Tag Archives: growth

The App World is Flat!

The App World is Flat

With Apps / Mobile growth, things are changing at a fast pace in the eCommerce / mCommerce space in India & around the world; for purpose of simplicity – calling it eCommerce without bothering about on which platform the transaction happens on.

The world is fast discovering web on smartphones, gets on-boarded to services like WhatsApp & Facebook, doing their first online transactions on Mobile Recharge services like FreeCharge & Paytm, and evolving to eCommerce, On-Demand Services & Travel. Unlike the previous predictions made in 2011/2012 – which were very company specific, this time the focus is largely around the trends in the Mobile App world.

 

The (App) World is Flat!

In old days of Internet Marketing, there were strategies to acquire users / customers by categories through multiple marketing channels – Adwords, SEO, Email, Display advertising, etc

The App World is flat. Be it large commerce startups like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Ola, Uber or the ones that were launched yesterday in any space, the common ground for everyone to get started today is exactly the same – getting the App Installed. This is disruptive in many ways – if someone has $1 Mn to spend on user acquisition – no matter at what stage / scale a startup is, the cost to get the app installed now remains the more or less similar for everyone.

As other core functions of eCommerce like Logistics, Merchants, Payments get more organised & commoditised; and User Acquisition starts with getting the app installed – a new ecommerce marketplace startup that launches today with $5 Mn Series A investment has much better chance to succeed than ever before or give existing large players good competition.

That puts everything in a interesting perspective – As cost is exactly the same, what are the differentiators? Its the core value proposition of the startup – the one communicated before user installs the app and one actually delivered. This change makes every startup focus a lot on building a great product and an awesome consumer experience than ever before!

 

Discovery, Marketing & Product Experiences:

In the ‘web’ world, Google allowed marketers to reach ‘users with intent’ through Adwords (or SEO) and so did Facebook to reach a certain demographic of users on its platform. This has changed fast. For high growth mobile startups that are scaling up in India – Google & Facebook’s share of marketing spends is shrinking when compared to others.

App Installs plays a level playing field in User Acquisition today; networks & affiliates are able to drive App Installs at better volumes with very competitive rates when compared to Google, Facebook or Twitter. Discounts, cashbacks & user driven growth form new means of acquiring users at a exponential rate. Share of wallet from marketing spends for Google & Facebook is going down.

Any consumer app like Flipkart / Snapdeal or Google / Facebook can now read multiple signals off user’s phones – apps, locations, contacts, texts messages, and so on and redefine how users are targeted for advertising. Flipkart’s plans to build online advertising business are well known; could be huge opportunity if kept independent.

Mobile App capabilities can also translate into building relevant product experiences for end users. For example – a Cleartrip trying optimise its Hotel Booking Offering for users when it reads a Flight Booking SMS from Airline website on user’s phone; Housing showing financing options for house from HDFC knowing that the user has the HDFC Bank App installed on phone; or Flipkart showcasing user products based on how quickly they can be delivered; of a Finance App recommending user investment options based on his Account Balance and so on. In one of my recent conversations this came up – today a user’s mobile phone location is his delivery address.

Till now, Ecommerce products today have just transformed from web to app, not essentially unlocked the value the mobile platform brings. If existing players don’t innovate, some new startups will. Focus on building awesome products.

 

App Discovery will evolve:

App Discovery and Install today act as the top of the funnel for every User Acquisition effort. Visiting a App Store to download any app is a redundant step; its not required if app is discovered through other channels. Expect Google Play to take the Install button (or trigger) outside the Google Play Store and let users install apps without explicitly visiting the Play Store in background. If that happens, expect APIs that will trigger app installs for publishers & advertisers making user acquisition & advertising dollars more efficient. Yes – that possibly kills ASO, App Discovery as we know of today on App Store, and Google’s Adwords product for Play Store.

Mobile Apps ecosystem is cursed with high uninstall rates. Users & Marketers would want to move towards the philosophy – you acquire user only once, does not matter through which channel – App Store or Browsers. Users would want the product / service on-demand on every platform – Smartphone or Desktop Browser whenever they want without hassles of user / account management. Expect browsers integrations & enhanced capabilities on Chrome with App Stores (Google Play to start with) that enables users to access the Apps installed on their smartphones on desktop or any other platforms without having to log-in separately.

App Stores like Google Play or Apple iTunes will also evolve from their current stage of ‘enabling discovery of mobile apps’ to ‘authentication of user credentials’. App Stores will retain user information – personal details, payment info (saved cards or wallet), delivery details and so on to transform into 1-click authentication platforms. Example – Users while shopping on Snapdeal, Flipkart or Amazon Mobile App can do 1-click checkout with App Store authentication that gives the Ecommerce service all user information w/t payment information data that is required for Ecommerce sites to fulfil the transaction.

