional templates to choose from for a beautiful storefront
  • 24/7 customer support – Can be reached by phone, online live chat or email.
  • SEO Compliant
  • Pay as you go pricing, which is great for newer startups
  • Option to upgrade to Shopify Gold, an enterprise solution being used by 3600 brands
  • 15+payment gateways and 10+ logistics integrations for India

Cons:

  • May work out slightly more expensive as compared to other platforms
  • The back-end UX is slightly complex to understand in the beginning

Pricing**: Basic Shopify - $29/month, Shopify- $79/month, Advanced Shopify - $299/month.

Zepo:

Mumbai-based Zepo supports more than 1500 ecommerce stores at the moment and its been almost 9 years since it first launched (in 2011). Zepo offers a payment gateway, integrated logistics and courier services as well as other ecommerce services.

Pros:

  • Local brand – local support as well as a better understanding and feel of local market
  • An easy interface, especially for newbies
  • Hosted on Rackspace servers - so you can expect a better speed as compared to most platforms.
  • Fedex, Delhivery, DotZot, Aramex, BlueDart and DHL Support

Cons:

  • Limited Images per product on the lower priced plans

Pricing**: Custom Pricing based on requests

Wix:

Wix has over 2000 ecommerce stores live in India, with 7% of ecommerce sites in India on the platform.

Pros:

  • Easy to use Wix editor
  • Hundreds of templates to choose from, trusted by over 160 million people users as per their site
  • They have simple to use logo makers
  • Free hosting - and upgrade required only to get extra storage, connect your own domain or to remove Wix ads

Cons:

  • May not be scalable beyond a point
  • Logistics and Payment Gateway integrations in India may be limited

Pricing**: Premium - $29/month

StoreHippo:

StoreHippo is a new entrant into the ecommerce market in India, starting in 2014.

Pros:

  • First ones to have Progressive Web App (PWA) version of ecommerce stores, allowing brands to leverage the latest technology
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Supports B2B business model as well - which is a first in the segment
  • Offers domestic and international gateway integrations and logistics integrations

Cons:

  • Plugins may be limited
  • Support may not be as robust as Shopify and others

Pricing**: Professional - INR 2999/month, Premium - INR 5999/month, Business - INR 9999/month, Enterprise - INR 25,000/month

BigCommerce:

Bigcommerce is another popular platform, with 17% of the top 100,000 sites using hosted ecommerce solutions; and 51,977 sites overall*, being built on Bigcommerce.

Pros:

  • A large knowledge base – The Bigcommerce university provides extensive help resources
  • Easy-to-use interface

Cons:

  • Some users claim that customer support is a little unreliable at times

Pricing**: Silver - $29.95/month, Gold - $79.95/month, Platinum - $249.95/month

Top 100000 websites using Hosted Solution technologies - Builtwith.com

5 Best Content Management Systems

If you’ve decided that a CMS is what will suit your needs best, then below are the 5 best ecommerce CMS available in the market at the moment. The most important factors which will come into consideration when zeroing in on the CMS would be the availability of extensions, availability of support, functionality, customizability and the cost of development and maintenance. All of them are open source and have free community versions and paid enterprise versions.

WooCommerce:

WooCommerce is a Wordpress platform used for building ecommerce websites and now almost 29% of the top 1 million ecommerce websites are hosted on it (and 59% of ecommerce websites in India), making it the most popular platform. A large number of Wordpress themes have the WooCommerce functionality built-in. The plugin provides almost all the features that are available in the other open-sources CMS’ listed here. WooCommerce might work out more user-friendly and cost-effective for smaller businesses as well as for those familiar with Wordpress. While it has a larger user base, entrepreneurs looking for a plug and play solution will find Shopify to be more suitable.

Pros:

  • Easy setup - Wordpress requires very little time to get familiar
  • Runs on Wordpess – so does not have powerful servers requirements
  • Good number of lower-priced add-ons and themes available
  • Huge Wordpress support community
  • Easy Integration with emailing platforms such as Mailchimp so that you can stay in touch with your customers
  • One of the fastest growing platforms so support from developers and plugin creators is going to be good in the long run.

Cons:

  • Might not work for mid and large size businesses or for businesses looking to scale up soon

Magento:

With nearly 9% of the world’s top 1 million ecommerce sites (in 2015 21%  of the websites) are built on the Magento platform*, it used to be a very popular CMS. Its biggest advantages are the large number of plugins and extensions available which allow the addition of any new functionality, the ease of availability of experienced developers as well as a lower overall development and maintenance cost.

Pros:

  • Robust platform with a high level of functionality and customizability
  • Large number of marketplace extensions available
  • Highly active community for assistance with tutorials and troubleshooting options
  • It is highly-scalable – no need would arise to upgrade to another platform while scaling up in future
  • Easy Integration with emailing platforms such as Mailchimp so that you can stay in touch with your customers

Cons:

  • It requires sufficient server space to operate efficiently at high speeds. Smaller servers may cause speed and other related issues
  • Might be too complex for businesses that are too small
  • It has not been growing as a platform, and over time developers and plugin creators will reduce their focus on it

Elementor:

Elementor is a website builder that enables you to create WordPress websites without writing code. Boasting a powerful WooCommerce website builder feature, Elementor can be leveraged towards creating WordPress-based online stores, as well. Users can choose to create their ecommerce website from scratch, using Elementor’s dynamic drag-and-drop editor. Alternatively, they can opt for a Full-Site Kits. Complete websites, Kits are designer-made and can be effortlessly customized for immediate launch.

Pros:

  • Industry-leading drag and drop editor
  • 20+ ecommerce widgets
  • Ecommerce Full Site Kits
  • 300+ templates
  • 24/7 Chat support

Cons:

  • Free plan doesn't cover ecommerce websites

Pricing**: Essential - $49/year, Expert- $199/year, Studio - $499/year, Agency- $999/year.

