Ecommerce Product Management – Getting the Product Page Right

Just few days back I exchanged some notes with Founder & CEO of a Ecommerce company on why I never shop online with them. This venture is among the best known Ecommerce brands in India, but its product experience never gave enough confidence to transact with them.This post is result of that interaction. All screenshots included in this post are not meant to single out any particular ecommerce website and this is meant to be a general post on best practices.

This post is also an extension to my previous post on the topic – Product Management and Ecommerce that was written about two years back. While that post was about general product management principles for Ecommerce, this one is a series of posts that are specific towards reducing cart abandonment and improving conversion rates in transaction businesses. Limiting the scope of this post only to Product Page -> Checkout, this post is first in this series and talks about building the right Product Page and best practices to be observed.

Getting the Right Product Page for Ecommerce – Best Practices

When users land up on product pages through some effort (search, discovery, social, email, adwords, etc), the intent of a users here is positively inclined towards ‘knowing more about the product’ or ‘making a transaction’ and not towards abandoning the page.

The positive reinforcements on a product page are -

  • Product (the product itself), Photos, Price
  • Shipping Information (and Payment Details)
  • Additional Information – If the product, photos & price do not help make a purchase decision, then the additional information that can assist in decision making process.
  • Alternatives & Suggestions

Building Product Pages is a science & art put together with lots of common sense. They should be built / designed as decision enablers and not with the focus that allows users to look at other options in an event the user is not interested in these products.

a. Focus on One Action – ‘Add to Cart’

Yes this is the obvious point. Why is it here, everyone knows this right?

It is here because everyone knows this and because they also know everything else other than this. Simply look at the product pages of the Ecommerce websites, the number of colors on the design elements of page, multiple call to actions – take away the focus from ‘Add to Cart’ button.

As a standard practice, don’t let more than 3-4 colors creep-in on to the product page. Having a color palette helps here and intelligent use of shades of gray to highlight important information if required. Also most critical aspect is knowing that all information cannot be considered as important.

Showcased below are screenshots from top ecommerce websites in India. Notice the excessive focus on highlighting every piece on information, use of ‘design’ and colors in every product element. Have specifically chosen products that have variables like Size, Color – since those are the most complex ones to get right.

Multiple Components asking for Attention, One of top Ecommerce Sites in India

Multiple Components asking for Attention, One of top Ecommerce Sites in India

Multiple Components asking for Attention, One of top Ecommerce Sites in India

Multiple Components asking for Attention, One of top Ecommerce Sites in India

Know how to make ‘Add to Cart’ stand out – look at a product page from NastyGal.com

NastyGal Product Page - Notice the focus on 'Add to Cart'

NastyGal Product Page – Notice the focus on ‘Add to Cart’

 

b. Getting all Decision Enablers next to ‘Add to Cart’ Button

The most important decision enablers (either features or information) should be as closed to the ‘Add to Cart’ button as possible, not miles away. The information should be presented in a top-down readable format – specially for categories and verticals like Clothes, Shoes and others where to process the order you need Size, Style, Color and other such information.

Factors making up the Purchase Decision

Factors making up the Purchase Decision

It is first essential to figure out what are the most crucial 2-3 factors / information that a user needs to know and also accepting that not all information is must.

Add to Cart on Bonobos

Add to Cart on Bonobos

Add to Cart on Zappos

Add to Cart on Zappos

c. Use Standardized Communication & Symbols

One of the key things to focus on your product page (or anywhere on the product) is user communication. From simple things like should it be ‘Add to Cart’ or ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Add to Bag’ to another simpler things – its a tough job.

Standardization? Its a mess out there.

Standardization? Its a mess out there.

Choose widely used terms for communication. I would always suggest using ‘Add to Cart’ because 90% of other websites use it. Remember user is moving on multiple websites, and he has got familiarized with the term. Do not re-invent things for the user. Even for symbols, Shopping Cart has a universal symbol across millions of website.

Same for terms like Cash on Delivery. Free Shipping.

Another issue with Ecommerce websites is the excessive focus on branding everything. It starts from ABC TrustPay, XYZ Assurance, LMN 100% Purchase Protection or PQRS Guarantee, etc to putting up details for Sellers (Marketplaces) – ratings, stars, % feedback, etc. While all that is great, why does a customer need to know this? If its for assurance – there is no need to copy paste such fancy terms across the website.

