(This article is the third and concluding piece of a three-part series. Part 1 looks at the definition and benefits of hyperlocal business. Part 2 outlines the challenges and pitfalls in going Hyperlocal. Part 3 offers solutions and differentiators based on technology, that can give your hyperlocal business a head start, powered by Anant technology)
To start with, I would like to thank the readers who have stayed with us through this three-part series. Some of you have expressed curiosity as to what new technology or approach Anant Computing will bring in, to resolve the Hyperlocal business challenges which we discussed earlier. I am happy to present our thinking and solution on this topic.
The solution for Hyperlocal businesses is based on fundamental behavioural insight into the twin target audiences for such businesses – local retailers, and local end consumers. Both need to be equally engaged, and for this, the technology needs to deliver real benefits for both.
1) Every retailer in the locality can have their own app, within the hyperlocal app
Let us take up the case of Mr. Shah, a medium sized retailer in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. His grocery shop is one of thousands of such shops in his area. He always wanted to have his own app so that he can have his own identity in virtual world like he has in the real world. He wanted to get his store discovered by consumer in online world. He had two major concern, going online will be an expensive affair and even if he goes online how will his store will get discovered among millions of other online stores.
When he was approached by a company who has created one of the most Coveted Hyperlocal platform, say Dream Hyperlocal “and told to join their Hyperlocal Platform. Company explained to Shah that we will build an app for his store, Hanuman Provision Stores, and it will be available for end consumer in similar manner as any app of big brands like Nike, Arrow……
Shah struggles to understand us. ‘’you mean, you will list the store in the app and costumer will download them?”, asks his young college going son. Of course not, company tells him, when consumer open their dream Hyperlocal app, based on location, choices he will be directed to your stores and your neighbouring stores who offers similar services or products. Consumer can open that app without downloading app on their phone. Company can build and customise each app as per the client’s requirement. Each retailer can have his app designed differently to showcase his products best. A grocer will require a different presentation than a fashion brand or an electronic store. This can actually bring the flavour of each store in a locality, to life and create an engaging app experience.
Once Shah understands, he is extremely keen to come on-board with the company. Because he realises that he is getting a chance to advertise or showcase his shop and his wares on mobile. He can reach out to both new, and existing users, through this hyperlocal platform.
Now onward consumer will buy (Online or Offline) directly from Hanuman Provision Stores through dream hyperlocal app. Now onus on Merchant shah to deliver the quality products at reasonable prices. Otherwise tomorrow customer will go to Merchant Mittal.
2) Consumer should have immunity from app updates
Now Mr. Patel has problem. I have already downloaded the “Dream Hyperlocal app “on my mobile and company is in spree of adding multiple stores in app form every day .This means, I will have to keep on updating my app every day. This will be quite frustrating.
Our hyperlocal solution is like a living map of the neighbourhood. It needs to be updated constantly as more and more stores come on board. With our apps, we have complete control over the app-in-app updates. It is possible for us to directly add, remove or update the apps within apps, automatically at any time without pushing the consumer to download a heavy update file. In fact, the consumer never needs to know that the app has been updated, yet every time he opens it, he will see the latest version.
You can see the benefits of the technology in hyperlocal, but the same technology can be used across industries, for example, an educational coaching app can have apps in apps according to subjects taken by students and update the content and tests at any time.
3) Each store is tiny yet complete – hence it can contain infinite number of retailer apps
Now Priyanka, another consumer has problem. Ok I will not have to keep on updating the app regularly but my phone doesn’t have capacity to store so many apps.
As in most emerging markets, Indians tend to be wary of heavy apps. People prefer not to download them as they use up data. Also, people are constantly trying to manage the limited storage space on their phones, by adding and deleting apps. I often quote from a blog post by Lightspeed Venture Partners who recommend that ideal apps size in India is 5 MB. But when we are talking about the dream hyperlocal app, even 1 MB is also heavy. Hence ideal size of app of individual apps should not be more than few hundred KB.
4) App should work in offline mode too
Now Raghu, another consumer has problem. I don’t have good internet connection. I am not able to use existing ecommerce app so for me Coveted Hyperlocal app is of no use.
While the base of mobile internet users in India is growing, it’s a fact that a lot of people are not online all of the time. People switch off data, or use it conservatively to save money. Fundamentally, we are thrifty about data usage. Poor connectivity and slow network speed are also a reality of the Indian market.
Dream Hyperlocal apps should be built with awareness of this consumer reality. Let’s say that Seema, a housewife, is using the Dream Hyperlocal App. Currently, she was switched off her data connection. She will still be able to browse the stores and click to call the store to order products. This is possible because our apps are light in size. It can store the basic data to provide a good offline browsing experience, without using space.