Here is a link to their WordPress website builder

Opencart:

Opencart is another open source CMS for ecommerce. Though it has one of the easiest to use backends, its support systems are not as comprehensive as compared to the other platforms listed. 16% of all ecommerce websites in India use OpenCart.

Pros:

  • Easy to use back-end
  • Feature rich with large number of plug-ins
  • CSS can be edited from within the admin

Cons:

  • Some users report difficulty in installation of some themes
  • Support documentation is not comprehensive enough

osCommerce:

osCommerce is one of the earliest open-source platforms available, it has a huge support base and a very active forum, though some users find that updates to the platform have not kept up with the times.

Pros:

  • Easy installation and an easy-to-use interface
  • Active forum with a large support base

Cons:

  • Some users find that the software updates and designs have not kept up with times and remain slightly outdated

Top 1 Million ecommerce websites using Open Source technologies - Source - Builtwith.com

Drupal Commerce:

Drupal used to be a popular open source website content management system after Wordpress and Drupal commerce is the plugin for ecommerce sites built on this platform. Its seamless integration with Drupal makes creating a blog or forum much more convenient than most other ecommerce content management systems.

Pros:

  • Seamless integration with the Drupal CMS framework gives it an edge over other platforms when it comes to blog integration and content marketing
  • Allows for easy implementation of SEO strategy

Cons:

  • The support community/forum is not as large or active as WooCommerce.

Magento vs Woocommerce vs Drupal Commerce vs Opencart vs osCommerce

Conclusion

Every platform and CMS has its plus and minus points and choosing the right one depends on your business model and requirements. If you are going in for a hosted platform, Shopify might be the best option, while if you are looking for a Content Management System, then WooCommerce would most definitely work best. This, however, is based on our experience and we would love to hear what your experience says.

As the last word, switching platforms or content management systems after a store is up and running is not really a straightforward process and can truly be a nightmare. So, make sure you take a prudent and informed decision with a good amount of foresight. If you’re a retailer looking to get onto the e-commerce bandwagon, please feel free to contact us and we would be glad to assist you.

*Statistics from builtwith.com
** All price data is from the respective websites as on 17th December, 2020


Picking the Right Marketing Automation Tool – Ultimate Guide for Indian Marketers

  • Vimal Michael
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  • 2 December , 2020
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    • < 1 min read

As marketers, all of us often feel like we are spending a bulk of our time on tasks that are important, but take up too much of our time. This time could be better used for developing a overall marketing strategy for your brand or on furthering your knowledge within your chosen industry. Is there a solution to help you do this? Luckily, the answer is yes! Marketing automation is a gamechanger in the industry because it can free up your time from repetitive, monotonous tasks.

Wondering what is marketing automation? Well, in a nutshell, marketing automation is the process by which you automate certain marketing tasks, thus reducing the total time spent on these tasks. Since marketing automation uses machine learning and AI, it also offers more accurate results, free from human error. If you haven't started using marketing automation in your


Why every brand in India should leverage AR in 2020

  • Tejasvi Batria
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  • 28 May , 2020
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    • 6 min read

Interest and investment in augmented reality and immersive digital marketing is greater than it’s ever been before. Through the journey of evolving brands, we have witnessed the adoption of a mobile-first creative approach. Augmented Reality marketing provides brands with a highly desired tool in their belt when it comes to driving sales and enhancing brand value through mobile devices. 

The explosive growth of immersive marketing saw big brand wins during the early days of the adoption of AR in marketing. Because of this, AR emerged as one of the fastest-growing digital marketing trends, alongside voice commerce and the use of first-party data. Industries ranging from e-commerce to fintech and FMCGs raced to leverage AR marketing for their brands.

This growth has been witnessed with Augmented Reality marketing playing a key role in social media marketing as well. While Snapchat was one of the first social media giants to adopt AR, Instagram was quick to follow. Google, too, launched AR powered 3D images in searches for products on various e-commerce brands early this year. This proves that AR can be used in multiple ways for a number of different reasons, whether it’s increasing user engagement or offering interactive elements for consumers.

Tech giants fueling AR adoption

The first step to creating a space to build AR-powered apps, experiences and campaigns were taken by tech giants like Facebook, Apple and Google. They created platforms like Spark AR, Apple’s ARKit, and Google’s ARCore which made it simpler to leverage AR in marketing and products for any brand.

But the doors for AR marketing only really opened with the conception of Facebook’s augmented reality suite Spark AR Studio. This tool allowed anyone to create their own filters and campaigns which could be utilized for Facebook and Instagram Stories. Free for all to use, Spark AR by Facebook has provided a platform for many brands to create their own AR effects and filters. This quickly launched Augmented Reality marketing to new heights.

While e-commerce brands, specifically beauty and lifestyle, were quick to tap into the feature by allowing customers to try out products, brands also leveraged AR for high impact brand awareness. A prime example of this was Adidas Original’s decision to create a custom AR effect that was in line with the trend of vintage filters and retro photographs at the time. Their filter added a nostalgic look to your stories, including a ‘glitch’ effect. This custom AR effect was extremely share-worthy, very on-trend and was perfect for building brand awareness!

AR marketing witnessed a peak in the entertainment industry as well, with several well-known media giants tapping into Augmented Reality marketing for the launch of largescale projects. Known celebrities and producers used AR in marketing for movies, TV shows, and even new music. This was seen most prominently with Netflix. One of their largest campaigns tied up with the New York Times and Google Lens for readers to scan and discover images that led to a Stranger Things reveal.

India AR Adoption - Slice of the Consumer Pie

The use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality is expected to steadily grow as more brands across sectors leverage it to engage their core audience. India is projected to increase both the creation and consumption of immersive media following the global trend. Brands in real estate, media and entertainment, automotive, and retail are expected to showcase the maximum adoption due to clear use cases, as per the Nasscom Graphic: Geetanjali. 

