Differentiating an App

Lotus Tech - 3 factors in differentiating an app

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Summary: Differentiating an app is important. Users love your app when it offers value, experience, and support.

After studying many shopping apps on Google Play in India, I remain convinced that there are just three factors that differentiate a consumer app:

  1. The value created for the customer.
  2. The experience that delivers the value.
  3. The support that delivers the experience.

Differentiating an App Through Value Creation

Lotus Tech - 3 factors in differentiating an app - value creation

Apps create value in many ways. Some reduce the time to do a task. Some help us remember. Others help us save money. And a select few even change the way we live. Uber and Amazon have achieved the cult status (and valuations) because they have brought in new ways of doing things.

Value creation is the most difficult part even to define, let alone to get it right. I would rather say it is like the sunrise. Even if you sit in the darkest corner of your home with your eyes closed, you know that the sun rose. When you get it right, you just know. And so does your team. Well, at least most of them.

When you want to create value, do something that is 10x times better than what is. Better still, create a new way of doing something that is fragmented otherwise. Such goals put you in a rarified field where the competition is zero. Even if you fail at achieving the 10x effect and can get only to 6x or 5x, you have still left your competition far behind.

Value creation helps you become the market leader and transcend price wars.

Building the Experience that Delivers the Value

Lotus Tech - 3 factors in differentiating an app - Experience

The experience of using the app delivers the value to the customer.

If you perceive an app as a story being told, value makes the story, and the experience makes the narration. The experience should reach the customer in her own words, at her level. Else it won’t reach her at all. In the world of app making, this translates into bringing the product to the user’s level of understanding and her universe and not the opposite.

App users ‘perceive’ the experience in many forms: the in-app content, the ease of signing up, logging in, doing a task, how it makes their lives better, and how well the app integrates the digital and physical worlds, and many more.

There are two parts to deliver the experience: the decision about what makes a great customer experience and the technology that brings the envisioned experience into reality. My shopping apps experience says that we are great in using technology but are yet to reach the same level of sophistication in envisioning the experience a customer should have.

The Support that Enriches the Experience

Lotus Tech - 3 factors in differentiating an app - Support

We cherish people who stay by our side when we are in trouble. Don’t we? Then, isn’t it desirable that we have a great customer service practice?

No matter how much research, care, and vision you pour into making an app, your users are bound to seek help. And the customer support is the first touch point for many customers once they use the app.

While businesses have valid reasons to minimise the customer support costs, a better approach is to invest decent time in product making to create a very robust product that requires few customer calls. And then create a support team that understands the product as much as the design team.

I was very concerned to find that for the popular apps, the ratio of 5-star rating to 1-star rating is approximately 4:1. In other words, a quarter of the reviews are rating the app as worthy of 1-star.  Even if you discount some ratings as fake or unwarranted, the situation is not something app makers can be happy about.

When I read through many of the reviews, I noticed 3 major challenges:

  1. The product design is faulty causing customer inconvenience leading to bad reviews. Some basic questions, such as “what if the shopkeeper or vendor does not update the inventory,” were never thought through by the app maker.
  2. The app maker doesn’t reply to the reviews on Google Play store. It is important that the app maker address all reviews appropriately, more so those comments that accompany 1-star rating. Replying to reviews gives the app maker an opportunity to thank for the good reviews and explain his case for the 1-star reviews. By replying, the app maker can work on retaining the customer and establish trust in the business.
  3. There are any number of app reviews from users complaining that customer support agents don’t understand the problem. Isn’t it our job to ensure that someone who understands the product well answers those calls? Shouldn’t we be making sure that we ensure that a certain amount of education is imparted to the support staff even before they attend the first call? Isn’t it in our interest to recruit staff who are empathetic? Aren’t we responsible for laying down policies and procedures to escalate those issues that the support staff can’t answer themselves?

Some of the lesser known apps have a much better review ratio of 15:1 (5-star to 1-star rating). The point that they are not popular probably indicates that the marketing dollars have a key role to play in an app’s popularity.


Did you notice that all the three factors are utterly human-centric?

— By Surya Prabha Vallae


Every Business Benefits from Content Strategy


Word count: 392

Reading time: 4 minutes

When a business has a shopfront, the salesperson can speak a local language and turn a lead into a customer or retain an existing customer. However, in a digital world, things work differently. If you set up a great looking website with content that is not half as good, users leave the website for a competitor’s website that has articulate content carefully structured to meet the customer’s needs.

You must note that content strategy is not about writing or publishing content but about how content is structured, presented, articulated to help the customer’s digital journey with the brand.

Does Content Strategy Impact Your Sales

Some days ago, I walked into a supermarket (deli) to buy a light bulb. I wanted to buy a bulb that gives the highest lumens for the lowest wattage. (Lumens indicate how bright the light is.)