Thinking from a consumer point of view, if there is any goof-up on any transaction – user will hold the website liable for its service, whether or not it is a marketplace or a store. A simple message like one from ASOS – “Free Returns. Not quite right? Send it back for Free” or from Jabong – “30 Days Free Return / Exchange” does the trick.

One of the leading ecommerce venture says uses the term ‘Free Home Delivery’ which I relate more with restaurant food deliveries and less with ecommerce.

PS: For some reasons, Indian Ecommerce websites love coming up with their own Glossary of Terms!

d. Handling Exceptions on Product Pages

Some of the best user experience practices are seen on products that handle exceptions really well. Only following a simple principle – “Do not show user information that is not applicable’ goes a long way in removing information overload and simplifying user’s buyer experience.

Here are the few common ones that should be displayed only when applicable -

  1. EMI on Rs. 3000 – shown for all the products even those priced below that limit.
  2. Showing Cash on Delivery for products on which it is not applicable
  3. ‘Free Shipping’ when not applicable or Showing ‘Free Shipping on products above Rs. 500′ when the product is already above that amount.
  4. Ships from Chennai – Shown to user who is from Delhi. (Unnecessary second thoughts for the user – what matters is that product is shipped in time, not from where it is)
  5. In Stock. Of-course, why else would you display ‘Add to Cart’ button.
  6. Offers. Most offers kill Ecommerce profits (and the service too) – but since it is a trend now to show them, display only offers applicable to the product. Avoid blanket offers for a category.
  7. Twin Carts
  8. Asking ‘Are these reviews helpful?’ when there are no reviews.
  9. Private Listing of products shown to all.
  10. Free Returns or Exchange displayed on products that are not applicable like Lingerie, Cosmetics, etc
Showing EMI when not applicable

Showing EMI when not applicable

Dual Carts – Not applicable to > 95% users

Private Listing? Why show it to users then.

Private Listing? Why show it to users then.

Feedback on Reviews not written yet.

Feedback on Reviews not written yet.

Showing Offers when none available

Showing Offers when none available

Product  In Stock. Offer that is super-stretch for the user.

Product In Stock. Offer that is super-stretch for the user.

Ships From? Why a User needs to know as long as it reaches him on time.

Ships From? Why a User needs to know as long as it reaches him on time.

Handling Exceptions are really important for every product that is being sold on a Ecommerce site. Simply because every product is different, so are its attributes and not all of them apply all the time.

 

e. Staying away from Fancy Features

Get rid of fancy features on the product pages, some of them really make no sense.

Some of the top fancy features that are seen frequently on ecommerce websites are listed below. Though its debatable that few of them are required, the point to suggest here is not letting them interfere in the transaction process and keeping them passively available.

  1. Compare products on your site. There are different sites available for comparison and decision making.
  2. Ship to my pincode. While this feature has value, actively showing it to everyone does not. Good execution by Amazon India as a passive feature.
  3. Ask seller a question in Marketplaces. Is it scalable if the response is delayed by hours or days. Even users do not ask questions on top selling products.
  4. Login to Save in Wishlist. Almost everyone has feature – why. How many people come to wishlist on ecommerce sites again.
  5. Add to Favorites. This feature is great for social commerce or 100% design-only focus websites like Fab or Etsy, provided it adds value to user.
  6. SEO Fanciness – Many ecommerce services use without understanding how difficult it is for users to read.
  7. Vendor Information. Yes, we know you are marketplace, but there is a beautiful way to telling who the real seller is. (like Etsy).
  8. The filter for filters. Cool, but over period of time they all die and the data operations kill the user experience then.
  9. Comments on products. Again – engagement v/s commerce. Most services that have comments enabled, see user complaints and customer service related comments that further discourage buyers.
  10. Zillion Reviews that make no sense.
Fits SEO, but how helpful is this for user?

Fits SEO, but how helpful is this Product Descripion for user?

Fancy Filters

Fancy Filters – Helped me discover unknown Brands, Irrelevant Form ~ Touch is Qwerty or no. CDMA. Other OS > All known ones.

Reviews that make little sense

Reviews that make little sense

Facebook Comments - Why?

Facebook Comments – Why?

Favorite & Add to Compare

Favorite & Add to Compare

Definitely users don't want to enter in a relationship with the seller.

Definitely users don’t want to enter in a relationship with the seller.

How does this information matter?

How does this information matter?

Thanks for making this complicated. Users only care for price they will buy it for.

