The Loyalty Dilemma

Problem Statement

Focus on loyalty programs to drive increased conversions on the e-commerce site of a Middle East conglomerate.

Market Requirement Specifications

Why build a Loyalty program in the first place?

According to a research by Business Insider in 2014, loyalty programs are not very effective in general, if you as a company are counting on getting a bump in revenue or profit growth from them.

However, market caps of those with loyalty programs did outstrip those without over a five year period which means that the market rewarded these players over the long haul for them even if their numbers didn’t get a bump. Which brings us to customer loyalty.

These programs help cement your relationship with your customer where it becomes exceedingly clear that the service and site is your go-to destination for shopping.

Existing Consumer Demographics

Online Payments

  1. Based on the seven key country markets studied, United Arab Emirates showed 24 percent year-on-year growth respectively.
  2. Forecast is that the volume of online payments could increase nearly three times by the year 2020 to reach more than US$69 billion of transactions per annum.
  3. UAE is the fastest growing markets for online payment transactions, with 23% average growth across the Middle East region
  4. For online payments, UAE has the highest percentage at 71 percent respectively.
  5. UAE continues to lead the region in terms of adoption with 71 percent of the country shopping online
  6. Credit card adoption across the region varies greatly between countries, with Kuwait and the UAE having the highest penetrations of 97 percent and 89 percent respectively.

What are the products being bought in the UAE?

  1. 55% electronics
  2. 43% are clothes

Influence for buying

  1. FB Ads – 17%
  2. TV Ads – 13%
  3. Google Ads – 13%

Mobile Devices

The adoption of mobile e-commerce in the UAE is second only to China, with close to 60 per cent of UAE users buying something with their smartphones in the past 12 months, according to PayPal.

Growth

As per April 2016, 63 per cent of the total shoppers on the website of the company are Shukran members.

Consumer Preference

According to a 2015 report,

  • 56% of respondents in India and UAE are willing to share online purchase data
  • 66% of respondents in India and UAE are willing to share mobile phone number

What are other businesses doing to counter old method loyalty programs?

  • British Airways made radical changes to its Avios air miles scheme used by millions. The earning power of the cheapest economy class tickets was slashed by 75% while business and expense-account flyers found they could earn more reward
  • Marriott Hotels  announced changes to its Marriott Rewards scheme amounting to a net increase in redemption costs for 323 hotels.

The key point being made here is to be frugal.

It makes sense to target the existing consumer base, and generate an ROI on the loyalty program.

Product Requirement Document

Key Metrics to Measure Success

  1. Customer LTV
  2. Repeat Customer Rate
  3. Net Promoter Score
  4. Redemption Rate
  5. YoY comparison
  6. Average basket size

Product Road Mapping

Objective –

To integrate features that

  1. encourage users to gain Shukrans.
  2. ensure repeat transactions that will impact overall volume.

Sprint 0 – Possible Product Backlog Items

  1. Check if a user has shared the product details on Twitter/Facebook
  2. Online payment rather than COD (Considering the adoption of online payments)
  3. Start monthly shopping days when additional points can be gained. Eg – “[Company Name] days”
  4. Provision of priority customer service
  5. Same say delivery for the first few orders
  6. Buy for your family – enter the other account’s mail, both earn Shukrans
  7. UX – Clear view of how Shukrans will work
  8. Share on WhatsApp – include a referral code, person receiving can also claim Shukrans
  9. Reviews of products bought
  10. Push personalized campaigns each week
    1. Spends
    2. Transactions
    3. Brand Loyalty Index
    4. Price Sensitive
    5. Other attributes
  11. Progressive Web Apps – to improve speed and achieve superior accuracy on mobile site.
  12. Convert Shukrans to donations for charity.

Product Backlog Prioritization

The main factors used for prioritization are quick implementation, faster go to market time and overall impact on business value of the product.

