India’s app economy is booming, and it’s increasingly becoming a battlefield for non-Indian apps. Marketers who want to ride this wave need to take into account that massive competition can hold them back from creating long-term relations with Indian customers. The latest State of App Marketing India report by Appsflyer exposes to us the realities of a highly competitive app market, which are high app-uninstall rates32% of installed apps are deleted within 30 daysas well as low retention rates5% of users active 30 days after installing an app. In short, customers tend to jump to the next app more easily. If that isn’t enough, you are facing competition on two fronts since offline business dominates verticals such as retail or travel.

To explore the solutions in India, nothing brings more reliable insights than going there. So we did. During Glispa’s roadshow throughout three major cities, we spoke to advertisers, clients and partners to find out the best strategies to keep users engaged.

Considering how competitive the Indian market is, marketers are constantly trying to push the boundaries of innovation, and are very open to any idea that can help them get ahead of their competition. Even the government helps out with solving specific needs apps can’t tackle directly such as connecting thousands of villages to the internet in the next few years. For getting ahead in mobile, companies need to tap into specific verticals and take advantage of the 530 million smartphones used in India in 2018.

Although the mobile penetration is the second highest globally, we see marketers being aware of the importance of offline activities to reinforce their messaging and keep attracting new or re-engaging existing users. Online to offline marketingO2Ois on the rise in India. We witnessed marketers leveraging both online and offline channels to create new customer touchpoints. While know-how and practices on connecting these dimensions are still in the beginning phases, it is vital to explore the forces pushing India’s market in the direction of inseparable marketing channels.


Adding offline channels makes life easier for people

Online to offline is the key to success for most players that want to keep engaging with their customer base in India in the long term. In combining offline and online channels, businesses can be on the spot whenever customers need them, which makes service simple and convenient for people. This is relevant both for traditional and mobile-first businesses and for all verticals.



Major O2O activities in India are emerging in retail at the moment and are ruled by a few digital giants. The Boston Global Consulting found that 5% of the purchase made in India’s retail, accounting for 16% of value of India’s retail, is a result of an O2O experience.

Major Indian online stores such as Firstcry, Lenskart, and Pepperfry opened franchises to reach shoppers who were still uncomfortable with making online transactions, and in that way created additional points of sale. In a more diverse model, Tata Group partnered its multi-brand network of brands from fashion and electronics to luxury products with the Unicommerce, a platform connecting it to its own base of over 10,000 local sellers.

In the past year, the foundations for O2O were laid with global competitors growing their offline networks in India. Amazon grew their offline presence in India by acquiring a stake in Shoppers Stop, a national department store across major Indian cities, and they’re continuing with a $5 billion investment to expand its e-commerce. Following the trend, Walmart is becoming the largest shareholder of India’s e-commerce giant Flipkart to expand its grocery business in India. “Grocery was a difficult category to offer without an offline presence,” Satish Meena, a Forrester analyst comments.

Paytm Mall, an online marketplace and part of an Alibaba backed mobile wallet service, recently collaborated with Samsung Electronics to bring Samsung smartphones to Paytm’s online marketplace as online sales of smartphones rise. Paytm facilitates an offline presence by providing a QR code to each device sold to make training and support accessible. What is interesting, Paytm’s network includes small shops especially throughout rural, non-digitized India, which are highly frequented by customers. Do small shops make the difference for Paytm? Well, we’re speaking of six million sellers in its platform. In return, Paytm helps out those shops lacking scale and variety of products and resources to provide digital payment options and loans to customers.

When talking about Paytm, we also have to mention its banking service has a major impact on India’s financial services sector, offering digital debit cards to 180 million mobile wallet customers, and integrating 100,000 banking outlets into its existing network of physical stores. While ATMs continue to get shut down in India, we are seeing the physical commerce landscape taking new shapes, yielding fusions such as Paytm pharmacies offering Paytm banking services.