Thanks for making this complicated. Users only care for price they will buy it for.

There is a huge buzz around content + commerce, I believe that both of them should not mix. Content products (like Twitter, Quora, or even Wishberg for example) should focus on engagement and time-sink for its users, while Commerce products (like Amazon, Flipkart and others) should focus on transactions that are completed as quickly as possible.

 

f. Photos: Picture Perfect Product Pages

How important are photos on your product pages. If the answer is yes very important, make it a standard practice for product photos to be over 500 x 350 pixels. Optional images are great, zoom-in to see larger photos absolutely great – but those are optional features, the main product image makes a lot of difference.

Large Product Photos on Etsy. Also look at NastyGal's page shared above.

Large Product Photos on Etsy. Also look at NastyGal’s page shared above.

g. Recommendation that kill the Product Experience

Ecommerce sites should put a limit to the number of recommendations that are shown to the users. One of the best known Ecommerce site displays a stunning 9 set of recommendations on its product pages, that includes 35 products being recommended under pretext of ‘for you’.

Recommendations shown for a Mobile Phone

  1. More Mobile Phones from Samsung.
  2. Feature Phones from Samsung
  3. Recently Sold in Electronics & Gadgets
  4. Products Frequently purchased together
  5. More Android Mobile Phones
  6. People who viewed this item also viewed
  7. Top Selling Mobile Phones
  8. Products You Recently Viewed
  9. Recommendations based on your browsing history

Showing 35 recommendations does probably less for making up a buying decision and more for increasing dropouts or bounce rates of product pages. The ideal number of recommendations to be shown to user are 3-4 sets not more than that.

The ones that are most likely to help in conversion are:

  • Products Frequently Brought Together (provided the combined price is not greater than 3X of product price). This recommendation can be also displayed at Cart Level.
  • Customers who viewed this Product also Viewed. (Actual Recommendations)
  • Recently Viewed Products
  • Recommendations Based on Browsing History.

Flipkart & Amazon India does a great job with product recommendations.

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Since I do not want this post to sound like a rant, I have attempted to re-create the first scroll product page (of the one mentioned in the first point here) by applying these best practices that I have mentioned here. This is how it looks. (Note: I am not a designer, this is recreated out of plain copy-paste tools.)

Product Page based on the best practices mentioned here.

Product Page created by me based on the best practices mentioned here. Redesigned the first image.

Concluding Notes:

Indian Ecommerce is coming out of age now, its off to a great start. While challenges like operations, logistics and customer experience are being tackled with great enthusiasm to delight users, it is time to also look at getting product management principles right and ensure users have a right user-experience.

Something I missed completely is that not a single ecommerce site reminded me of their mobile apps, isn’t mobile supposed to be the next big thing? A simple feature like ‘Send this to Mobile’ will do wonders – there is a chance that I will further share the product on WhatsApp and ask friends & family.

Remember, users that come to ecommerce websites are not here to build relationship, they are merely here to transact. Some features like Add to Wishlist, Write a Review, Rate this Product, Comment on this Product, Showing Auto-Pop to ask Email (and later spamming with newsletter), etc are not the ones really care about when they are here to transact. They are passive features, completely optional. Don’t irritate your users!

“I’m not here to enter into a relationship. I just want to buy something.” from the famous post – The $300 Million Button by Usability Expert Jared Spoon.

Ending this post with one of my favorite quotes on this topic – “Every feature has some maintenance cost, and having fewer features lets us focus on the ones we care about and make sure they work very well.” – David Karp, Tumblr.

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The next post in this series will be Best Practices for Shopping Cart & Checkout Process.

Building Global Product? List of Technology Sites & Blogs for Global PR

When Wishberg got TechCrunch’ed and had its share of Global PR two months back, many people asked how did we manage to do that! I am not answering that here.

Getting featured on top technology sites “should not be considered success”, there are miles to go for us. If you are building a Global Product, getting tech coverage from around the World helps you get the word out for your product.

So below is the cheat sheet we built for this – its the list of the top technology sites & blogs you should consider.

Of course I have contacts of all these websites and reporters. Not sharing as I don’t want them to get spammed! If you still want them, send $10,000 :)

If I missed any, please tweet them to me on @beingpractical or email to pj (at) beingpractical.com

#GOSF – The Great Online Shopping Failure

GOSF – What is not right about it!

The Great Google Online Shopping Festival (GOSF) is all over my timeline. To be honest, I also had my share of fun.