First quarter – 2,6,7,8,9,12

Next quarter – 1

Third quarter – 3,4,5

Fourth Quarter – 10,11

Notes –

  • The prioritization has been made based on market research and certain assumptions. They may change subject to input of more data.
  • The tech team size is small
  • Further breakdown into user story definition and acceptance criterion can be done once the listed items receive a go ahead from the business stakeholders.

Batman vs Superman – From the eyes of a Product Manager

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The movie recently released to high expectations. I noticed some heavy Twitter campaigns as well. For the record, I have been a huge fan of Nolan’s Dark Knight series and cannot envision any other Batman other than Christian Bale.

None the less, the concept of the two superheroes going all out against each other is a plot line (product idea), that holds enormous potential. Additionally,based on the reasoning provided by the production house, I felt that the decision to cast Ben Affleck was actually a good one. Without wasting further time on dilly dallying, let’s dissect the product –

Development of modules (scenes) that were not needed.

Clients usually demand a full suite of features without actually going after a specific target problem or target user base. This leads to the creation of a bulky product with multiple features which may not address the core problem. Even if the problem is taken care off, it might create a negative impact on the actual target category of users. This generally occurs because a user might tend to feel bombarded with multiple features.

In this case, the initial half an hour of the movie was utilized to establish the beginning of Batman and a bit of Superman. This was completely unnecessary as the target audience mostly comprised of users who were aware as to how Batman “began his career”.

Spent a ton on user interface (CGI) without defining a user experience strategy (core offering for the user)

When I conduct initial meetings with stakeholders, I try to extradite the ideas sitting in their heads. Along with that, I also try and study their psychology. This helps in understanding the vision that they have for the product. Which in turn, helps me in extrapolating and defining the true vision of the product to be built.

In this case, multiple resources (time and money) were heavily invested on the UI of the product. The resultant effects produced, were visually stunning, but lacked the connect. In order to reflect the darkness within the characters, the movie itself was shot in a very dark frame.

This tends to reflect the reality of many a product out there! A lack of clarity on the UX tends to overflow into the UI as well, leading to a domino effect on the entire product.

Villain was a repackaged dude seen before (lack of innovation)

With a plethora of mobile apps and web apps on offer, competition is extremely stiff is an understatement to make! It has become really hard to capture the attention spans of users.

Jesse Eisenberg was delightful as the disturbed villain, Lex Luthor. But, his creation, Doomsday, snatched the fun out of the game. The go to story line for almost all superhero movies these days, has been about varied forms of aliens; bursting on to the scene with an intent to either conquer or destroy the citizens of Earth. From a personal perspective, I really do not mind this sort of a story line. But, when the product looks like an imitation of other successful products on the market, I tend to draw the line there.

Which is what happens in today’s world! Even non technical users are increasingly becoming aware of the kind of apps they use. And that is where imitation becomes less of an art and more of a disaster.

Product manager (director) trying to handle 5-6 advanced features (theories) in a single product (movie)

Without a doubt, I have to give due credit to the director for helming this film. It takes courage to direct such a plot line when people have seen really great Superman movies and have savored the Dark Knight trilogy respectively.

But as a product manager, it goes without saying that one has to walk a tight rope, between balancing the vision of the product and the demands of the stakeholders. Especially, if the demands point towards high end features that take time to build. More importantly, features that might not be needed in the current iteration.

I believe that if there is a strong use case for such features to be integrated, then the details should be ironed out thoroughly. Such an approach helps in

  • Clear reasons to actually move ahead with the implementation, thereby helping in defining clear flows within the product. Some data might definitely help. Or in the case of this movie, some more feedback could have been gathered while scripting (user story mapping)
  • Seamless integration while implementation
  • Frictionless experience for the end user.

End Product – Disengagement of end users, Negative effect on the branding of the entire DC universe.

Well, as a product based company, your product defines who you are. And is the lifeline for revenues. In this case, the impact of the product went south. This was touted to be a product that would get users engaged into its plot. It was supposed to have a great emotional connect with the audience. Thereby, leading to the launch of further related products (Justice of League movies).

Instead, it has affected the entire DC brand of comics. Warner Bros. is trying to reinvent the wheel from what Disney Studios has already achieved through the Marvel universe.