This is something similar to what Facebook did earlier where Apps & Games on Facebook Platform received user information on Login-with-Facebook. Its still early days for Mobile App Stores, they will evolve in big way going forward.

Note: Google is already working in this direction to distribute Install action with App Invites (Beta)

Engagement v/s Instant Gratification:

As consumers get habituated to transactional & on-demand services – social products & social commerce products (like Wishberg – my previous startup) or any other would find it extremely difficult now to scale up or grow without providing the instant gratification experience.

Existing large companies in this space are picking up clues and started to move towards a transactional experience with Buy buttons. To ecommerce companies, working with large networks for such 1-click transaction experiences is a big win.

Expect focus of large social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc) & discovery channels (Google, Pinterest, etc) to move from top of the funnel (i.e. product discovery or media spends) to bottom of the funnel (enabling transactions or margins). They are currently driving Mobile Installs or Traffic for their current advertisers, going forward may be looking at driving customers. Such products or services know more about users than anyone else.

Products like Facebook, Google will retain customer information (delivery, location & saved card details) and move towards enabling the one-touch buy experience.

 

Frequency is all that matters now!

This topic itself calls for a longish post (may be for some other time), for now the point to note is that Mobile App makes perfect use-case for a high frequency consumer behaviour. There are already many studies that have concluded that consumers prefer to have only few apps on their smartphones – ones that are frequently used.

Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram etc which see extremely high engagement (and frequency) are less likely to be uninstalled by user while an app that is not used for few weeks (or even days) is very likely to get uninstalled. Ecommerce products would not be able to match levels of usage demonstrated by Social Apps.

Transactional apps that have a daily / weekly use case like Cabs, Food Delivery, Grocery, etc would see better usage compared to others. As that gets discovered, expect Ecommerce apps to expand into multiple categories / segments that could be completely diverse – Paytm moving to eCommerce or Travel, Ola moving to Food Delivery and so on to drive frequent usage.

This strategy works well with two big motives – increases app usage as users have more reasons to open & engage with the app and also adds up to their topline. But for vertical commerce players like Home Repairs, Home Furnishing, Jewellery, Footwear or others – surviving in App World with infrequent usage will be extremely challenging.

Today, Success or Failure of any startup is just an uninstall away!

 

OnDemand Services may disrupt eCommerce forever.

In past few months, many on-demand services have raised massive Series A rounds, the ones focussing on infrequent use-cases like Home Repairs, etc will start struggling with user retention and other ones who are driving high frequency use-cases like groceries, food delivery will start bleeding because of poor unit economics.

Ecommerce today as we know it has its own challenges – relying on third party logistics, depending on unverified sellers & products, deep discounting of products to drive volumes and their attempts to move from cash on delivery to cashless transactions.

On other hand, offline retailers in India are up in arms against online players but have little competition to offer. If OnDemand services like Groffers, Swiggy and others in this on-demand space started delivering users Ecommerce products partnering with your offline retail giants and local stores – eCommerce changes in this country forever.

No more waiting for even for 24-48 hours, the product that you want, from the trusted store of your choice, in the payment mode of your choice, in your hand – in next 30 minutes. The Amazon Prime or Flipkart First experience delivered to you, every time. This changes everything we have learned or known about ‘traditional ecommerce’.

Concluding Notes

Mobile app & growth story is just getting started. Its too early to declare winners because the App World is Flat!

Dissection of Online Travel Agent (OTA) Business: What is Market Size?

Once an VC-favorite business domain in India, Online Travel Agents (OTA) business model has been quite silent since last 2-3 years in this activity. Primarily cause Aviation industry suffered huge losses in this time and most of the plans to expand the aviation businesses in India fell flat post the recession on 2008-2009.

Of course the direct impact of this was on OTAs. Consolidation is expected to take place, naturally since the number of players in market today are probably equal to or more than the number of airlines operating in India. The big 3 of course are Cleartrip, MakeMyTrip & Yatra, however the question is are other players in market big enough or valuable to get acquired or carry any differentiators to be acquired.