 

What went wrong with GOSF: 

1. GOSF was down.
The Official Site was down – gosf.in. That is ok, but just that we didn’t (No one did) expect this from Google. .

2. Everyone Got Invited to the Party.
Over 225+ partners were listed on GOSF.in. It looked like a directory of ecommerce sites. It should have been exclusive, invite only and curated.

.

3. Selection of Partners

What were Automobile sites, Property sites doing on Online Shopping. Some ridiculous offers included Rs. 10,000 off on your Dream Home (Really?)

GOSF-Deals0
.

4. Quality of Deals
Everything can be excused but not the quality of deals.
- Many partners (if not all) ran their regular promotions under GOSF.
- Deep discounting on Chinese & Unbranded products continued. Up to 90% off on such products.

GOSF-Deals
.

5. Efforts by Partners
- The participating partners (many of them) are marketing it just like any other event (Rakhi, Diwali, etc).
- Existing products & offers that were run for centuries got labelled under GOSF.
- Few sites had bugs (I reported couple of them – down side of knowing too many people).
- Many partners have not made any efforts to even put up even the GOSF banner on their sites or even deals.
.

 

GOSF will be still reported as Great Success. Why?

Post end of event, many Ecommerce partners will claim impressive numbers. I am sceptical of any numbers around the same attributed to GOSF or their own internal marketing efforts.

Because – This is how my inbox looks today:

GOSF-MailBox

Because – This is how my SEO & SEM looks today:

GOSF-SEOnSEM

Because – This is how on-site Marketing looks today:

GOSF-OnSite

 

Concluding Notes:

I am not against GOSF or Google or its Partners (Personally and also because I know too many friends / acquaintances who are associated with the industry). Its a great concept and if it manages to get ‘New People To Shop Online’ (those who never did it before) its a great win for everyone (all professionals) who has anything to do online.

I don’t want to end this note on post as a critic, so here are some suggestions for the next #GOSF:

  • Limit Partners under every category – Max 10 to 15. Limit Categories to 10.
  • Curated by Partners, Approved by Google – Real offers, real deals.
  • Limit number of products / offers by every partner to 100. Again real deals; feature them on GOSF.in
  • Instead making partners spend online (SEM) – It should direct all that traffic to GOSF.in and lets users choose what they want to buy. (Google did the same for Gmail launch).

Signing off. I was just being practical. And, One more thing…

Facebook, its time you fix yourself and be relevant!

Facebook

I have seen Facebook as product scale up since 2006, there was a time I believed this one could never go down. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself using Facebook everyday now. In tech world, products that reach this scale do not fail, they become irrelevant.

Facebook is fast becoming irrelevant and replaceable in our life. I love Facebook and really admire Mark Zuckerberg for building it one. I still think Facebook can still turn around and be that important part of our lives again.

Here are few things that Facebook needs to fix in its product:

1. Feeds & Notifications

Feeds and Notifications are (were?) the lifelines of Facebook. Both are quickly losing its relevance to create engagement.

The challenge with Facebook is you are subscribed to multiple content units. This includes updates from -
a. Friends & Contacts
b. Pages you ‘Liked’
c. People you ‘Follow’ or ‘Subscribed to’
d. Open Graph Integrations & Updates through Social Plugins
e. Promoted Posts

There is clearly too much of information that user gets subscribed to and its obvious that the Edgerank is failing to discover the most appropriate post for its users.

Edgerank has multiple flip points! It works on the fact that people / pages that you interact recently or regularly show up more frequently in your feeds, or the ones in your social circle that has higher engagement. That results in missing out other important updates from friends / contacts, missing that important update from your favorite band and so on.

Same with notifications, there are many irrelevant notifications that are shown on Facebook which over a time lose value for notifications all together. Facebook should restrict notifications only to posts / updates important to the user.

Facebook’s Edgerank struggles to discover the best post for you hoping that you will engage. Twitter simply says you missed it if you didn’t see it, so if you don’t want to miss any update – stay logged in. Twitter clearly works well here.

Facebook needs to fix its Edgerank to sustain itself. Maybe completely moving to a Twitter like time line will make more sense for Facebook.

2. Instant Messaging

Have read a lot of posts about how Facebook should be worried about Instant Messaging Apps like WhatsApp, SnapChat and others. While most of the posts put up the metrics like number of messages shared or photos uploaded or so on to compare them with FB, they miss a simple and crucial point on what makes them successful.