With so much at stake, surely the executives will have to be a lot more careful; before they can boomerang into the production of further movies.

The Gearbox Indeterminacy

The Indeterminate

It was 4.30 A.M, as my mobile sprang to life with a screeching alarm. I woke up giddily, still uncertain of the moments about to unfold. I decided to ignore the pessimism in me as I splashed some cold water across my face. I switched on my bike, with the engine roaring to life; and jutted out towards the Yeshwantpur flyover. Empty roads stared back at the emptiness of my soul, as I changed gears to look forward.

The Ignition

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I met my troupe as we awaited for the remaining to arrive. Meanwhile, a guy arrived on his personal 150 cc scooter. A few of them raised doubtful eyebrows about his ability to sustain through the trip. But, I was not surprised! An earlier friend of mine had clocked 900 KM on a 125 cc scooter. That included  night riding, off-roading, and some hilly regions as well. Hence, I was pretty confident about him seeing it through till the end with us.

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We moved to having breakfast after clocking 100 KM at a heavenly 115 KM/hour on an excellent highway. The open dosa was a delight to have for all of us.

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I had never undertaken trekking earlier. As we parked into Mullayangiri, we trekked to the top of the peak. The view turned out to be breath taking.

The Foggy Silhouette

Post Mullayangiri, we rode to Bababudangiri, completely unaware of what was in store for all of us. As dusk set in, we rode like a chain of lamps, supporting each other till we reached the peak top. We began attaining height, with a dense cloud of fog upon us.

An hour into the dusk, the fog thickened and attacked us from the front. The attack made us forget the indeterminacy factor to zero, as we witnessed something exuberant. On approaching the upcoming twists long the road, the fog began reflecting our shadows. It felt as if I was being accompanied by another biker on my side, complete with helmet and all!

The Plateful Campfire

I took to lying on my bike sky-facing, as the stars shown brightly. It was a poetic sight. The air began to grow chillier as a few left to hunt in the wild for dead wood. With great difficulty, we managed to rummage through the nearby area and discover some wood. It was sufficient to light up but not sustain through the night. This was the first time pollution actually saved us. We found an area strewn with used paper plates. It was those plates that helped us sustain the campfire till the wee hours of the morning. I should definitely mention my teammate Sachin, as we teamed up to take turns to sustain the fire while others slept.

The beautiful part of these moments was that I did not feel even once that I had met these guys just a few hours earlier. We talked, shared stories as a great camaraderie brewed among us.

The Incessant Boxing

For those of you who have never tried their hands at boxing, one should know that when you kick a boxing bag, you end up creating a big booming sound. Which is what happened to us within our tents.

Despite arranging our bikes in a circular fashion, and setting up our tents amidst them, there was no respite from the extreme winds. We were constantly berated with huge sounds as the high intensity wind crashed onto our tents.

The volley of attacks on the tent and the subsequent torrent of blowing winds actually made me believe that the tent had torn off and blown away. I had to wake up twice to ensure that our tent did not tear away.

 

The “High” Pitch

Aqua Power+_20160214_063521 (1)We had to cross a reserve forested distance of 22 KM to reach Kemmangundi from Bababudangiri.

But we made a quick 5 min stop in between to cool down our bikes. I ended up breaking into a song in front of complete strangers; despite the fact that the area is famous for tigers!

The South Indian Food

I might digress a bit from the topic. Yet, I really do not get why people fight over the best cuisine/dish in the country with a pot load of arrogance. When push comes to shove, even the ordinary things start looking good.

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Post clocking 350 KM and primarily a sleepless night, receiving hot food on cushioned seats was relaxing. It consisted of the standard South Indian curd rice and pulse with rice.
But, it was the most delicious I had ever tasted! A few of us then dozed off in the outer courtyard for a power nap, which felt no less than a spa to me.

The out of the box Product Manager

Being the opportunist product manager that I am, I instantly tapped my ability to connect with people. I brought in the concepts of product management to render in front of them, a different perspective of the trip.