By 2022, over $6.5 billion would be the estimated size of the Indian immersive media market, with a higher percentage of it pouring in from the Augment Reality market. Around $5.9 billion is expected, in comparison to the $0.5 billion estimated from the VR market, due to higher costs for creation and execution. The explosive growth of 172% from 2018 to 2022 can be attributed to the easily accessible tools and adoption of Immersive media by top Indian brands.

Top reasons for your brand to adopt AR Marketing

Branding and Buzz

AR marketing has the capability to improve and create an immersive experience thereby leading to better brand perception if created well. As such, it is essential for brands not to use AR for novelty purposes, but to build a more seamless experience that would provide a positive AR experience while thinking about the long-term benefits of the experience. 

Brands like Pepsi, with their #SwagStepChallenge and Lifebuoy, with #LifebuoyKarona, have used AR filters to create hashtag challenges on channels like TikTok to increase buzz around the brand. They roped in celebrities and influencer marketing campaigns to further amplify their AR filters. This helped create a massive awareness of their brand recording explosive cumulative reach of over 85 Billion views on both hashtags on TikTok, without the notion of driving sales or action. 

Better Product Visualization

Augmented Reality is often perceived with the restricted utility reserved for selfies or social media filters. However, the Augmented Reality market can stretch further this with the capacity for much larger impact. The ability to allow a customer to try out products without leaving their home or their screen is a level of immersion and interaction that even interactive ads cannot offer.

By creating AR versions of a product or set of products, brands can provide customers with a better idea on the actual look and feel, while simultaneously setting the right expectations for them in terms of the deliverables.

Brands that have most heavily used and relied on leveraging the tool are present in the retail, beauty and lifestyle segments. L’Oréal’s virtual makeup tool was a path-defining AR creation which helped customers across the globe test and try their makeup virtually anywhere. They added another step helping to enhance the marketability - the option to try the superimposed makeup in real-time with the filter, or take an existing picture to upload and have the filter tested on.

On the other hand, providing a vision to home and interiors, IKEA paved a way for real estate companies by allowing customers to view their products in real-time within their own homes. This increased the possibility of purchase with increased visualization, leaving very little to the imagination. 

The real estate sector now faces the need to implement AR in product visualisation as well, especially to keep up with marketing during COVID-19. With fewer brokers and agents taking on home visits due to the restrictions imposed by authorities, it has become difficult to meet the existing demand for house hunters. While many have turned to virtual tours, AR can significantly drive sales, during and after this pandemic.

Deeper Engagement and Rewards

Your core audience is bombarded with a colossal amount of marketing messages every day, making it hard for marketers to ensure their message is heard. Providing your brand with the parachute of AR and adding a layer of immersive marketing can place it above other brands in a consumer's mind.

Making the brand more interactive, healthcare brand Medlife leveraged Facebook Augmented Reality marketing to educate viewers on the CPR procedure. This created deeper engagement for the audience by providing learning and greater rewards to their subconscious mind as well.

Assistance for Improved Customer Relationships

For brands who are dependent on the physical store experience to drive business, Augmented Reality provides the potential to amplify this by creating a digital experience simultaneously. A frequent example of this is seen with QR codes and bar codes that can be scanned. Doing so pulls up an AR manual or experience with detailed information on the product and brand.

Two popular examples of Hyundai and Mercedes have showcased how the auto industry has utilized AR to improve customer experiences. While Hyundai created AR-powered manuals for drivers,  Mercedes created an app integrating AI to ‘Ask Mercedes’ any questions relating to the product and brand similar to a chatbot.

B2B Marketing

Augmented reality is a tool which can transform the B2B customer-vendor experience with the help of a single click. Limitations of what a vendor is able to provide, along with the misaligned customer experiences, is eliminated with the help of AR.

Creating dynamic sales presentation material to the customer with AR-powered content can provide a virtual 360-degree look at their product lines, and is one of the most used technologies in the B2B space. 

Use Cases Within An Organization, Going Beyond Marketing

Ever imagined that you could be in two places at once? With the help of a VR headset, this can be achieved. This novelty soon became a reality as the COVID-19 outbreak caused many companies to shift to a work-from-home model. Business continuity is a key focus for organizations while they are also looking to stay home to stay safe, but also want to provide real-time experiences. VR technology plays an important role to achieve this. 

Companies like Quess, which is focused on sales-driven marketing and human interaction has their employees getting AI-powered training on their mobile devices. The face-reading AI also provides them with real-time feedback on their voice modulation, tone and facial expressions and key notes to focus on for improvement. 

Kickstarting the AR and VR Journey for Your Brand 

The biggest learning digital marketers can take from this is that it’s time to adapt. Investing in the available AI technologies to maximize your results has become the need of the hour. It is critical for your brand to reach the objective of managing more data effectively and improving your consumer experience.

The creative potential of using AR in marketing can provide your concepts and campaigns with an increased potential for brand awareness and recognition. 2020 is the year to explore immersive marketing to maximize your brand’s potential. At Social Beat, we implement a mixed marketing strategy which includes AR to enhance our efforts and deliver results.


How AI and first-party data can be leveraged for better audience targeting

  • Roshni Chhabria
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  • 28 April , 2020
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    • 5 min read

In a constantly evolving economic landscape, there are many challenges that marketing leaders need to overcome. They are under constant pressure to improve the efficiency of marketing campaigns by lowering acquisition costs and increasing profitability. There has also been a significant shift in the data landscape along with increasing privacy concerns after the GDPR and Cambridge Analytica data scandal. 

A cost-effective way to overcome these challenges would be to start looking internally and utilizing existing business assets. Leading companies like Nestle, Ikea, and others, are also looking to leverage high-quality first-party data in their marketing strategies. First-party data becomes an important factor for a successful marketing campaign and marketers who don’t adapt would be missing out a great deal. 

