How this e-commerce startup scaled to 1 million app downloads in just 6 months
It was in November 2015 that the Mumbai-based e-commerce startup Fynd launched its iOS and Android apps. Fynd partners with offline brand stores to give its users the latest fashion at in-store prices and like any e-commerce startup achieving a good number of app downloads was among the top most requirement to accelerate growth. But, at the beginning of 2016, Fynd’s downloads stood at just 10,000.
This called for some immediate action as it was critical for the startup to drive numbers. That’s when the Fynd team worked on a strategy to cash in on end-of-season sales, study campaigns from other market players, explore numerous marketing channels for communication, create a buzz on social media and capitalise on technology. The result: in a span of just one month, Fynd saw phenomenal growth. By end of February 2016, they had clocked a 100K downloads.
Ronak Modi, Product Manager at Fynd, who currently leads product growth and analytics, is part of the team that was instrumental in bringing the startup to this milestone. Having joined Fynd a couple of months before the product launch, Ronak says, “I am proud of what we have been able to achieve in such a short time – be it the product, UI/ UX, the analytics or growth.”
Like any startup that is serious about staying on top of its game, Fynd has been working hard to achieve scale. After they reached their first big milestone, they reached their second mark – a million downloads – in August 2016. In six months, from February to August 2016, the product scaled from 100K downloads to 1 million+ downloads. They were able to scale fast because of a number of well-thought-out business and product strategies and execution, explains Ronak. This included a referral programme and planning their scaling strategies around the time when brands ran their end of season sales, as this helped to piggyback on the discounts these brands provided.
Some key product changes that helped Fynd achieve the numbers include reducing the app size to 6 MB from 11 MB, ensuring better conversion rates and lower cost per install (CPI), and migrating the backend infrastructure to AWS to deliver a fast shopping experience. They also scaled from serving users in a single city to serving over 20,000 pin codes. Ronak says, “Our internal product, Command Control (CC), had to undergo a major revamp. CC is the backbone of Fynd and it ensures that we are able to scale without adding people to manage the operations. The team overseeing CC has done a fantastic job, which has helped us scale really well.”
In addition to scale, the team at Fynd has also made other changes which helped them drive business numbers. Ronak says, “We made it easier for users to discover offers on the app. This is a no-brainer to improve your purchase conversion. We also implemented an auto COD as a fallback option in case of payment failures on payment gateways. This provided a truly seamless checkout experience to customers.”
Talking about how they executed these changes, Ronak says, “We used a number of developer tools, be it for deep linking and referral programmes, or tracking in-app events to optimise campaigns and user acquisition.”
Facebook Analytics for Apps is a key developer tool that enables the Fynd team to collect valuable insights related to user activities. Ronak explains that data from Facebook Analytics has helped them identify the highest value users and re-target them through Facebook ads, use those insights to create custom or lookalike audiences, and bring down the cost per install (CPI) by 90 percent, compared to previous campaigns. He says, “Users acquired through Facebook have a 20-25 percent higher retention rate as compared to other acquisition channels.”
Facebook Analytics is also helping them measure funnel drops across key metrics, track revenue metrics, create and measure user activity across various cohorts and understand user demographics for better re-targeting
In their attempt to achieve scale they also encountered a number of challenges. Fynd is a gated platform and requires users to authenticate their details before using the app. The authentication is linked to the customer’s mobile number which is verified by sending an OTP via SMS. Ronak says, “This had been a major obstacle in on-boarding customers. The reliability of most Indian SMS gateways has been erratic, and on some days we’ve seen SMS drop rates as high as 50 percent.”
To find a solution to this, the product development team reached out to solution providers, engaged in conversation with experts, and decided to try Facebook’s developer tool Account Kit after the product announcement at their F8 conference. Account Kit not only addressed the key challenges Fynd’s development team was facing, it also proved to be a cost-effective way to increase the platform’s reach.