The Bond breaking the Unknown

Indeterminacy, can be termed as a prelude to a conjecture. In other words, a lack of a decision item may lead to an opinion formed on the basis of incomplete information. This was definitely not the case in this outing. We were strangers at 4.30 AM on Saturday morning. And by Sunday late night, we hugged each other with a broad smile as we parted ways.

As we constantly changed gears on our beloved machines,  the implications of indeterminacy were removed. It transformed into a strong bond of trust between the riders. This led to every one enjoying the trip to the utmost. And excitedly look forward to the next meetup.

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How a Plodder prodded his way to Victory!

The Silence

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The Silence

I sat down with a thud on the bench, enduring a pursuit that had drained me in my entirety. The afternoon sun shone down strongly on the thickly forested area. The autumn leaves stretched out in full glory, filtering the sunlight to a bearable warmth. Butterflies glittered, as they made their way around the dark olive brown branches.

I loftily looked up into the sky, as an inner calmness began to spread within me. My chest heaved with deep breaths, as I tried regaining my lost energy. A chemical reaction began, soaking in the pure golden energy of the sun; as it excited the molecules within me. The whispering of the leaves acted as a catalyst, as I descended into the comforts of freedom and achievement.

The Prodding

Jump into the Unknown

I shall roll back time to a few hours earlier. I was up and about, performing tasks like any other day. I was on an outing at Nandi hills, Bangalore with my colleagues. I woke up early to meet a dense foggy morning on the hillside. I jumped into the pool to make the best of the few moments I had for swimming. Eventually, I attacked a huge breakfast, taking to it as a poor man would to a morsel of bread. I wondered out loud to my friends, about the sun dazzling too brightly on such a beautiful day. I set out with my team, assuming we were headed towards a light hearted group activity. Little did I know that I would get the wind knocked out of me.

I was tasked with climbing and clearing a track of 7 bridges. The tracks were constructed using nylon based ropes and coarse cables, which was professional grade stuff. The bridges would have been a few feet high. Additionally, I had been provided with the complete safety gear.

r2

Shivering with fear

As I proceeded towards the first bridge, I unfortunately had the devil accompany me. It reared it’s ugly head in the form of fear of heights. This appeared to be a cakewalk for the remaining troupe. But, it was paralyzing to me. I was simply unable to take the first step! The instructor motivated me not to give in to my fear. A thought passed to my surprised self. I had swum in wavy beaches without batting an eyelid. But the thought of being a few feet high had shaken my very core. I felt like a point on the Y axis of a graph, where I could slide down the axis easily; but was not able to negotiate moving up the line.

I took a couple of steps forward. And lo and behold, I was hanging mid air with just half a step firmly planted. I clung to the rope for dear life. The instructor had to eventually accompany the first few steps with me. I grimaced at myself and gingerly moved ahead.

The Plodding

A Slow Move

As I started on the fourth bridge, I had to retreat back to take rest. My right hand shivered vigorously, an after effect of the extreme mental pressure I had embraced! As I picked myself up, I could hear my companions shouting out loud. Up till my turn, none had taken such a dismal amount of time to traverse the path.

While a couple of them motivated me, a few cracked jokes on my upcoming fall. They did it in good jest, unaware of the internal turmoil I was undergoing. But, I utilized it as fuel to deploy a razor sharp focus to my steps.

Over the second last bridge, I was targeting to cross over a thin cable with ropes dangling above my head. I was half way through when my body began giving up. My strength began perishing as I loosened my grip, unable to stand. I knew I could simply tune off in the luxury of pushing myself to do something unfathomable. And I began letting go of myself as my brain told me that I would not be able to take it any more…

I caught something from the corner of my eye. My silhouette was staring back a few feet from me. It seemed contently settled amidst the thick bushes, with young wild flowers impishly gathered around it.

Kaboom!, came the sound, as my cortisol kicked in. It prodded my inner entrepreneur, urging me to finish those last few steps. I pushed myself, thereby surviving to tell about the beauty I had witnessed.