5) App should be available on consumer existing phone in their language. No string attached
Now Hema has a problem. She is our hyperlocal app user, is Gujarati, and lives in a Gujarati area of Mumbai. While she can read both Hindi and English, she is most comfortable in her native language. At the same time her phone doesn’t support Gujarati font . Hence she can’t use any Gujarati app on her phone. So, we offer our hyperlocal app in Gujarati language. This also appeals to local retailers in the area, who speak Gujarati with their customers, and have shop signages in local language too. Hema can not only read all the app contents in Gujarati, she can also use the inbuilt vernacular keyboard that comes with the app to type in her mother tongue. It is the best and smoothest experience she has had with Gujarati language, on her handset. Sometimes, mobile websites in Gujarati do not load properly, and there is no Gujarati keyboard in her phone.
Down in Tamil Nadu, another housewife, Bharti, is downloading the app. Detecting her location, we automatically offer her a choice of Tamil when she is using the app the first time.
If you have been following my writing, you will notice that we at Anant are driven by the vision of creating apps that are usable by everyone, and in a country like India, the term ‘everyone’ implies, vernacular language users. Unlike China, Japan and South Korea where majority of people use the internet in vernacular medium, in India, both websites and mobile apps have remained largely in English, or extended to only 1-2 local languages. The lack of vernacular language option has been driven by several technology and hardware constraints, from the perspective of device, operating system and app developers. Anant Apps will neutralise all constraints to delivering a smooth vernacular experience, because apps operate with inbuilt vernacular capabilities, and bundled with their own language keyboards. Both retailers and end consumers can benefit from using apps, in their own language of choice.
6) Consumer will not buy phone for the app
Now Ravi, another consumer has problem. He is having Java phone, Nokia Asha . He complains that apps are not available for his phone.
More than 90% of smartphones in India are budget phones, and more than 60% of overall phones are feature phones. Lower-end handsets come with certain constraints like slow processing power, they may hang easily when using heavy apps. Dream Hyperlocal apps are built to run light, and not use up precious device resources. With light apps, and lots of data cached on user’s phones, our apps will run smoothly and quickly – and will make a huge difference to users on low end handsets.
7) Let merchants also discover their consumer in real time when they are outside the store and home!
Now Patel, a Merchant has concern. I don’t want to sell online but want to have my presence online and I want to discover consumer online whenever they are passing by my store.
Today, hyperlocal apps operate with the basic assumption that people will sit at home and order through the app. This is a fair assumption, as the category is positioned as convenience and time saving. However, there is a very important use case that hyperlocal apps leave out of the equation. When it comes to neighbourhood shopping, there is a good chance that I step outside, more often than I use the app. For multiple purposes – to drop off dry-cleaning, use the local ATM, or even to run some quick errands. We know that time spent using an app is a critical metric of user engagement. The Dream Hyperlocal app promises to double, or even triple this figure.
Put simply, your hyperlocal app will work for the user, even when he/she is outside. Let’s illustrate with an example. Hema is a housewife who uses dream hyperlocal app, but today she has gone shopping in her regular local market. She has bought flowers for Pooja and some local fresh produce. When she is crossing a grocer, she receives a push notification informing her of a special 10% discount on rice and pulses till the month end. She makes a note that she must order from this store, rather than her regular store, this month. She crosses a famous local sweet shop and receives a notification that ‘’samosas are fresh”. On an impulse, she steps in and buys some.
Sounds amazing? You will be even more amazed to know that these geo-fenced push notifications are possible using just the user location data and do not require any complicated or expensive hardware like beacons. Dream Hyperlocal app must have inbuilt sensitivity to location technology. So much so, that if Hema travels from her current locality to another one, the ‘App Stores’ featured in her hyperlocal app will change completely, automatically. Again, this is a huge incentive for retailers to advertise to both online and offline audiences, and gain footfalls as well as phone calls or online orders.
We have spoken extensively about the hyperlocal example, as Anant currently works in this space. But the apps that we design have a use case in any industry, category or vertical. We have used the hyperlocal example to illustrate how Anant thinks differently about building apps, and this different thinking has translated into the technologies that we have developed. Anant technology is designed to maximise app usage and reach amongst the Indian audiences, keeping in mind their limited data usage and inherent network limitations – and most importantly, by integrating their offline behaviour into app design.
I would love to hear from you, and partner you to build next generation apps by Anant that give an edge to your business!