Death of third-party cookies

Earlier this year, Google declared that Chrome, which is the most widely used browser in the world, would start eliminating support for third-party cookies. Third-party cookies are a simple line of code placed by websites on a user’s hard drive. These cookies form the basis of building behavioural profiles of users on the internet and help marketers in their targeting.

Companies who are at the centre of consumer data, including Facebook, Twitter and Oracle, are slowly moving away from third-party data. On the other hand, a widespread concern around data privacy has led to consumers becoming more aware and demanding increased levels of data privacy. Browsers like Chrome, Safari and Mozilla are now blocking third-party cookies in their browsers. 

All of this combined would have a large impact on the targeting options available for advertisers. With third-party cookies now becoming irrelevant, first-party data in marketing automatically becomes a brand’s best option to track and target customers for their online campaigns.

The rise of first-party data

Any data that you collect directly from consumers and with their consent is known as first-party data. This data is usually reliable and trustworthy and can help drive high-value leads and limit unnecessary ad spends. For a brand, their online sources for collecting first-party data in marketing would be the company’s website, app, CRM, social media, email marketing, surveys etc.

In November 2019, sportswear giant Nike had announced that they will stop selling on Amazon and focus on selling direct-to-consumer via its own website and app. This decision comes as a part of their vision to elevate consumer experiences and build direct and personal retail experiences with its consumers. Selling directly through their own online properties and retail stores would also mean Nike can completely control and own their first-party data. This move by Nike shows us that they are confident in driving all traffic to their own website to enhance the consumer experience and also lower acquisition costs and improve profitability. This might just be the tip-of-the-iceberg and actually be indicative of the start of a massive shift in how brands sell online and start opting for the direct-to-consumer strategy. And this, in turn, could lead first-party data in marketing to become a new digital marketing trend in the making.   

Tap into the power of first-party data using telephonic conversations with customers

For brands looking to accelerate their adoption of first-party data in marketing, one of the most important and invaluable assets they already own are in-bound consumer calls. As per a recent survey, consumers are increasingly turning to phone conversations during the path of their purchase journey. A lot of research happens online but they also prefer to call a brand when they want some specific information and are nearing the end of the decision-making process especially in case of high-value purchases or time-sensitive products and services. 

Consumers are having important conversations and asking brands for more information that is relevant to them. They are sharing their concerns, their purchase intent and so much more on these calls. These inbound calls are a treasure trove of highly valuable information and it’s time for brands to pay attention and listen to what their consumers are saying.

Policy Bazaar, India’s leading insurance aggregator strives to provide its customers with a smooth hassle-free experience by digitizing its processes. Considering that insurance is not a one size fits all sort of industry, Policy Bazaar has been constantly implementing AI and latest tech solutions including chatbots to understand their consumer personas and ensure to sell the right product to the right consumer. They were one of the earliest companies to discover a goldmine of consumer insights in their 35 million minutes of monthly talk time via voice analytics. One of the key insights they found after analysing the word cloud of their conversations was that a lot of their customers were using the word cashless. The marketing teams assumed that consumers would be more concerned with premiums, claims, bonuses etc., and so there was no focus on showcasing the cashless network. Within a week’s time, the team launched a new feature that would show the customers a list of cashless networks that were available in the policies they were interested in. 

AI in marketing intelligence can help turn calls into rich first-party data with actionable insights. Analysing these customer conversations and deriving key insights which can be implemented into the marketing campaigns and communication strategy will in-turn lead to a highly effective communication strategy, increase in conversion rates and lower acquisition costs. 

Improving customer engagement with personalized content 

Brands that are activating and collecting first-party data should be using this data to personalize the content on ads that are being shown to a particular user. In the case of e-commerce companies, understanding past purchase behaviour and knowing what your consumer likes or has added to their cart before will help you segment your audiences and show them relevant messages based on which step of the consumer journey they are in. Another key aspect is that brands should ensure to deliver personalized experiences across the entire marketing funnel of their campaigns. 

Tata Mutual Funds, a leading mutual funds investment company had launched a campaign called #SayNoToKatauti which aimed at striking the right chords with personalized content to deliver higher engagement and reach. The campaign had a series of four brand films that had a common messaging point of tax-saving investments. The protagonist in each of the videos was in different relatable and everyday scenarios, like watching a cricket match or ordering food, which was then targeted and shown to people based on their own interests. 

Personalized campaigns with AI marketing and first-party data would also automatically mean higher efficiency and reach of your campaigns across all your digital marketing platforms. On Facebook, you can create lookalike audiences from your first-party data which are very powerful and can help build the right mix of good quality and scale both. Google has also recently launched combined audiences which is enabling advertisers to narrow down their target audience and serve impressions to people who fit into two categories. For example, you could target people who have visited your site in the last 60 days and also are part of the in-market audience for your category. This combination makes your targeting more efficient and helps you spend your money effectively thereby improving your ROI.  

AI in marketing is also quickly becoming the future of digital. With AI marketing, you can make a campaign immersive and experiential for a user, encouraging them to engage with a website or ad better. AI can use first-party data to leverage information and display content or information tailored to their liking, thus increasing the likelihood of driving them through to the end of the funnel. A prime example of this is the streaming services that have taken the world by storm - whether it’s television or music. By using AI, these companies display personalised recommendations that push the user to engage further with the service, optimising their experience with first-party behavioural data. 

In today’s marketing scenario first-party data is becoming an increasingly popular choice and marketers are looking to utilize it across all platforms to accomplish their key marketing objectives. It is crucial for brands to take control and utilize their first-party data to improve ROI across their marketing efforts. Businesses must invest in building trusted and personalized relationships with consumers and raise the bar for transparency and data privacy. At Social Beat, we analyse first-party data from different sources to fuel campaigns and leverage different types of engaging content for target audiences to drive conversions. Is your company making the shift to first-party data? 