The team at Fynd believes that ‘Account Kit is the best solution for any app developer looking to build a mobile number-based authentication. Facebook’s super-fast SMS delivery and seamless OTP read ensures that our customers get a flawless login experience. Account Kit’s global reach has allowed us to start serving customers across the world. All this doesn’t cost a cent.’
Account Kit has also helped Fynd from an engineering perspective as the team says they no longer have to worry about scaling their SMS infrastructure and can continue focusing on their core product offerings.
A key impact of Account Kit has been that Fynd’s monthly sign-ups have increased by 37 percent accounting for about 700K signups in 40 days. The success rate of sign-ups have increased by 25 per cent, in comparison to their previous SMS gateway providers.
Account Kit helps people quickly register for an app and log in using just their phone number or email address. A reliable and scalable product, it lets people choose how they create an account with an app. Account Kit can send up to 100,000 confirmation SMSes per month at no charge to businesses.
A mobile technology evangelist, Ronak believes that with the country set to witness an exponential increase in smartphone and internet penetration, it is vernacular content that is likely to expand in a big way.
He says, “For us at Fynd, while we continue to grow in the current market, the next major phase of growth will come from vernacular audiences. For such audiences, the entry point to the internet will be social networks and messenger apps. We are really excited about the possibilities this conversational commerce opens for us.”
This is one the reasons why Fify is so critical to their product strategy. Fify is Fynd’s intelligent fashion discovery and commerce bot, and has been designed to mimic human memory, personality and behaviour. A Facebook Messenger platform and AI-powered bot, Fify enables Fynd to engage customers with unprecedented personalisation and interaction. Ronak says, “Today, people spend a great amount of time on messaging platforms. In fact, the time spent on a messaging platform has overtaken the time spent on social networks and internet browsing. As a company on a mission to define and push the envelope on how fashion shopping is done, we want to be one of the first players to leverage this channel and use it to scale massively.”
Fify is in the public beta stage and has already powered over 250,000 conversations. While Fify’s first release has been aimed at enabling product and brand discovery, the subsequent releases will have trend suggestions, curated looks, suggestions on style, things that can help the newly-initiated internet audience and simultaneously drive sales. The second big update in the beta stage is scheduled for the end of January. The update will involve rolling out new features like enabling users to link Fify with their Fynd account, seamless payments on Messenger and some native product integrations. Ronak explains that after a few months in public beta, they will take Fify live.
Just like Fify, Ronak has worked with the team that has built other fantastic features for the platform in limited time. This includes Flashpay, a seamless and lightning-fast checkout process, Gravity View— a feature that allows users to just tilt their phones to browse through product images without having to swipe, and Mix & Match, a feature that has over 12 million combinatory rules to power look-based shopping.
Ronak’s typical day at Fynd starts with taking a quick look at the core business metrics and mails, daily huddles with the team and deciding major action items for the day. Most afternoons are spent working with the product development team to push out the next product update, fixing issues that require immediate attention, and analysing customer behaviour. “A startup is probably the only place where you get to work in such a fast-paced work environment and learn so much, early in your career.”
The company just raised follow-up funds of $500,000 from Silicon Valley-based Rocketship, in an extension of its Series A funding of the same amount in March this year from Venture Catalysts. The company was founded by Farooq Adam, Harsh Shah, and Sreeraman MG in 2012 as Shopsense Retail and pivoted to Fynd in November 2015.
At the moment, Ronak’s team is working towards improving the Fynd platform, the app and the web app to further capitalise on the great traction that they are seeing. In December 2016, they reached over 2 million app downloads. Ronak says, “At the moment, we going a little slow on growth because we are focusing on building traffic on all our properties – the app, web, Fify etc.”
The biggest challenge while handling a consumer-facing product like Fynd, according to Ronak, is “creating a habit-forming product and improving product discoverability.”
While these two challenges top the list of improvements, the other focus areas include utilising machine learning for product cataloguing, improving Fify and utilising multiple bots to automate operations.
This is in sync with Fynd’s mission to help people effortlessly discover fashion through their three core customer promises – fastest discovery, fastest checkout and fastest delivery.