Facebook is a network that connects your family and friends. Instant Messaging apps like WhatsApp ‘connect them faster’. This was the perfect way to disrupt Facebook and it worked! Its no surprise that younger generation does not connect with Facebook- why should one sign-up, create a profile, upload status & photos and so on? Just download a Instant Messaging app and get started. Honestly, Facebook today is delayed WhatsApp’ing.

WhatsApp should have been acquired by Facebook long time back, there were rumors. But to continue to be relevant, its time that Facebook should now stop looking at its ‘messaging’ feature as a feature – but as core proposition!

Update: Few people pointed out that Facebook Messenger lets you sends instant messages like WhatsApp to anyone. I checked this again, but it looks that FB Messenger works with users who have registered their phone number with a Facebook Account. The Instant Messages are sent through to the Facebook messages in your profile. Nevertheless, the point I wanted to suggest here is Instant Messaging should become the core proposition of Facebook who wants to connect the world, and not its feature.

3. Developers

Its been more than 2 years that the last F8 conference was held, clearly Facebook does not have anything great on its plate for developer community. This is bad news for thousands of application developers who use Facebook (Connect) as primary platform to build their applications.

Distribution on top of Facebook is almost non-existent now (Read: Rethinking Facebook Connect). Eventually this will lead to developers looking for other platforms to build on top of it.

Twitter will stand to gain the most out here at this point of time. Google has been silently integrating Google+ to many of its services, if Google can provide ‘distribution’ as incentive to developers, there might be still hope for Google+ (of which I had been skeptical from day 1)

4. Facebook Pages are Dead.

When Facebook Pages were introduced, there was a gold rush among Marketers and Brands to get as much Likes or Fans as possible build an captive audience and engage with them on a regular basis.

Facebook pages are dead now, its effective reach is reduced to mere 2% of audience and practically they drive zero new likes / fans to the page as virality is almost dead. As a marketer, I would expect the posts shared on my pages to reach majority (if not all) of its audience.

If the only way to get any sort of engagement now is paid posts, marketers will soon realize the same and will start abandoning the Facebook. Instead Marketers will prefer sending traffic to their own website over Facebook Pages. Facebook should fix this.

5. Publishers

Millions of publishers use the Facebook Social Plugins, more particularly Like, Share widgets on their websites; the motivation here is to drive more traffic (users) from Facebook. It worked earlier as Facebook was a awesome discovery platform to know social actions of friends & contacts.

As engagement and virality of Facebook platform has decreased, these social plugins are proving to be lesser effective in driving more users / traffic to publishers.

6. No Mobile Presence

Post IPO Facebook (and analysts) were worried that Facebook did not have a solid mobile monetization strategy in place. Its solved now as mobile revenue contributes significantly to Facebook’s revenue. However I think it was not so much about mobile revenue, Facebook missed the mobile ecosystem completely. It does not own any of the core-experiences on mobile.

Look at smartphone on device strategy -

  • Calendar is owned by Google (Calendar).
  • Contacts are owned Google (Gmail).
  • Messaging is owned by WhatsApp & others.
  • Camera was owned by Instagram (acquired by Facebook) but faces intense competition from other apps like - Twitter, SnapChat, FrontBack, WhatsApp and others.
  • Location is owned by Google (Maps).
  • AppStores are closed. Owned by Google or Apple.

While Facebook Home was a great attempt at ‘hijacking’ the phone experience, but with no value attached for users the product dried down quickly. With no deeper integration on phone, Facebook is just another app. And as other apps deliver more value while communicating with friends, Facebook is very vulnerable to being an ‘optional app’.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Concluding Notes:

Facebook needs to re-think its strategy and focus on making its product relevant. Not just for its users, but also for other stake holders like Developers, Marketers, Publishers and so on.

Out of context, but I find Facebook’s intention of getting the entire planet online (Internet.org) ridiculous and a big distraction for both – Facebook & Zuck. Facebook did an amazing job of getting over 1 Billion Users on its platform, but to think that Facebook and its partners (of Internet.org) will manage to get the next 2 Billion Users online is absurd.

Unfortunately for Facebook, the next Billion users will come online because of instant messaging apps. For now, Facebook should just concentrate on its product.

Few Things I Learned As A Entrepreneur in Last One Year

About this time last year, I wrote about my experiences as an entrepreneur. Another year has passed and also that Wishberg completes a year, I am sharing some notes I scribbled thinking about the time that has passed.