Voice Commerce – The Future of E-Commerce in India

  • Nandita Raman
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  • 19 April , 2020
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    • 4 min read

By now, we’re sure you’re aware that smartphones play a huge role in driving sales in retail. But did you know that 28% of the search queries in India are done by voice?

BigCommerce reports that by 2021, mobile eCommerce sales are said to account for 54% of the total eCommerce sales & it also projects a 270% growth in voice-based queries in India.

What’s the current trend with Voice Search?

Most e-commerce brands are looking at voice as an opportunity to grow and expand their businesses. Reports state that 43% of brands surveyed agree that Voice Search in e-commerce is an opportunity to harness while 26% agree on the same to a reasonable extent. With added risks, the benefits still seem to outweigh for most brands. Voice assistants are now part of most homes’ everyday life, starting from morning alarms, reminders to turn off their cookers to even playing music. This seems to be a promising touchpoint for e-commerce as consumers could soon begin online transactions through voice, as the technology becomes more pervasive in their everyday lives. 

To learn more about Voice Search trends, watch our video on The Complete Guide to Voice Search Marketing 

Voice shopping happens to be one of the latest trends shaping the future of eCommerce and as we all know, retail is growing faster than anything else.

So, how did it all begin?

IBM, a tech giant, started way back in 1961, the first-ever speech recognition software. When you look back at the iPhone, Siri, for example, was started in 2011 followed by Amazon which released Alexa in 2014. It's not novel but it has certainly become more relevant these days with more households using voice assistants in their daily lives. Voice assistance technology is definitely creating a large impact on E-commerce.

What is Voice commerce? 

Voice Commerce is a technology that provides the user with an alternative option to purchase a product online instead of using a keyboard and mouse. It is 3 times faster than the web interface. In other words, it screams convenience. 

How would Voice commerce enhance a customer's buying experience?

  1. Shopping through Voice Search technology evidently simplifies and eases the process of transacting online. For starters - It is hands-free. Multitasking happens to the new fad for most busy households these days. All that the customer needs is to search and buy something online using a virtual Voice Search assistant such as Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri etc. With the assistance of voice shopping, completing a purchase becomes simple and can be done at any time of the day - even when you’re in the shower or eating if your voice assistant can hear you! 
  2. Apart from being extremely convenient for first-time orders, it is also useful for repetitive orders. Since the Voice Search algorithm knows what you’ve purchased previously, it can help you with repeat orders.

Here are some disadvantages to keep in mind:

  1. You may face a slight difficulty in browsing, especially in the B2B space when product names are difficult to pronounce or if you have too many product codes or multiple colours, the technology might not be developed enough to grasp the subtle nuances and modify the searches just yet. 
  2. Privacy concerns. Research states that many people do not feel comfortable about having a voice assistant or a microphone that’s always listening to private conversations in their household or office as they see this as a  breach of privacy. However, customers are gradually adapting to it in the current scenario and brands are leveraging the fact that Voice Search is growing rapidly in the market and if you do wait too long to optimise your technology for Voice commerce, you will fall behind.  

3 ways to leverage voice commerce for your brand to drive more sales:

  1. Build Google Norm Actions / Alexa Skills

With voice being the future, it is important that E-Commerce brands grasp & leverage these trends for their growth. Both Google and Amazon have made this easy for brands to get started with easy-to-use Voice Search assistant templates.

Jetson Ai is an all in one platform to manage your brand’s voice strategy - It is a voice-first market place which helps you connect with consumers across various voice assistants. With Jetson Ai, you can manage all your voice interactions from a single dashboard. Apart from this it also studies and learns about your consumers’ past purchase behaviour and customises their future interactions, making the journey as frictionless as possible.

  1. Build a multilingual voice experience

Various brands have seen rapid growth in consumption of vernacular content overall social media platforms.

Niki.ai is one such company that has a multilingual voice experience which enables consumers to interact with you in their preferred language. This is an interesting strategy which would help you reach India's next billion internet users.

Niki ai helps consumers from tier 2 & 3 cities make purchases online through voice on Redbus, Cleartrip and BookMyShow.

  1. Build conversational experiences across the customer’s purchase journey

The second thing you could explore is to build a conversational user experience across the consumer purchase journey starting from research, product queries to FAQ’s even. This has kindled companies’ interest by presenting a super-intelligent interface that’s going to help grow their businesses. Not only do they understand the text transcription of the consumers, but also the intention behind using those words. 

One such platform is Haptik. An intelligent voice virtual assistant which builds Voice Search based conversational Ai chatbots to help business enable voice commerce. 

These are three possible ways to build delightful voice commerce experiences for your consumers.

How have brands leveraged voice commerce?

A lot of brands have successfully leveraged voice to enhance their business. Some classic examples include Big Bazaar, Dominos, Whirlpool etc.

Smart search was introduced by BigBazaar in 2017 where anyone who searches with a prefix of Big Bazaar on Google was also given exclusive offers. With the success of this campaign and to reach out to more customers and benefit them, Big Bazaar also leveraged voice. 

Early last year, Dominos, rolled out their voice ordering app to make ordering pizza more accurate and efficient for their customers. This turned out to be an extremely successful campaign. With their inbuilt voice technology, they had a headstart over all other competitors!

What does Voice commerce hold for the future?

Voice commerce is not only a trend but is a complete shift in the way we communicate and share things with the world. This also helps brands innovate and launch campaigns which further enhances the brand reputation and in turn leads to a better ROI - This also widens the consumer base to newer audiences. Brands already selling on platforms such as Amazon need to start looking at ways to optimise their listings and create new opportunities on the platform itself starting today. A lot of research and surveys show that optimising for Voice Search definitely gives you a competitive advantage. This is why retailers have already started to use Voice commerce to expand their ROI and keep up with fast-growing technology.