The Triumph

In the swimming pool, I had my way with the water, as I tamed it with my strokes. But on the ropes, I was stripped naked with nothing but fear. Man has always utilized his biological fight or flight response. It enabled pushing evolution to the limit, thereby giving birth to fire, and many other such products which have become priceless to our existence.

r3This endowed me with a heavy sense of accomplishment. I was able to carry the baton our greatest of forefathers had handed over to me. I was also able to tick off another item to my checklist because of the chance given by my current organization.

 

In turn, I would like signing off with the following words –

Don’t pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a tough one.

– Bruce Lee.

The Facial Conundrum – Phase 1

How it all Started?

Staying in 8 different cities, including 3 abroad, I have come across various facets of people. I was fortunate enough to interact with foreigners from different countries. I also observed various cultures across India, right from the North to the South.

This experience truly broadened my horizons when it came to understanding the diversification of the human race. It generated more and more queries in me –

Why do people prefer a subset of facial features over others? If they do, then is the definition of beauty even accurate?

The likes of such questions kept meandering like small rivers across the landscape of my mind.

The Push to Shove

The push came when I came across a face. This particular face forced me to aggressively find out the answers.

A couple of weeks passed, as I grappled with the questions in my mind. I tried to clear the chaos out and filter it down to a few questions.

It led me to wonder –

  1. Why are people attracted to this face?
  2. If they are attracted to this face, then how do I prove that this is indeed an attraction?
  3. Was this just a layer of physical allure under the pretense of actual magnetism?
  4. Would there be a way to quantify and negate this reaction?
  5. If it’s based only on aesthetic beauty, then can I draw conclusions to prove a relation! The relation would be between
  • the beauty people saw using their eyes,
  • the attraction that processed through their mind and,
  • the emotions they felt through their heart

6. Could a formula/algorithm be generated for it? Subsequently, can it be converted into a product based on images and the algorithms?

As I explored further, the question kept growing like a climber plant against my mind.

The final motivation to get an answer came from a most unexpected source, that is, the subject itself!

And this gave birth to this new case study, The Facial Conundrum.

The Path

A couple of occurrences guided me to the approach I undertook –

  1. A newly minted friend of mine mentioned Biotechnology as her interest. This mention threw me back by almost 9 years to my school life in class 12th. In the quest to understand the IT ecosystem and explore start ups, I had completely forgotten this aspect of mine! I remembered that I felt alive and excited when I studied that particular subject. That was because of the growing interest I had in it. I was also a school topper in it. I was the only one to have built the virtual simulation of a hardware equipment called the fermentor. I have never been a geek but my interest towards the subject helped me in making big achievements.
  2. I had recently been involved in a conversation with a senior product manager. Over coffee, we ended up discussing over the various elements of a particular problem he had come across. He challenged me to use geometry to solve that generic problem. Now, I have never really been a fan of Maths. But, that discussion opened my mind to the beauty of maths and geometry.

In basic terminology, Biotechnology is an amalgamation of Maths and Biology. When my friend mentioned this subject, I had a Eureka moment as I realized as to why did I not think about it before! Hence, I decided to return to this school interest of mine and in turn go through the basics of geometry.

The Theory

I began researching Biotechnology. It led me to theoretical biology. Which in turn led me to bio statistics. And this led me to an equation called the golden ratio. It’s been stated that the likes of Leonardo da Vinci used this ratio to build masterpieces.

It has been a subject of huge contention between scientists. But, I found the concept interesting enough to at least start my exploration.

The Subject

As a product guy, a part of my job is to simplify decision making with few resources at hand. That entails utilizing data as well. But, the data could be limited or there could be no data at all!

I faced the classic case of utilizing my instinct and analytical brain with limited access to the subject.

The Control

I will be using my own face as the control for this study.

Before a techie, I deem myself as an artist. In order to visualize and build things, an artist can get inspired from the simplest of things in mother nature. Or can take motivation from random strangers in the world.