Trust me. Only one brand’s light bulbs had this information right on the packs in boldface. I didn’t have to search for the information I needed. And there was just one light bulb left on the shelf. The other popular brands either did not have the info or hid it somewhere in the fine print.

It only shows that these other brands have not anticipated what the customer wants to see at the time of buying. As the society becomes more educated and more discerning, the need for accurate information built in anticipation of your customers’ needs is expected and rewarded by your customers. And this is what content strategy is all about.

What content is required to fulfill the needs and exceed the expectations of your customer? What content helps them travel down a decision path to engage with your brand successfully while buying the brand’s products and services? How do we make available the content, measure its effectiveness, adjust it, and make it useful for the user and beneficial for the buyer and the seller? This is what makes up the content strategy of an organization.

The questions and the answers raised to chisel your content strategy vary, based on the industry and the products and services. But at the heart of the content strategy is an uncompromising effort to anticipate, meet, and exceed the information needs of the customer.

Whether brands recognize this fact or not, today every brand needs an effective content strategy.

Customer Experience in Sending Flowers Using E-commerce Portals

Lotus Tech Blog - Customer Experience

In recent years, India has seen the rise of many e-commerce portals that promise to deliver flowers in the major cities in India. Some of them are from established stores, and others are aggregators of florists or distributors of orders. Being a staunch supporter of digital, I tried to send flowers through two such portals. I couldn’t. But gained insights into customer experience, or rather the lack of it through the pain points.

Sending or Receiving Flowers: In “Customer Experience” Customer Remains Sans Experience.

When we book a bouquet using a portal, it is mostly because either we want to greet the person in our absence or want to surprise that person. And all the websites I checked were asking for the recipient’s mobile number in their booking forms. This kills the joy of opening the door to find a statement in petals waiting. We can certainly do a lot better to up the user experience, or recipient experience rather.

A few of the e-commerce portals have help desks. I called the help desk of a portal, that also has a string of stores, to check if they could book an order without asking for a mobile number. The desk said ‘not possible’ and asked me to check with the brand’s store close by.

When I asked the help desk why I should provide a phone number when I mentioned the address, the desk said sometimes delivery could be a challenge as the door might be locked. So, the delivery boys always contact the recipient on the phone. Fair enough. But isn’t there a way to work around this challenge? Also, why should I give a mobile number for a midnight delivery? Surely people are home. And how about delivering to a corporate office? They publicize only their landline numbers, rarely their mobile numbers. How should a customer book a bouquet in this case? And how about delivering flowers to someone who is always on the go?

The conversation also taught me that the online portal and the chain of shops of the florist are two different lines of business and don’t work in tandem. I didn’t know whether that was the truth, but I hung up with a feeling of being short-changed. Because I am one of those customers, who sees the brand name on the portal and in the neighborhood and assumes that the brand works seamlessly. Or is the brand leveraging its brand name, built originally with multiple stores, for its online portal while denying the benefits of a chain of shops with an online presence that attracts more conversions? Or are the margins not enough?

My point is simple. No matter who we are, where we live, and what we speak and eat, receiving a bouquet is a beautiful and touching experience. We should not dilute this experience. Everything else is a detail and should be worked through. Period.

Can we use geo-tagging? That helps us locate the person and deliver no matter where she is.

What Kind: Bouquet or an Arrangement?

Some people want to send bouquets, and others want standing arrangements, depending on the occasion and the recipient. Let’s assume that you want to send a bouquet to one of your customers. Will you book a bouquet or a floral arrangement? I feel bouquets are more appropriate for in-person greetings, but arrangements are better when you are sending flowers.

All portals have a huge collection of bouquets but only some arrangements that stand vertically or horizontally. Many photographs are without size. And many pixelate. Or the selection forms don’t show sizes or dimensions. Now, how do I choose?

Colors: What Color is Your Occasion?

Colour of flowers is the most important ingredient of an arrangement. But many websites say that they will replace the flowers if the flowers shown in the photographs are not available. But I haven’t come across a single website that assures that they would take care of the color when replacing seasonal flowers with other flowers.

Also, I didn’t see good color play in the low-end offerings. I believe people with all budgets deserve great floral statements.

Craftsmen: Trained Hand or None?

What elevates a floral arrangement is the interplay of flowers, foliage, colors, space, geometry, and accents.

Not many arrangements show the hand of a trained florist. In fact, a person trained in floral arrangements can create beautiful, graceful, and enigmatic statements without using too many flowers or material. And buyers don’t have to be connoisseurs of flowers to recognize something that is simple yet powerful.

A trained florist can dramatically bring down the cost of an arrangement thereby increasing the conversions on the e-commerce portal.