Google is testing AR powered 3D images in search for products on e-commerce sites

  • Nandita Raman
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  • 26 March , 2020
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    • 2 min read

Augmented Reality is an interactive technology that is reshaping how customers make their decisions before a purchase. In fact, recent studies suggest that nearly 61% of online shoppers prefer brands utilising the AR tool, which can convert viewers into customers. Augmented Reality utilises advanced technology to integrate and overlap the virtual and real-world in the form of images. All this has led brands to change how they leverage digital marketing trends for 2020 with this powerful tool. The advantages of AR are many and brands have already started tapping into the immense potential of AR as an integral part of their marketing strategy. 

Google has announced that they are testing AR powered 3D images integrated within searches for products on e-commerce sites. This will enhance the search experience of users as they can now visualise the products in real time. Moreover, 3D images give an enhanced online experience as it enables users to visualise and understand product specifications vividly. 

How does the AR tool work for e-commerce sites?

When a user searches for a product, the results will be displayed with the specifications and prices, and alongside these details, the option to ‘View in 3D’ will appear as well. This requires all users to have Google’s new AR update.

By clicking on this option, users will be shown the 3D image of the product through the mobile device’s camera lens. These images appear as if they are right in front of you, wherever you may be.

Users can rotate the product to any angle to explore the features and check if it matches their expectations. This allows them to visualise the product as realistically as they can, and find out if the product is a good fit for their needs, thus enabling them to make more informed purchases.

About Google's ARCore tool

Google’s ARCore allows brands to transform 2D images to 3D models integrated with AR technology with which the users can engage with the product for a better user experience. With a set of quality reference AR images, the tool can easily model the AR experience effectively. Instagram and Facebook are well ahead of the curve, with the introduction of SparkAR to enhance the user experience on social platforms. Although there are multiple apps offering the AR experience, Google’s entry into the field is a crucial factor for SEO strategies to rank better on the search engine when there are commercial queries.

The advantages of AR have come as a boon for businesses. From increased brand awareness, enhanced user experience, refined brand engagement, and increased conversion rates, using cutting-edge technology of AR is definitely revolutionizing the way customers engage with brands. All these benefits of AR lead to the largest benefit yet - that the approach to a full-funnel marketing strategy is achievable, turning leads into customers with potentially higher retention.


Google adds a new feature to image search: Swipe to Visit

  • Nandita Raman
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  • 8 August , 2019
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    • 2 min read

 

It is safe to say that the user experience offered by the digital assets of a brand either makes or breaks its online image. The exponential growth of mobile users in the past few years has made it imperative for companies to up their game while engaging with the next billion internet users. This need gave rise to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for faster and easy access to mobile-responsive pages. However, Google has now introduced the “Swipe to Visit” option for AMP-enabled sites to seamlessly direct users to your website from an image search. Here’s all you need to know about this recent update. 

What is Swipe to Visit?

Say, you search for an image in Google. Once you key in your inputs, you land on the result page showing multiple images pertaining to your search. Now, when you click on a particular image, it enlarges and suggests related images in the bottom. However, with the new update, there is a preview of the AMP-enabled website in the footer of the image search page. Users can swipe up the preview option to quickly view the corresponding web page that contains the original image listed in the search results. While reading the AMP article, in case you want to get back to the image search result page, all you have to do is to swipe down. 

Image source: https://9to5google.com/2019/07/25/amp-swipe-to-visit/

Advantages of Swipe to Visit option

Recent data shows that nearly 63 percent of users performing image searches on Google, click on the image to visit the source website. Leveraging the Swipe to Visit option will now enhance user experience, which, in turn, will help in improving organic traffic to the website. This provides a chance for brand awareness and will lead to the domino effect of increased time spent on the website, due to the high-quality content available to consume. Hence, it is crucial for the website to load quickly and be SEO friendly for better results. On the whole, the Swipe to Visit option enhances the conversion rate of the product which is vital for the success of effective digital marketing. To add to that, web pages that are already AMP-enabled need not take an additional effort to update the Swipe to Visit option as it is automatically upgraded. 

Although images are not the most common types of search, since a picture speaks a thousand words, your website will receive increased number of clicks due to this convenient option. Therefore, Swipe to Visit is an important break-through to naturally channelise traffic to your website and improve the quality of leads generated.


Google introduces AMP for emails

  • Ayesha Rafeeq
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  • 13 May , 2019
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    • 3 min read

Page loading speed and mobile-friendliness have been among the most important Google ranking factors. To combine the two, Google has worked towards making mobile pages load faster with the help of an open-source framework which is called AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). AMP is considered to be one of the best ways to build good web pages that rank on Google and drive higher organic traffic. With the success of mobile AMP, Google developed other versions like desktop AMP. The most recent innovation with AMP involves a platform people spend a considerable amount of time on: the email.

AMP in email is offered by the Gmail Developer Preview. This helps developers in creating a more engaging and interactive email experience. Here are some of the advantages of AMP for email.

Faster actions

Completing actions with the help of AMP will be much faster, like sending RSVP for an event, scheduling appointments, or simply filling up a questionnaire within the email message.

AMP helps in keeping information of the email relevant and content accurate so that emails don’t become stale. This also makes it easy to keep information updated. A simple example would be confirming an account on a website, with the help of AMP for Emails one can access the confirmation page instantly without having to open a new tab. This makes the overall process more efficient and time saving. This new update also offers a preview for websites like Booking.com and Pinterest within the email.

To optimise your page for a faster load time check out Google PageSpeed Insights.

Benefits for SEO

AMP-powered email has potential that can be beneficial for email marketing, because the engaging content can increase CTR while also generating more interest when compared to a regular email.

