Our 2nd RTX in Bangalore, and the 4th overall began on a very interesting note. The primary topics up for discussion were “Customer Acquisition” and “Customer Retention,” but we broke the ice by asking the panel about that one product and one service that they had been recommending to everyone around them.

Some of the names that came out were the usual suspects like Dunzo and CRED, but the really interesting one was Google Photos. Anshul Agrawal of Urban Ladder and Manu Prasad of Scripbox both said they recommend Google Photos to the people they know because the app’s tagging system makes it easy for them to find the exact picture they’re looking for

Aravindh Radhakrishnan of Zoomcar was the first to recommend a product from the offline world–Puma. “Puma has carved a niche for itself, especially among the community of football fans,” he said.

Another product from the “real world” to be recommended was Milano Ice Cream, by Lizzie Chapman of ZestMoney. Thanks to her, all of us were craving some right away.

But the ice cream was soon forgotten when we got down to the business at hand. This RTX event was a gathering of product leaders from companies like Urban Ladder, Myntra, HealthifyMe, Scripbox, Zoomcar, CRED, and ZestMoney. The idea was for everyone to share their insights on how they acquire and retain users–insights that the others could then take back with them and maybe, implement the very next day.

Anjan Bhojarajan of HealthifyMe began by talking about how user testimonials helped them acquire new users. “When someone sees real-life examples of how a service has benefitted others, they are more likely to try that service out,” he said. Another important point he talked about was reducing pricing as a barrier for new users. HealthifyMe has diet plans that could be expensive for many users, but this price is justified by the fact that the plans are specially customized by an expert for every individual user. “But because we had so much data, we were able to build AI-powered diet plans for specific use cases,” said Anjan. These plans were cheaper and helped HealthifyMe remove pricing as a friction point for new users.

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For Urban Ladder, pricing is not a barrier because their customers are the ones who are willing to make big-ticket purchases. “When customers are buying expensive items, they are fine with the purchase processes being offline also,” said Anshul, citing the example of their tie-up with Bajaj Finserv. He also said that referral programs helped them acquire users. “But a good referral program can get abused by one person using different numbers and email addresses,” he cautioned.

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Talking about programs, Sudhakar Pandey of Myntra said that Try & Buy has been a great customer acquisition lever for them. But at the same time, bringing down returns remains a high priority. “More loyal customers tend to return more because they are more likely to try more categories and be more adventurous in their choice of products, brands, etc,” said Sudhakar. “And COD customers paradoxically return less often than prepaid customers. However, they are more likely to refuse to accept a shipment.”

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This is because customers in India seek value and the best product. “They have zero loyalty to marketplaces that compete only on price,”  opined Lizzie Chapman of ZestMoney. While that opened up an entirely new debate, Lizzie also said that for ZestMoney, targetted ads on social media were more effective than mass SMSes. “Our customers have lesser concerns about data privacy, compared to in other markets,” she said. “This is a concern, so we are careful not to take data from them without their consent and education.”

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Giving their customers something useful is a big part of CRED’s user acquisition as well.

As Rahul Harkisanka of CRED said, “We have built CRED with a premium and tech-savvy customer in mind, and we make sure that customers feel that the support representatives understand, and appreciate the nuance of their problems.”

Full-page ads in leading English dailies worked well for CRED to acquire new users.

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“Even I downloaded the CRED app after seeing that ad in The Economic Times,” said Manu of Scripbox. For Scripbox, giving their customers to the facility of investing through UPI has been a game-changer. “We expect 50% of all transactions to happen through UPI in the coming year,” said his colleague, Ashish Malhotra.

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With that, the discussion moved towards customer retention. For any business, retaining customers is probably more important than acquiring them. And one bad experience can lead to a customer going away for their lifetime. Both Anshul and Aravindh vouched for this. Service, then, becomes a big differentiator for all kinds of businesses. The panel was unanimously nodding heads on that one.

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The panel was also in agreement that customer service also becomes a major focal point for retaining customers. “For Zoomcar,” said Aravindh, “customer service is important because every car rental is tied to a life event like family gatherings or a friend’s wedding.” What he meant was that when there is a service disruption, it’s important for product leaders to understand the impact it has on the users’ lives. And build customer care to empathize with it.

By that time, the beers and pizzas were out and everyone’s attention shifted towards more casual conversations. As is the case with such events, networking becomes an important part. The idea behind RTX is to put forth a forum where industry peers can interact with one another and help each other with insights and ideas they can use. And this RTX had no shortage of either.