So what does the future hold of retail in India? With smartphone usage continuing to increase in India, and people making an increasing number of purchases online, digital retail is likely to remain the fastest growing economy in the world, expected to rise over 1,200% to $200 billion by 2026. The future of O2O is promising as offline retail is remaining to grow and account for a majority of sales.


Home services

Meanwhile, players in the home service sector are starting to use O2O to make life easier for people and keep them coming back, and with it, transforming how home service works. One of them is Housejoy, an online home services marketplace in which customers can browse, book, and rate home service providers such as for beauty treatments, home cleaning, plumber services or fitness sessions. We spoke with Sumon Chandra, Head of Digital Marketing at Housejoy, about how O2O has helped them grow a one million customer base in India.

“The goal was to develop a technology-based solution to a common problem — getting qualified home service providers who did quality work and were reliable,” Sumon says. That’s an issue, everybody who has moved to a new town and needed a trustworthy plumber or electrician can probably relate to. For making this a convenience, Housejoy added a few steps:

“One of our main tech investments has been to improve the ‘customer and service partner matchmaking algorithm’ on the basis of multiple parameters. We have also invested in local and vernacular language options. This is to ensure that literacy and language do not become barriers. We provided a simple interface with a minimalistic design.” For Housejoy, technology is the backbone of any hyperlocal services marketplace. It enables people to rely on personal recommendations. 

Network and mobility matters. That’s why we monitor all jobs and ratings across our categories for controlling the quality.

Sumon definitely sees the potential in extending Housejoy’s offline presence beyond the home for those who need more spontaneity: “For a category like laundry, we need an offline presence so that customers can drop their clothes at the store very easily. We are currently experimenting this in Bangalore and over time we will certainly explore other cities.”

“The future of home services in India is undeniably big! To point out the stats – there are at least 10-15 million households with this need today in India and each would typically spend anywhere between Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 10,000 a year on any of these services like plumbing, electrical or carpentry. So this market is potentially a $10 billion plus industry.”

If retail or home service, these cases make clear, as a hybrid marketer in India, you can create synergies from more customer touchpoints, and find new ways to engage as you’re there for people in their mobile and physical life. So how can multiple touchpoints be used to re-engage people in order stay relevant?


New ways to re-engage customers with O2O

During our latest operations in India, we also noticed that re-engaging users has become more and more relevant in a market, where customers are exposed to different messages in a highly competitive landscape. Thus, for all the players it is becoming very complicated to acquire new customers and retain existing ones. That’s why apps are doubling down on re-engagement initiatives. By expanding retargeting to offline channels in India, marketers can increase the range of opportunities to re-engage people.

Marketers think in innovative ways constantly to stand out from the crowd. As a consequence re-engagement also needs to be done in a new and creative way. The old static banner can be effective when targeting countries with a low level of internet penetration, but in India, where the Internet connection is quite strong with a typical 30 GB a month at 4G LTE  speed, and given at a very low price to users, marketers are coming up with more creative ways to user engagement in-app, by recreating specific user experiences that are not possible with digital channels only.  

Housejoy is leveraging its data from offline activities to make sure people continue using their services. According to Sumon,

mobile advertising is one of the key pillars to our growth, and with it user reactivation and re-engagement through re-marketing. We majorly re-target customers based on their selected service location and cross-sell in-between categories.

Although people are increasingly using and making purchases via apps in India, physical channels remain essential for customers to experience a product. Combining an offline presence with a mobile channel creates new ways to connect with your customers along their journey from the web into the streets. Lastly, for a few impressions of our roadshow, here are some moments we captured during our stop at ad:tech New Delhi.

Luca Mastrorocco

Associate VP Global Sales, Glispa

Luca impressed us with his eight years of experience as a sales professional in mobile and online advertising and joined us last year. At Glispa, he makes sure his team provides our partners with meaningful insights and growth strategies. Luca is known for being an exceptional leader, mentor, and coach, whose enthusiasm is very contagious. He also created a company from scratch and raised pre-seed investment. Outside of work, Luca loves scuba diving.