Content marketing benefits from this update, as users can receive and access content on their email itself. This again improves the users experience making going through emails a more pleasant experience. This holds true even for users accessing emails from their mobile device.

To make the most of your email campaigns, check out our blog to know more about How to build a strong email marketing database.

Third party content

Companies are working on creating new customer experiences by using AMP for emails. Adding this functionality to emails helps in eliminating the need to open a new tab to finish the task; instead it can be done within the email itself.

The new format of AMP for Emails is supported by Google’s Gmail, Microsoft’s Outlook.com, Mail.Ru, Verizon owned Yahoo Mail to list a few while it is open to other providers as well. With security and protection of personal information becoming increasingly critical lately, Google has taken several measures to safeguard this.  This is why companies creating dynamic emails will need to seek approval from Google first.

Companies which have already started supporting this format are:

  • Booking.com
  • OYO Rooms
  • Freshworks
  • Pinterest
  • redBus

The format supports AMP features like carousels, lists and forms among others, while also including the standard HTML markup for email clients supporting AMP. Google has brought in other partners who will also support the AMP for Email on their respective platforms as well. Some of these partners include:

  • SparkPost - a platform for email delivery and analytics
  • Litmus - a tool that helps in designing and marketing of emails
  • Twilio Sendgrid - an email and marketing tool
  • SES and Pinpoint - tools by Amazon used for email and marketing

AMP for emails is a much needed update for emails making them more engaging and interactive. This update for emails opens up opportunities for content creators as well as advertisers to roll out fresh content for email marketing.


Best payment gateways in India for your E-Commerce website

  • Varun
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  • 9 September , 2018
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    • 6 min read

No matter how great your business idea is or how efficiently your e-commerce store may look and function, achieving your ROI goals depends on the ease of transaction experienced by a customer. A payment gateway or a mobile wallet is a powerful way to ensure hassle-free payments and to reassure the visitors of your e-commerce store about your trustworthiness.

In short, a payment gateway is an e-commerce element that allows a customer or merchant to use internet transactions via credit or debit cards, securely. A bad payment gateway results in bad payment options, ultimately leading to a decline in the total sales. Your server can also pose a challenge in having a smooth payment gateway.  To counter this, we usually use Bluehost, BigRock or Amazon Web Services.

Here are the best payment gateways in India which can aid your e-commerce business.

Razorpay

Razorpay is a relatively new member to the payments ecosystem in India and is backed by notable Silicon Valley investors and mentors. Founded by an IIT Roorkee alumni, Razorpay aims to revolutionize the online payments process through secure and easy-to-integrate APIs, which makes it easy for businesses to integrate and process transactions. It is an India-focused company that offers 24*7 customer support and a simplified experience to the customers.

Instamojo

Instamojo powers more than over 2,20,000 small businesses in India is one of the largest multi payments networks in India. One thing that sets them apart is the 2 mins set up and it is completely free. Set up Instamojo for free today!

Here are some key highlight and features about Instamojo:

  • No Setup Fees
  • No Annual Maintenance cost
  • Simple API’s
  • Start collecting payments instantaneously.
  • Collect Payments using links via Whatsapp/Facebook/Twitter/SMS
  • Free Online store to sell items
  • On-Demand Payments App for Android phones to collect & track your payments

CC Avenue

Launched in 2001, CC Avenue is one of the oldest as well as one of the biggest payment gateway providers in India. CC Avenue offers 200+ payment options including major credit cards like Visa, Mastercard, Amex, DIner's CLub, etc. It also includes other payment options like Multiple Currency Processing, Retry Availability & Customization, Audit, Analytics and a large window for active users. If your website is already live, you can integrate the CC Avenue payment gateway for free.

Direcpay

Direcpay is an arm of the Times Group. It is essentially the safest payment gateway in India. The PCI DSS certified and Norton Secure gateway offers easy integration to e-commerce business, a simple registration and a flexible payment process, besides providing EMI options. However, Direcpay requires 5 days for account activation, after the documents are verified by concerned authorities.

Google Pay

Google pay (formerly Google Wallet) is an online payment and system and digital wallet platform. It allows in-app and tap-to-pay purchases on all mobile devices. As of May 218, Google Pay also supports boarding passes and event tickets. Google Pay work on NFC or Near Field Communication to initiate transactions and transfer funds to the retailer. All you need to do is download the Google Pay app, take a picture of your debit or credit card or enter the information manually. As most of the digital audience has gone mobile, Google Pay is a prudent gateway for an e-commerce business.

Juspay

Juspay was founded in 2012 with an aim to redefine online payments by providing 1-click payments for the web and mobile. However, like the other mentions on this list, Juspay is not a payment gateway, although it does work with any gateway or aggregator with no interference in Merchant-PG relations. Juspay processes more than 4 million transactions monthly for a number of notable merchants like MakeMyTrip, Yatra, Amazon, Snapdeal, BookMyShow, MobiKwik, Freecharge, etc.

BillDesk

Billdesk was incepted in 2000 in Mumbai and provides payment gateway solutions to customers and merchants in e-commerce, retail, financial services, etc. While the setup is free, merchants have to pay a commission charge on each transaction and the amount differs across modes of payment.

PayPal

Processing close to 8 million payments every day, PayPal is one of the most widely used payment gateways in the world. Request and transfer of payments are very easy, as the platform has over 200 million active accounts across 200 markets, compatible with 100 currencies around the world. PayPal also offers perks like uploading cheques through your smartphone’s camera and completion of transactions without having to exit the website. PayPal is a natural choice for Indian e-commerce businesses that have a large number of international customers.

PayU India

Marking an impressive conversion rate of 12% and worldwide presence, PayU is one of the biggest payment gateways in India. With noteworthy customer service, PayU has roped in e-commerce biggies like Jabong and Snapdeal into their clientele. The platform offers four pricing packages that vary in covering aspects like Risk Management System, Multi-Currency Gateway, Mobile optimised payment page, IVR Payment, Store Card Feature and Payment Analytics.

