With increasing access to smartphones and internet across Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, mobile apps now have a larger playing ground to grow their business.
From online shopping to making digital payments, everything can be done easily with just a few taps. Users across smaller towns are embracing this, so much so that they have even started maintaining their ledgers on mobile apps.
This is where Khatabook, India’s leading digital ledger and finance management platform, helps micro, small and medium merchants track their business transactions easily and securely. And the growth journey of this app is rather remarkable.
Mayuri Govil, Senior Product Sales Specialist at Netcore Cloud caught up with Damini Mishra, Senior Product Manager at Khatabook. With more than 7 years of experience working in high-growth product teams in the consumer internet space, Damini puts across interesting insights on the whole concept around product-led growth and how Khatabook is scaling customer acquisition, retention, and engagement delivering powerful app experiences.
Stay tuned to dig deeper into the strategies adopted by Khatabook to contextually engage users and build and retain a huge loyal customer base.
Mayuri: To start with, we know the incredible growth Khatabook has had over the past couple of years. How has your experience been with Khatabook while working in the product team?
Damini: I have been a part of this organization for 6-7 months and the growth story has been incredible. So much has been done in such a short span of time. A lot of it is because of the quality of people working here. The talented bunch of people have been able to execute things quickly by just focusing on 2 major things:
- User research – Everybody is close to users and constantly in touch with them. Even the small changes on the app are driven by user insights and some conversations with merchants.
- Data Analytics – This is the other piece of the puzzle. There’s a strong team of analysts who work very closely with product managers and business leaders.
These 2 things become our strongest suit. With a team of agile people with strong user empathy, we can execute things at a fast pace. And most of the things we’ve launched so far, have helped merchants and added more value to them.
Mayuri: These are surely great insights into the world of Khatabook and how the entire product is empowered with agility.
Taking a cue on that – You talked about user research being a primary factor while designing new features or acquiring new users. We also know that the whole SaaS space has been a buzz with the entire concept of product-led growth. This product-led growth approach has helped brands acquire high-quality users at a very optimal cost and this eventually translates into greater user retention. So, what are your thoughts around the whole product-led approach/strategy?
Damini: For any B2C digital company, user acquisition is one of the main aspects.
When you work with 3rd party platforms like Google, Facebook, etc., and place your ads there, you do get immense scale and there’s a lot of scope for cost optimization as well. But, for the quality aspect of it, since you’re directly reaching out to people, you have limited levers to surgically target users.
Under product-led initiatives, there’s a lot of room for us to leverage our current user base to acquire new users.
You have a set of new users, you also have power users who have been your customers for a long time, are happy with the product and have a high NPS. So, how do you get them to become brand ambassadors for your product to get more and more people to download the app and use it? This is exactly where a solid referral program comes into play. We will get into the details of this too.
But overall, with a Product-Led Growth strategy, there are a lot of other things that can make a product viral. Free trial for instance works well, especially for a product like Khatabook which caters to the Tier 2 and Tier 3 audiences who are more price-conscious. Free trial as a tool in this scenario makes a lot of difference because it makes people experience the product and understand its value before making a purchase. Free trials across the world are there for SaaS products and Khatabook too is essentially a SaaS product.
At Khatabook, we’ve leveraged free trial to quite a great extent and it has worked out well. The reason being, it opens up the funnel and more and more people get to experience a new feature and see if it’s helping them grow their business. We then price it in a way that makes it affordable to the lowest common denominator.
Even with product-led growth there are so many areas to explore and I have worked primarily on referrals in my career and this channel definitely has high potential. In addition to this, even from an SEO perspective, if you open up the entire webspace and put up relevant content that people are actually searching for, you will end up driving a lot of traffic and drive conversions across the funnel.
Mayuri: These are interesting perspectives. And the next question somewhat ties back into this.
There are so many acquisition channels like referrals and communities that offer great traction and help you get users that are closer to your power users. Now, every user is different and they have their own set of characteristics. And, the way you treat a first-time user will not be the same for other regular users. Could you share some strategies/approaches on how you’ve been able to deliver relevant content and contextual app experiences to your users at the right moment and at the right time?
Damini: There are a lot of different data cuts that you can have. One of the low-hanging fruits here is the app experience for a new user vs a retained user.
When it comes to the app experience for a new user, it is important to keep it simple and help them understand the app before they explore other things on the app. This is something that has worked for us as well. Especially in SaaS, where there are multiple offerings and you would want people to explore all of them.
So, decluttering has worked out quite well for Khatabook by making the app simple, focusing on the ledger and helping users to start using the ledger, add credit transactions and eventually opening up the app as users get more and more mature on the platform. That’s on the new user front.
Now, even among the mature users, there are different sets of users with different personas based on their frequency, amount of transactions made on the platform and other factors. Many of the new premium features that have been introduced are based on the behaviors users show on the app. So, a feature like – bulk reminder (where a user can select multiple customers at once and send them reminders to pay the money due) is something that has been personalized for a more mature audience that has a long list of customers.
With the power of data, users can be segmented in the best possible way and this is what helps in personalizing the whole app experience. And there’s so much more you can do with data.