Nevertheless, this post is about some number crunching and to answer the question – How big exactly is the OTA market for domestic flights? Taking a reverse approach on this… from Supply to Demand.
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Domestic Airline Fleet in India:

As of Airline Fleet Flights
Dec-09 Jet Airways 89 400
Dec-09 Jet Lite 19 110
Dec-09 Jet Konnect 19 125
Dec-09 SpiceJet 19 125
Dec-09 Indigo 24 155
Dec-09 Kingfisher & Red 66 400
Dec-09 Paramount Airlines 5 28
Dec-09 Go Air 8 55
Total All Private Airlines 249 1398

Note:
*indicative data only, gathered from various sources available like company websites, news, etc. Consider all numbers as indicative figures
* Data excludes Air India / Indian Airlines domestic flight operations
* Actual flights per day may be an lower number since most carriers operate multi-destination flights, like Mum-Kolkata-Guwahati
*Jet Airways fleet size may be fleet in service for both domestic/international operations.

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Maximum Tickets Available for Sale:

Airline Flights Seats Total
Jet Airways 400 200 80,000
Jet Lite 110 200 22,000
Jet Konnect 125 200 25,000
SpiceJet 125 200 25,000
Indigo 125 200 31,000
Kingfisher & Red 400 200 80,000
Paramount Airlines 28 60 1,680
Go Air 55 200 11,000
All Private Airlines 1398 275,680

Total Tickets available for sale each day = Total Seats available = 275,680

*indicative data only, gathered from various sources available. Consider all numbers as indicative figures
* Actual number of seats available may be lower than mentioned since flights operated may be lower, as mentioned in previous slide
* Most airlines in India operate Airbus/Boeing aircrafts with which seating configuration varying between 180 to 220
* Full service airlines like Jet Airways & Kingfisher operates flight with business class seats, and have ATR aircrafts in fleets as well
* Paramount  Airways flies smaller Embraer  aircrafts

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PLF – Passenger Load Factor:

Total tickets available for sale, indicates maximum inventory available or max supply  From time to time, airlines in India have raised concerns on the occupancy levels of seats,  that’s passenger load factor.

Mostly the number has hovered between 68% to 72% for most full service airlines & between 75% to 82% for low cost carriers . Assuming 75% PLF for India, total sold out tickets in India per day would be: 2,06,760

Total Seats Offered:  275,680
Passenger Load Factor: 75%
Seats sold: 206,760

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Sale Distribution through Different Channels:

Having said that 206,760 tickets are available for sale, lets not assume that all sale happen through online channels. Different channel includes – Offline Travel Agents & Tour Operators, Tickets sold as part of travel packages, Big Corporate Organizations booking tickets for its employees through offline travel partners, Ticket Counters at airports and yes – Online.

Assuming a healthy 40% of all airline ticket sales as online sales. However, consumers in India are price sensitive and do book directly from airline’s websites as well.

Doing the division
– Ticket Sales on airline websites = 15%
– Ticket Sales on OTA websites = 25%

Tickets sold by OTAs daily = 51690

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So What are Daily Transactional Sales like?

Total Ticket Sold by all OTAs per day =  51690
Assuming average price of ticket sold online at =  Rs. 5000      (not all get a Rs.3000 ticket)
That’s daily sale of Rs. 258,450,000   ->   ie.  Rs. 25.84 crores
Monthly =  775.2 crores
Yearly= 9062.4 crores
Market size for Indian OTA Industry in Domestic Flights:  9000 crores  approximately

On a 5000 INR priced ticket, you pay 2000 INR tax  (that’s 40% ). Hence removing the tax factor, the number will be 5400 crores per year

Figures based on assumptions & numbers used in this post.

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Interesting take aways from this dissection…

  • this could have been extended to predict profitability of an OTA but has been restricted to predicting the market size only. However it’s a volume game!
  • On an average, every aircraft in India does 5.6 flights per day
    If airlines could further manage route optimization and do 1 more flight per day, at 6.6 flights per day, OTA Industry Sales will be up by 15%
  • If an airline adds one more aircraft to its fleet, OTA business increases by 0.4%
    Note that the airlines listed here itself (excluding Air India, Indian Airlines (now part of Air India)) have over  250+ air crafts in orders with Airbus / Boeing and others. This is equivalent to number of aircrafts in operations now.  If market conditions remain positive and airlines accept deliveries of these aircrafts over next 5 years, the market size will be double of existing today!
  • Nevertheless, Online Booking of Tickets will only increase in coming years. This presentation assumes 40% of ticketing happening online, this percentage share will increase with increase in consumer’s likeness for online transactions. The share of online reservations between airlines & OTAs will be deciding factor.

PS: The flow has many assumptions, however if one has or knows the right numbers – logically the market size can be concluded. I feel the numbers I have taken here are little on higher side.

Thank you :-)