  1. Having your own product roadmap is one thing. Building what users ask is another. Choose what the user wants.
  2. Most successful products have very similar characteristics. Here are 15 Steps towards building a Great Product.
  3. Scaling up is much simpler problem to solve. Concentrate on initial growth and traction. When you come to a stage where you want to scale, there will be enough money in the bank.
  4. Ship Fast. Let things break. Often.
  5. A bug is bug only when its noticed.
  6. Focus on doing one thing right. That is enough. We decided to drop everything we did and focus on ‘wish’ for Wishberg.
  7. Chase a vision, not an idea. When you have a vision, you will get 100 ideas to achieve that.
  8. For success you need to try 100 things, one at a time. Make sure you have enough runway to try those. One of that will work. If you are lucky, that would be your first; if not then start-up life will test your perseverance.
  9. Break your long term strategy in to multiple short term targets.
  10. Spend over 30 minutes in shower everyday. You will never run out of ideas.
  11. Concentrate on doing one thing right. You may still fail, but its far more better than getting distracted by trying 10 different things.
  12. Growth hacks that have worked for other startups will not work for yours. Startups can’t be so easy. Find your own hacks.
  13. Success is not easy. Don’t expect it to be.
  14. Every week try to use your product as a new user who has not used it earlier and knows nothing about it.
  15. Doing a startup has a huge personal opportunity cost, no one talks about. This too shall pass, I tell that to myself. Everyday.
  16. Entrepreneurship is not sexy. I personally discourage people from taking it up. Specially the ones with a family to support.
  17. Anyone can take decisions with data. And data may not be available always. Nothing new or ground breaking was ever built based only on data available. Trust your instincts / guts to do build something new. 
  18. Try and fail, don’t fail to try.
  19. Luck is important factor. Wishberg got funded the same month I was about to run out of money. I already ran out of my funds and savings long time back, I refer to the personal loans I took up to keep it going.
  20. Startup as early as possible in your life. Debts, Loans kill your ambitions. Everyday.
  21. Everyday will give you 100 reasons to close down. You need to have that one strong reason to keep it going.
  22. Delegate. But be hands-on. You should know more about your business than anyone else.
  23. Team is your family. Choose wisely whom you want to add. Genuinely love your team and be concerned about them and their well being.
  24. Fight. Argue. Debate. Discuss. Don’t carry things outside office. It all should get over by the day.
  25. Ignore 99% advice you get. The 1% that comes up again and again – think about it.
  26. Funding does not make you rich. No matter how much you make others understand it, they will not. Stop wasting your time.
  27. Everyone struggles. Even a start up without funding. Even a start up with millions of dollars of funding.
  28. Funding just gives you a little more runway. To try out multiple things. Its just a little more runway.
  29. Unfortunately funding is perceived as success. I received invitations to speak at conferences just cause we got funded. Damn! And no one ever called me for any discussion or debate while I predicted Indian startup scene so accurately. tl;dr – I’m not going.
  30. Investors who take over a week to come back to you; who say keep us posted; who say lets keep in touch and so on – will never invest in you. Don’t waste time on it.
  31. Investors who really want to invest in your startup will not take much time to do it. One of our investors committed to us over a Twitter DM in less than a minute. Another one on WhatsApp again in about 1 minute.
  32. Investors fund / invest in you. You. And your ability to grow the product / company.
  33. Don’t say no to money when it comes knocking your door. I said no to it twice (rather my ego said no it). Cash in hand is much better than perceived valuations.
  34. Don’t choose investors based on the valuations. The best investors bring in value. The worst investors bring in just cash.
  35. Build feature products (unlike what investors / advisors say). But build that simple feature as a freaking awesome product that everyone wants to use.
  36. Check the history of acquisitions by Facebook or Google. Your feature product is more likely to be acquired if you build it right.