PayUBiz

PayUBiz is a part of Naspers and is a $25 billion media and internet company that is listed in the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges. This payment gateway is used by over 70 e-commerce companies including Jabong, Snapdeal, Ola, Bookmyshow, Cleartrip, Zomato, etc.

MobiKwik

MobiKwik is another popular payment gateway in India and it offers services for online debit and credit cards and other internet baking processing transactions. It takes only two days to set up an account with MobiKwik and they are compatible with Android, iOS and Windows platforms. In addition, MobiKwik is also a mobile phone and digital wallet. You can check out our blog on the top 10 mobile wallets in India.

PayTM

PayTM currently holds the top position for India's most popular payment gateway. It is a semi-closed wallet, approved by the RBI and offer payment solutions to over 7 million merchants. PayTM is available for download across all major platforms and allows its customers to make payments from debit and credit cards, bank accounts and digital credit. PayTM Cash is India's largest digital wallet with over 15 million active users.

Here's a quick glance at the pricing:

Payment Gateway Setup Fee (INR) Commission Per Transaction Popularity (In India)
Instamojo Free 2% + Rs.3 High
CC Avenue  Free - 40,000 2% + Rs.3  High
Citrus Pay Free Custom Moderate
DirecPay Free Custom Moderate
Google Pay Free Credit fee - 2.9%, Debit, bank transfer - Free Low
Paypal Free 2.2% - 2.9% + $0.30 Moderate
PayU India 4,900 – 29,900 0.75% - 2.90% High
PayUBiz 4,900 2.95% - 3.70% High
PayTM Free 1.99% + taxes High
MobiKwik On request 1.90% (+GST)  - 2.90% High
Juspay Free Custom Low
BillDesk Free Custom Moderate
Razorpay Free 2% - 3% High
Cashfree Free 1.95% - 3.5% +Rs.7 Moderate

Your choice between the above-mentioned payment gateways may vary depending on your e-commerce business field, size, and location. Though all of them have the capacity to adapt to various requirements, we would like you to share your personal experiences with payment gateway providers in India. Let us know if we have missed out anything, or which one is the best according to you.


How AMP landing pages produced 33% lower CPL for a healthcare provider

  • Nandita Raman
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  • 3 August , 2018
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    • 3 min read

India Home Health Care (IHHC) is a leading provider of home nursing and other Healthcare services. They work in partnership with BAYADA Home Health Care to provide patients with registered nurses, visiting doctors, physical therapists and more from the comfort of their home.

The challenge

Mobile devices account for 90 per cent of total traffic to IHHC’s website, with most users accessing the landing page through 3G and 4G connections. However, the landing page loaded much more slowly than other pages on the site, negatively impacting lead generation. To maintain their foothold in the extremely competitive healthcare space, the IHHC team set out to increase their mobile leads by improving the landing page load time. They also hoped to increase conversion rates and reduce cost per conversion.

Goal: India Home Health Care (IHHC) wanted to generate a higher number and quality of leads at a lower cost-per-lead (CPL).

The approach

To make the most of high mobile traffic to the landing page, the IHHC team wanted a faster, more seamless experience for potential clients using their smartphones and tablets. Their digital marketing partner Social Beat (a Premier Google Partner) recommended Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), an open-source library that helps developers easily create fast-loading, mobile optimized web pages that scroll smoothly and look great on both mobile devices and desktops. Working with Social Beat, IHHC began to develop AMP landing pages for their Google ads to improve campaign performance. Implementing AMP was very straightforward, with each page taking only a day or two to build. Soon after the January 2018 launch, IHHC modified their AMP code to more easily monitor the pages’ effectiveness and track leads from their Google Ads campaigns. First, they added the <amp-call-tracking> tag, which automatically replaces static phone numbers with dynamically- generated numbers used for call tracking. Next, because some people prefer to submit a contact form, IHHC used the amp-analytics component to automatically sync form submissions with their Google Analytics account. Whether potential customers contact IHHC by phone or through the website, each new lead is automatically incorporated into the company’s CRM system. This enables them to accurately measure the impact of their AMP landing pages and Google Ads campaigns on final sales.

The results

Within three months of launching their AMP landing pages, IHHC had reduced their average cost per lead by 33 per cent, while total conversions grew by 20 per cent. Meanwhile, the bounce rate was cut nearly in half for potential customers who reach an AMP page compared to those who visit the regular website. IHHC attributes these significant improvements to faster load times that help visitors get the information they need so they don’t grow frustrated and leave. AMP’s call-tracking support has proven particularly valuable, spotlighting ad messaging strategies that resonate with prospects.

Market impact

“Our AMP pages load nearly instantly, which means that customers get a better user experience and they can focus entirely on learning about the high-quality services that IHHC and BAYADA provide.” —Revathy Sankaran, IT Manager, India Home Healthcare.

Since using AMP to optimize their ad landing pages for mobile, IHHC has generated more high-quality leads at a lower cost. Next, the team intends to create an AMP version of the entire website for mobile visitors who don’t find the company through a Google ad. They also plan to experiment with AMP HTML, which allows advertisers to build ads that load just as quickly as an AMP page on mobile, and Progressive Web Apps, which work with AMP to create immersive, full-screen experiences that don’t require installation.

We are also happy to inform that the case study has been published by Google.

Download the full case study for more details.

As the number of mobile internet users in India and around the world continues to grow, making pages more mobile-friendly will become one of the biggest objectives for brands to reach the next billion users.  Implementing AMP could be one of the most effective ways for brands to become more discoverable and ultimately, gain higher conversions, whether you are a Real Estate Giant or a leading FMCG Company. So do try it out and let us know the results you get!

 


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