Mrinal Chatterjee, CTO, ShopClues.com, on the present trend of the e-commerce companies, and how they are exploiting mobility.
Update: Mrinal Chatterjee has recently moved on from ShopClues.com
What’s happening in e-Commerce companies in India?
There is an interesting phase in e-Commerce right now. This has been evolving significantly for the last few years, but the present phase is important. On one side, mobility is catching crowd – it’s becoming huge – customers are going massively on mobiles, the other side is witnessing vast technological innovation. Infrastructure is improving and there are multiple things that are transforming simultaneously.
Mobility is not just about building an application or creating a mobile optimised website. It is much more – as we have more metrics to track how many downloads are happening, how many uninstalls are taking place and so on. In the traditional web world, none of those metrics had ever existed.
The other big thing is data analytics. The way we can capture data today is making people rethink – because on an app you don’t capture data in the same way as you do in web. So, people have to come up with device and new mechanisms to start capturing similar types of data.
ShopClues is a data intense company, which completely focuses on such metrics. We are running behind mobility pace, but trying to catch up fast. The delay is not because – we could not build a mobile optimised site or an app. ShopClues is fundamentally trying to understand which metrics we need to track… whether they should be the same metrics, same measurements or do they need to be different? ShopClues uses its own data analytics platform, so there is a need to incorporate some of those changes – and then we will launch our own mobile site and our app.
Ever since we launched it we have seen a very significant improvement in the trend, conversions are looking very healthy, consumer engagement is looking very healthy, and the most important trend is: the uptake of mobility in tier-II and tier- III cities seems to be growing much faster. People in tier-II and tier-III cities may not have proper internet connection at home on laptops or desktops but they use mobile to access the internet.
What are the major technology challenges for ecommerce companies in India today?
Banks still seem to be lagging behind. There are many banking portals where net banking option does not work on mobile browsers. So, banks are losing out on online transactions – just because they do not work on mobile browser or Android browser.
A simple example is verified by VISA, the page where you have to do a fiddle around to get all buttons. It’s not mobile optimised. Many such companies of the world are making some improvements – but again they are limited to what the banks are doing.
Prior to e-Commerce companies, the courier companies were responsible for delivering letters like phone bills and credit card statements. Since e-Commerce started becoming popular, the courier companies needed to be more skillful to handle parcels that might contain fragile objects.
What are the common innovations that you see today in the domain?
Over the last couple of years, courior companies have shown significant improvement in terms of how they handle packages, how they track packages.
In today’s world when the consumer comes to e-commerce portals and pays for something, then he/she demands for a tracking number to get details about where the parcel is today. Courier companies have done lot of improvements like SMS integration to keep people informed about their orders. Companies, like ShopClues, have partnered with 26-27 courier companies across India. People have now started getting SMS the day they (the courier company) picks up the parcel. Then, prior to delivery, an SMS is sent.
Earlier there was no co-ordination. If an order was placed on an e-commerce portal like ShopClues, then the portal would send a message that your package has been handed over to so and so courier company, and so and so is the tracking number. But when the delivery boy would arrive that nobody knew. But now when the shipment is going out for delivery they send out an SMS message.
As the cost of Internet networking going down, today’s consumers are not much worried about the cost of browsing. It has a direct positive impact on e-Commerce.
"The way we can capture data today is making people rethink – because on an app you don’t capture data in the same way as you do in web."
How are you leveraging mobility to your business benefit? Do you exploit social platforms to connect with customers?
Thirty to thirty five per cent of our traffic is coming from mobile right now, and we are generating about 25 to 30 per cent of our revenues from mobile. Twelve months back, the revenue was under five per cent. ShopClues launched mobile optimised site and apps about six months ago. So, in Jan-14, we were hovering around 10 to12 per cent. We are seeing a very healthy growth on mobile site.
There are over two million people who like our fan page. We probably have the largest community of sellers on ShopClues ~ 50,000 to 60,000 sellers. We are a B2C e-Commerce platform, where we don’t encourage or allow casual sellers to sell on our website. The seller has to be a merchant to sell online that is why ShopClues is a fully managed marketplace. ShopClues builds a platform to allow people like sellers, small brands, manufacturers, distributors, sub- distributors, retailers to come online and sell on their own.
ShopClues has done a lot of optimisation on transaction pages to avoid drop off – for example, if you had seen shop clues last eight months back, consumers had to type in their addresses, phone numbers and other details each time even for multiple transactions. To avoid this, ShopClues has introduced address book. We have also started looking at things like if the user is a repeat customer then his or her last transactions are tracked, and his/her preferred address is filled automatically.
If an offer is running, like five or ten per cent discount – earlier we asked consumers to apply for coupons. But now those things are automatically applied to the consumers.
The challenging part is once the customer goes to a banking site to complete the transaction using the mobile browser, many drop-offs take place there – as either the bank page does not open or it is not a mobile optimised one (buttons are not visible). It happens across most of the banks.
ShopClues is a data driven company. How do you utilise analytics?
Analytics solution is built in house. ShopClues is a big open source shop, everything is running here on open source – including data analytics. We have taken open source technologies, and put together a data warehousing solution of our own, and a reporting solution on top of that.
We measure everything. We determine daily which product lines are doing best, or better than others. We have 2200 listing categories and we do analysis at every level and see which one is performing well. We check trends month after month to see where it is improving and where it is declining, why it is declining – is it because of its price or other competitive brand? Then we go back to its merchant and show the cause.
We have two approaches to analytics. There is a technology team, then we have business analyst team that looks into data metrics and dimensions from various different angles. We have analytics teams working closely with marketing and business development teams. So, business analytics and data analytics teams work very closely with business, they tell the technology team what dimensions are needed and what fact tables have to be created – and what is the period on which we want to do trending: is it a day period, week period or month period?
Technology team then takes those inputs and builds out the data mart or ETLS or modifies the reporting structure – so this is the way ShopClues work.
Between business and technology, there is a team of 8 to 10 people working. We analyse things like number of calls coming from customers, what is the average handling time of calls, whether we are getting more calls or emails, are we responding faster for calls or for emails?.... First call resolution that is the metrics, which ShopClues follows to find out how many calls are responded the first time and closed the issue for the customer. There is a team of two people for analytics, which completely focuses on customer support.
What’s up your sleeves to be able to meet future business growth?
ShopClues is trying to understand on how people consume content on mobile device. Survey has shown that consumers are more comfortable in consuming content on a mobile device – rather than searching for content on mobile device. ShopClues is making efforts to add this feature in its mobile apps and make it as forefront in mobile strategy – where a user doesn’t have to search on the device.
Based on a particular user’s browsing history and browsing history of others who browse similar types of products, ShopClues provides a list of selected products with similar range – to make selection easy for consumers. Our main aim is to give the user a personalised content.
Users tend to consume contents on mobile, and ShopClues works on the same to provide more personalised experience on mobiles by consuming relevant contents. Second target of ShopClues in mobility is to make buying experience extremely simple.
ShopClues have done simple innovations for mobile devices to make transactions easy for users. One innovation done by us is in transaction page: while filling a PIN code, ShopClues brings numeric keyboard – as PIN codes are always in numbers (format). Second innovation: while logging into account, user will get an e-mail key board that makes easy shopping experience. Third innovation: the stay logged in feature whereby the default user is kept logged in his/her mobile device.