How To Acquire a Customer Online?

The thrill of seeing people directly using your product online is not comparable to that of selling to businesses. The practical ones might tell you to take the approach which can gives you maximum returns but at the end of the day, satisfaction trumps all; nothing would make a developer happier than overhearing a conversation about his creation. But with so many products being developed online, the hunt for the initial eyeballs is becoming painful. Customer acquisition has become the holy grail to success and online businesses are realising the problems in wooing the customer. Here, we’ll discuss in detail about customer acquisition and how the problem should be tackled.

A Case Study

While building a product, one never knows what will work but this doesn’t mean that you go and just build your product without understand your target market. Launched in 2005, Ace2Three is an online place to play the classical Indian cards game – rummy. Almost every Indian with a gambling bend loves this game but who’d have thought that this game would do so well online? The rummy-playing people in India are not the net-savvy ones but then now, how come it’s doing so well? Avnish Bajaj, the MD at Matrix Partners says: “The product experience. It’s not the usual rummy playing crowd that has been brought online but the segment that loved rummy but couldn’t find time offline or weren’t members of the clubs. People who do not play cards are also being drawn to this product online.”

Conclusion: Ace2Three didn’t force anything onto the consumer. It was something the users inherently liked, only a platform was provided to them. So don’t chase customers, but create value with a focus.

Is customer acquisition the biggest thing?

They say it’s all about numbers and revenue models can be figured out later. This in itself is a contentious topic but how does one even take the first step? Should every attempt be at acquiring customers? “Customer acquisition is definitely one of the tougher aspects of entrepreneurship. Retention is even tougher, given the access to varied choices globally,” says Amarpreet Kalkat of Ciafo whose product Frrole has crossed the half million monthly users mark.

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“Yes, customer acquisition is a huge thing but we’re also blessed to live in an age where startup news is widespread and early adopters try out new products,” says Annkur Agarwal, founder of PriceBaba, a product that allows users to research prices and make a better decision while buying online. They’ve seen a 180% growth in the last two months. Both Kalkat and Agarwal consider social media to be the biggest tool to attract more customers.

But still, is it all that matters?

No, apart from customers, there are multiple other aspects that an entrepreneur should measure while charting the growth of his internet company. “User behavior and the data behind it is very important,” says Bajaj. Net Promoter Score(NPS), for instance is an important measure. NPS divides the customers into three — promoters, passives and detractors; subtracting the detractors from the promoters gives you the NPS. “Cohort behavior is also a crucial characteristic I look at,” adds Bajaj. A cohort is a group of subjects who have shared a particular event together during a particular time span and then they can be tracked to judge behavior.

Also, having your own network, your set of early adopters who’d spread the word will take your product a long way.

What Next?

So, you’ve done your targeting, have all the metrics in place, your set of early adopters and of course, a great product to back it all up. Now, what?

Waiting and watching seems like an obvious answer but in these times of ultra-fast food, you need to have your eyes open. Iterate. And fast. “Take in feedback but don’t launch all the changes in one big bang. Do it one at a time,” advises Agarwal who has been on the entrepreneurship road for 14 years. Also, entrepreneurs have a feeling that ads don’t work. It’s word of mouth and your product that does the initial talking. This makes having a social angle in your product essential, give your customers something to talk about.


To summarize, build a product well with a lot of thought. But make sure to have a strong network of your own before plunging into the venture. And once you’re done, measure. Then don’t be stubborn; iterate continuously.

We’ll be discussing more such issues as a part of our WebSparks Campaign, so stay tuned…

About the author

Jubin is an old timer at YourStory. Deeply entrenched in the Indian startup ecosystem, he has written about and analysed more than 1000 startups. He operates from the mountains in Dharamshala where he plays with technology, farming and eco-construction. He can be reached on Twitter @jub_in and on mail at

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