Personalization as a tool for app retention continues to work wonders almost everywhere.
Mayuri: All of these become important levers for experimenting with new features/personalized elements. You mentioned the importance of referrals and I can recall a lot of leading brands doing excellent work with their referral process. A good example here would be Airbnb – their website completely changes depending upon whether or not a user lands on to their app/site through a referral.
Furthering on that, how important have referrals been for you in Khatabook and how do you ensure that you get those referrals from your power users and your community?
Damini: The users who are happy with your product and have a high NPS value are most likely to go out and tell their friends about it and make sure they use your product. It’s the closest thing you have to the virality of a product.
There are a lot of elements involved in building a referral program. The first and foremost being the incentive structure and format.
Airbnb would be an apt example here! They offer Airbnb credits as an incentive. Robinhood again is a great example – they give stocks as an incentive. The point here is that any incentive that can be used within the app ecosystem itself would work well as it helps close the whole referral loop.
So, users not only end up pulling in their friends who start using the app but are also incentivized to further use the app. Hence this incentive format becomes a critical part of the referral program.
And when you acquire new users at a large scale through referrals is when you have successfully cracked the incentive structure.
Gamification basically refers to any kind of campaign/contest that creates a sense of urgency in users to refer right now instead of later.
If you look at it, the referral programs are actually static. You don’t bring in any changes. It stays only in one place on the app, so, it’s very easy for users to simply ignore it and think they will refer the app later. Thus, any kind of chance-based reward or time base incentive, or any games people play around the referrals, works quite well. It makes sure that the referral program has a permanent space in the mind share of the users.
Users will always keep thinking of referrals as something they have to do because of the incentive associated with it. And this brings the scale you aspire for your product.
Mayuri: These are powerful viewpoints. It made me think of all the apps that I use. I always mean to refer and although the referral option is always there on the app, more often than not I delay it. It’s a wonderful thought on how you run campaigns to nudge users to actually go ahead, refer and complete the cycle.
Damini: Even with all these campaigns, there are 2 approaches – a product-led approach and a marketing-led approach.
The product-led approach would basically nudge users when they are in the happiest state of mind or most satisfied with the product. In the e-commerce space, most apps convey referral communication after an order is placed/delivered.
This is the product-led approach in a nutshell.
On the other hand, we have the marketing-led approach that focuses on constantly increasing the visibility of the referral channel and keeping it exciting for users and not just relying on the static experience we spoke about earlier.
Mayuri: The entire idea of identifying the gratification points where users are most likely to refer would be a completely different ball game for Khatabook because you are designing an experience for the Tier 2 – Tier 3 user base.
So, what are the interesting challenges/learnings you’ve come across while designing products and features for small business owners and different personas?
Damini: The beauty and the challenge here is that there are so many different users and even business types. All of them have a very different set of requirements in general. On one hand, you have such a diverse set of users and at the same time, you also need to keep the app simple so that you can cater to every individual use case without overtly complicating it.
This would be a no-brainer but for product and design teams, it gets really difficult to implement this.
The idea is to focus on simplicity. A lot of our users are using the internet probably for the first time and we might only be the 2nd or 3rd app they’ve ever used. So, in general, we see hesitation and a lack of comprehension on how to use the app. Internet adoption is undoubtedly low but since the app helps their business, they are encouraged to use it.
We certainly can’t go all in and show hundreds of features to use. It’s not because these features can’t be built.
A lot of the effort that goes into product development is around making the app simple, intuitive, and easy for users to understand. This is absolutely crucial, even more with SaaS products. We may be used to sophisticated designs for SaaS products but that’s not something that can be replicated for Khatabook’s audience. Designs that users see as simple and easy to adopt are the ones that make the cut. The prominent emphasis on simplicity is because that’s what drives growth for Khatabook and has helped in reaching this kind of scale.
Especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities where users are more accustomed to speaking/reading in their local language.
Understanding the app in English or even Hindi poses a challenge for these users. If users can’t comprehend the words, you lose the game right there. So, we stick to localizing the app. The first question asked to first-time users is – which language do they prefer. A lot of users end up selecting their local language and with that, they’re able to understand the utility of the app with absolute ease.
This brings us to the end of an engaging conversation that has left us with some actionable points to keep in mind to build and retain a loyal user base.
Some of the key takeaways have been:
1. Keeping the app experience simple and intuitive for users to understand
2. How a product-led approach helps acquire relevant/quality users at a large scale and optimal cost
3. Localizing and personalizing the app experience for different users and personas
4. Leveraging SEO, free trials, communities, and other strategies to engage users and convert them into power users5. Implementing a product-led growth strategy while nudging users to refer and earn – aligning the incentives structure and format in a way that pushes users to complete the referral loop.
You can listen to the full podcast here: EP #67: Product-led Growth Lessons from India’s Leading Digital Ledger Platform, Khatabook – Netcore (netcorecloud.com)
If you enjoyed this, and are looking to scale product growth with powerful app user retention and engagement strategies, we would be glad to show you how you can boost your app growth journey with Netcore’s No-code Product Experience platform. Feel free to connect!