  37. Choose team, advisors & investors with whom you can talk about life over couple of drinks.
  38. Build something that you understand and believe in. Don’t build what will get funded or is generally considered hot.
  39. Never understood why using foul words in startup ecosystem is considered cool. I don’t think its cool.
  40. Let go of ego.
  41. Anyone who says they will disrupt are just talkers. Just be willing to change and adapt.
  42. Disrupt slowly. Unannounced. Feature by Feature. Before anyone realizes what happened.
  43. Competition will exists, don’t be afraid of that.
  44. One fine day Facebook, Amazon or Google will try to build what you are building. Its sounds scary, but its fun. Btw, I almost cried when Facebook launched a ‘Want’ button or Amazon started Collections or Pinterest tried to position itself as wishlist from a online pin board.
  45. Meet lot of users, lots of people. Get their ideas on your business, product. Some simple things will amaze you.
  46. Be Humble. Be Genuine. Its not very difficult.
  47. Smile. Have fun. As many times as you can.
  48. Build relationships. Specially with other startup founders. Some of them might be at the lowest phase in life, be there. At times they just need someone to talk with whom they can relate.
  49. With more power, comes more responsibility. With more responsibility, comes more stress.
  50. Do something to de-stress you. I try blogging, driving, and observing people when I travel by Mumbai Locals.
  51. Spend at least 1 hour reading up everyday.
  52. Spend one day of every month with your family and friends. Try to be away from the Internet on that day.
  53. Every mistake should be made only once. You don’t have time to repeat it.
  54. ‘Fail Fast’ is a buzz word. Failure comes with cost – money, time and spirits. So you can’t really fail fast.
  55. Value money. Think 100 times before you spend even a single dollar. Negotiate hard. Every dollar saved adds up to your runway.
  56. Don’t do anything or spend time behind anything (feature, update, task, product, or anything) that does not personally excites you.
  57. The single most difficult task of a startup founder is setting priorities. If you get it right, your job is done. 9 out of 10 times you will go wrong. Don’t regret, keep moving.
  58. Simple, short and sweet updates to your product bring the best results. Don’t over think or focus on too many big features.
  59. Focus is about saying No. Stop agreeing too everyone and everything.
  60. You learn most not from blogs or advisors or investors. You learn most from other founders. Connect and share your learnings with each other. We organized a #FoundersMeet in Mumbai.
  61. People around you are smarter than you think. Learn from them.
  62. The most important thing in life is not knowing everything, its having the phone number of somebody who does.
  63. Stay away from events, conferences and pitching events. It takes up a lot of time and energy. Both are precious.
  64. Be passionate. Be enthusiastic. About every new day.
  65. Not just your startup, even you as a person should grow yourself every day. Learn at least one new thing everyday.
  66. Have a bucket list for life, here is mine. Check it every morning, if you see things / wishes that are yet to be achieved, get back to work. Wishberg helps you build and manage your bucket list.
  67. Plug-in your startup in every possible way. I just did that in above point. But no kidding, having a bucket list is actually very inspiring, I have one since last 6 years.
  68. Every morning make a list of things / tasks you plan to finish in that day.
  69. If you are out to achieve something, achieve something big. Don’t set mediocre goals.
  70. Content or Commerce doesn’t go hand in hand. Most startups trying to do both get confused on what they really want to achieve. They really do. Focus on one.
  71. MVP is More Valuable Product. Everyone wants a more valuable product, no one wants a minimum viable product.
  72. Build your startup for growth. Not for exit.
  73. Ask questions. Lots of them. No matter how silly they are to you or the person you are asking for.
  74. Execution is everything. All ideas are equally great on paper.
  75. Startups are not easy. Neither is life.
  76. Build something awesome. Something that people will love to use.
  77. Be thankful to everyone you has helped you in this journey. Make sure you help others in their journey so that they can say thank-you to you. It feels great!
Done. Let’s get back to work.