The famous Indian painter, Mr. M. F. Hussain, was supposed to have considered the successful actress Madhuri Dixit, as his muse.

In similar fashion, I had my own muse for this particular case study. The face that made me ask such questions, belonged to my above mentioned friend.

The Control

The Picture

The control’s picture had to match the subject’s available picture. The match was based on the following criterion –

  1. Zoom level
  2. Tilt angle of head
  3. Similarity in expression

The Implementation

 Step 1 – Measure the length and width of the face. Then, divide the length by the width.

Subject – Length =  3 CM, Width = 1.5 CM, Ratio = 1.5

Control – Length =  22 CM, Width = 12.5 CM, Ratio = 1.76

Factor – Scaling factor of 8 has been considered between the picture and the actual face.

 

Step 2 – Measure three segments of the face –

Subject

From the forehead hairline to a spot between the eyes = 1 CM

From between the eyes to the bottom of the nose = 1 CM

From the bottom of the nose to the bottom of the chin = 1 CM

Control

From the forehead hairline to a spot between the eyes = 6.5 CM

From between the eyes to the bottom of the nose = 3.5 CM

From the bottom of the nose to the bottom of the chin = 7.3 CM

Factor – Scaling factor of approx 7 has been considered between the picture and the actual face.

 

Step 3 –  Measure symmetry and proportion

Subject

Length of an ear is equal to the length the nose = 0.8 CM each

Width of an eye is equal to the distance between the eyes = 0.5 CM each

Control

Length of an ear is equal to the length the nose = 5 CM each

Width of an eye is equal to the distance between the eyes = 5 CM each

Factor – Scaling factor of 5 has been considered between the picture and the actual face.

 Conclusion

This study requires subsequent growth phases. It requires

  • heavy additional work on averaging the above calculations.
  • a deep dive into the concept behind golden ratio formula and it’s implementation.

The Product

Once greater clarity is achieved on the concept, a product roadmap can be mapped out to build a well functioning app out of this.

The Questions

None the less,  I can still try to answer a couple of the above mentioned questions.

1. Why are people attracted to this face?

2. If they are attracted to it, then how do I prove that this is indeed an attraction?

The subject’s face does seem to match the golden ratio closely. But, this is just a bare basic calculation.

In terms of symmetry, the subject’s face has almost equivalent numbers. It satisfies this equation as well.

Hence, the aforementioned attraction.

3. Was this just a layer of physical allure under the pretense of actual magnetism?

Probably yes. But new metrics will be required to differentiate between infatuation and affection.

*Note

1. The identity of the subject has been withheld in order to protect their privacy.

2. The above study in no way discriminates between people on the basis of looks or aesthetics. It is the author’s private opinion. Any reactions to this article are subjective based on the readers mindset and experiences.

3. The author reserves the right to publish his opinions as the owner of this domain and platform.

Prasad’s IMAX

imaxLet me get a few things off the bat first. I have enjoyed watching a multitude of movies here. It is the only cinema in the entire country to host an analog IMAX projector. I was on a high after the screening of Interstellar. Then a few things ruined the experience for me.

I was excited to watch the movie The Hobbit in 3D on such a huge screen! But the film got interrupted midway. I found myself staring at the screen with no sound at all. Azog seemed to shout something at his proceeding army, while I sat in disdain, as my scenes were getting destroyed. Those moments reminded me of watching  The Artist. The major difference reflecting with the fact that that movie was amazingly entertaining despite being a silent one.

Prasad’s commands a premium on watching 3D movies on its huge screen. I do not mind shelling out the additional bucks. But why in the whole wide world, have they started charging for 3D glasses as well! Like other multiplexes, they are most welcome to take a security deposit. On the one hand, the glasses are terrible on quality. On top of it, i really do not think that an Indian cinema would go to the lengths of disinfecting and cleaning them even once a month. If that is the case, then I would happily pay out the 8% extra cost for this service.

I truly believe that the managers at Prasad’s should rethink their strategy. I would not be willing to send my clients back with negative thoughts, despite having some good facilities to entertain them.