Any florist listening?

What I See is Not What I Get.

Let’s agree that flowers are a highly visual experience for all of us. Some portal allows me to pick up a vase as an upgrade but doesn’t show me how the arrangement looks like on adding the vase. Isn’t that less than perfect?

If I finally get to book a bouquet, I never get to see how it looks like at the time of delivery. This is the easiest to accomplish. Take a photo, with the recipient if possible, on delivery and send it with the delivery note to the customer. It is that simple, indeed.

What Should We Do?

I remember William Blake, the 18th century poet: “No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.”

Let’s meet to discuss how we can together deliver the best customer experience to your e-commerce customer.

— By Surya Prabha Vallae

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Digital Transformation of SMBs in India – Part I: What is Digital Transformation

Lotus Tech-The Content Lab-Understanding Digital Transformation Part 1

Executive Summary: SMBs in India are poised for an explosive growth through digital transformation. This article, part one of a two part series, discusses digital transformation of SMBs in India.

Reading Time: 3 min.

India’s small and medium enterprises (SMBs), also known as Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), have a great story to tell. Here are some statistics*:

  • 51 million units
  • SMBs command
    • 7 Cr employment
    • 14 L Cr assets
    • 5% CAGR
    • 496,000 Cr exports
    • 5% of GDP (2012-13**)
      • 7% of manufacturing GDP
      • 5% of services GDP


* Annual Report 2016-2017, Ministry Micro, Semi, and Medium Enterprises.

** Contribution of MSME in the economy, Press Release by Ministry Micro, Semi, and Medium Enterprises

A KPMG report, based on a study by KPMG in India and Google, titled “Impact of internet and digitization on SMBs in India” (January 2017) reveals a huge gap in technology adoption and a mega opportunity:

  • Number of Indian SMBs that are completely offline: 68%
  • Number of Indian SMBs actively promoting their businesses online: 2%

And it is also a widely published fact that Indian SMBs can add $1 trillion by 2020 to the Indian economy by going digital. While this is a huge opportunity for the SMBs themselves, the service providers who help the SMBs make the transition are set to gain as well. And this blog attempts to understand this opportunity and the role of content in two parts:

  • Part I: What is Digital Transformation
  • Part II: The Role of Content in Digital Transformation

What is Digital Transformation?

What was once bought from a shop near home is now bought from an online vendor. That is, customer behavior has changed. And the whole nation is going through this shift in behavior. And this is what digital transformation is:

The definite shift of customer behavior towards digital and a business’s response to let the customer interact and transact with the business digitally no matter where the customer is or when.

In a digitally transformed enterprise, the business’s ecosystem made up of prospects, customers, partners, vendors, government, and so on interacts and transacts with the business digitally.

Is There a Metric to Measure the Success of Digital Transformation?

Yes. There is. It is Customer Experience.

Examples from the Fitness and Ecommerce Spaces

The other day, I was wondering if one of the most personalized fields such as fitness training could be sold and consumed online. I searched and found some offerings. I promptly clicked a link and watched a short YouTube video about how to use the online fitness training service. Sadly though, I failed to understand how their offering was different from watching a fitness trainer on a 7.00 AM TV show.

That made me recall my earlier experience with a particular yoga posture. The challenge for me was that the trainer would move her limbs in sync with the narration in the background. But since I didn’t know what was coming up next, I had to replay the video several times to understand what the trainer was doing. This experience leads to a frustrating start. And I am sure many would give up.

At another time and place, I tried to buy an address book from an ecommerce portal. It took me to the global shop, and I was asked to upload an ID proof. I don’t quite understand why I should upload an ID proof to purchase a mundane item made of paper. I can understand a cautious approach when the item being bought has many uses and can be a possible security threat. But why this process for a book?

There are two key challenges here:

Teaching fitness or any motor skill online has to be different from the way it is taught in the real world. In a gym or classroom, there are many visual cues and motivating factors. Crafting them into digital learning needs a close look at psychology, user experience, and how people learn in real life.

If a business can’t tell a prospect very quickly how it can make a difference, or makes it difficult to buy online, the customer is lost. In the digital world, the customer comes to the business. The business doesn’t go to him. (This is true even if the business does digital marketing. The prospect clicks a link in the ad to access the business.) So, if you can’t impress him the very first time he is visiting your website, he will be gone, and retargeting may not be easy, or worse still, may not work. (At another level, isn’t it good to spend minimal money on retargeting?)

Now, step back and take a look at these key challenges. They are not specific to that business but are a matter of customer experience offered by any business. Hence my conclusion that customer experience is the litmus test for determining the transformation of a business into a digital business.

We Can Help

To know more about how we can support your digital transformation through content, please write to us at sales@lotustech.online or call us at +91-7032727333.