100+ Startup Directories to Submit your Startup for Free

Day 1 of Product Launch is a mix of joy & disappointment. Joy because you launched your product after days (or weeks or months) of hard work and disappointment because those first 1000 users did not join on day 1.

In the last post, I mentioned about reaching to startup and tech influencers to spread a word for your product when you announce the launch. Next step is spreading word to get those initial beta users beyond your circle of influence + taking steps towards SEO through first 100 backlinks for your product. How? Submit on all important startup directories.

I have shared 100+ directories (startups, beta users, search engines, etc) here to begin with. If there are more that I might have missed – please tweet to me on @beingpractical or email me on pj (at) beingpractical.com to include in this list.

Facebook Pages: No one is talking about you!

About 3 – 4 years back, Facebook Pages was a hot property. Till just some time back, every brand, every advertiser wanted as many “Likes” as possible. At peak of this trend, some brands even did press releases on reaching 1 Million Likes.

Here is some bad news for Social Media Agencies, Consultants and every concerned with Social Media, Facebook Pages as a product has reached end of its life cycle and is no more valuable for brands. Why do I say this?

Check the metrics for some of the most popular internet brands in India and also International brands.

As defined by Facebook, the ‘People talking about this’ includes – likes, comments, shares, answering a question, responding to a event and claiming a offer. The average ‘People Talking about This’ is drastically reduced to just about 2%.

Why is this happening -

  • Facebook has two current priorities – Improve (and retain) User Engagement & Grow Revenues.
  • In a attempt to retain user engagement, Facebook wants users to engage with each other (people to people) and not with applications or pages. 
  • To grow revenues, Facebook wants you to pay to reach its audience. If the natural viral factor is high, brands no longer have to pay Facebook.
  • More pointers on this in my earlier post, where I said Facebook is no longer a powerful distribution platform.

What this implies -

  • Most pages listed above are currently (probably) not advertising on FB. It effectively means that the natural engagement of a Facebook page is now at a average of 2%. 
  • If only 2% of your page audience is going to engage, the ‘viral factor’ that introduced new users to your page will be a minuscule number. 
  • If a brand has gathered Facebook Fans / Likes by doing advertisements for its pages, value of the money spent is $0 today.
  • In case you are running any advertisements to get Likes to your page, consider halting it.
  • The only way to reach your own audience (people who have liked you) is using advertising tools like ‘Boost Post’.

So why is it a dead product? If a Facebook page (as a product) that has over a million users connected to it, but generates only 2% engagement and possibly even less viral factor is as good as dead. As a transaction product (like ecommerce) the conversions from Facebook Page will be further down since your posts reach a smaller percentage of ‘your Facebook audience’.

Going forward if the audience that you are building through Facebook Page is never going to engage with your posts, it might be a better option for advertisers to consider simply running CPC advertisements to target the necessary demographic, take users to their website and engage them there (back to pre-social media days of Facebook).

If you are a start-up building products around Facebook Pages or anything that concerns with distribution through Facebook Pages or even through Facebook, take a hard look at the data / funnels.

Some exceptions above are Mashable, BuzzFeed and 9GAG. Why? Because they are in the content business (yes Mashable too, in my opinion its no more a social media site) and for the fact that they have exceptionally high engagement numbers is probably because they are the only ones doing content marketing right on Facebook!

For everyone else, no one really is talking about you on Facebook. Not unless you are paying for it!

List of Startup / Tech Influencers in India

Many founders struggle in getting a word out for their products or startups – its crucial, something that makes or breaks your startup in its initial days. While tech press and coverage for startups is one thing, its important to have early adopters talk about your product and suggest them to potential users / customers.

India ranks among the top 5 countries by users for global products like Facebook, Twitter, Quora and so on. Clearly we have enough early adopters, question is who?

Below is list of people that I have compiled and consider tech influencers whom you might want to connect with to get a word out about your startup. Good luck!

Things to note -

  • List excludes VCs or people directly associated with Accelerator or Incubators. Their tweets reflect vested interests in portfolio companies. I don’t consider them influencers.
  • People mentioned here frequently tweet / talk about startups and new products.
  • I don’t know many of them personally or follow many of them myself; however they keep appearing on my timeline again and again.
  • I plan to keep this listed updated, if you have any recommendations – drop me a email on pj (at) beingpractical.com

Disclosure: This list is not compilation of users who tweet about Wishberg (my startup). In fact many of them don’t even have a account on Wishberg. But this includes my name somewhere in between :)

PJ’s Equation of Tweeting

Twitter was a product till few years back., its now a powerful communication tool. A medium to stay updated! What you get out of Twitter is simply based on whom who follow.

As a open communication medium, one needs to tweet responsibly! Twitter can get highly addictive and if you are tweeting too much, you may be spamming your follower’s timelines with tweets that may be senseless for many.

I have followed this equation, which now I call the PJ’s Equation of Tweeting.

PJ’s Equation of Tweeting: Total Tweets < Followers x 10.

PJ's Equation of Tweeting

PJ's Equation of Tweeting

Though it looks simple, it really works (for me at least).

  1. One needs to Tweet responsibly, cause the tweets are limited.
  2. With every new follower, you earn right to tweet (10 tweets); and with every lost follower you lose that. Makes me tweet with care.

PS: Total Tweets includes everything – tweets, replies and retweets.
PS 2: If you just joined Twitter, the equation will not work. But as you get regular, it should.
PS 3: If you are celebrity in real world (or if you think you are) then: Tweets < (Followers / 10).