Generally, online businesses face plenty of pain-points engaging customers to gather feedback, sending out communications, and interacting with their stakeholders specifically to meet their versatile needs.
These are the key issues startup WebEngage wants to address. Co-founded by Avlesh Singh and Ankit Utreja, the company offers an on-site customer engagement tool that is currently used by more than 9,200 companies to collect the all-important customer feedback.
WebEngage is a self-serve targeting engine that allows customers to display a promotion or questionnaire to specific audience groups on their Web site. For example, these engagements can be customized according to a visitor's country of origin, referral source, or the time they surf the site--all of which can be managed via a single dashboard, and without having to re-code the company's Web site.
Essentially, WebEngage offers three primary product-based features:
Survey: Helps collect insights from site visitors and target questionnaires at specific audiences using its rule builder. Generates real-time analyses and reports.
Feedback: Helps Web sites get up and running in seconds. Improves customer feedback forms with custom fields and automatic screen-grab features.
Notification: Helps businesses push their messaging, allowing them to display offers, discount codes, product launch announcements, among others, to visitors and get real-time statistics.
Business rationale behind WebEngage
"We built a product like WebEngage because both Ankit and I had spent a lot of time building high-scale consumer Internet businesses as engineers, and this helped us a lot in creating real value-defined solutions," Avlesh said in an e-mail interview.
Finding that balance between their learnings from marketing and product management was something they always wanted to do with their product, offering various features ranging from displaying personalized greetings messages and offers, to mass offers for random visitors to SEM spends. Creating on-site campaigns, designing them, and deploying them on live Web sites from the get-go was something they wanted to help businesses do.
After quitting Burrrp, a restaurant-locating engine for India, Avlesh joined hands with Ankit--convinced this was the idea to bet on.
To date, over 9,200 online sites worldwide use WebEngage's product which operates on a freemium business model, with "several hundreds" customers on a paid plan, according to the company.
Over 60 percent of its customer base are based in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. India accounts for close to 15 percent of its overall customers which comprise SMBs and startups, as well as larger enterprises. Organizations such as Avaya, Flipkart, PC Magazine, Intuit, Snapdeal, Makemytrip, and HomeShop18 use WebEngage to drive engagement and sales on their Web sites, said WebEngage, which product is currently available in 27 languages.
Learning from the past failures
WebEngage's founders, however, weren't always successful. Avlesh, for instance, tried his hand with a similar product to help solve similar business problems. Before WebEngage, he built Webklipper, a social collaboration platform which doubled up as a research assistant to enable conversation on Web pages, pdfs and documents by means of annotation. Certainly helped researchers create digital footprint on documents and share/collaborate with others. However they quickly moved on from that product to come up with WebEngage.
Avlesh said: "We did the same mistake every first-gen entrepreneur does--conducting very little market research before building the product. While there is a market for Webklipper--mostly in education sector--the gestation period to make money was very high."
Realizing the problem quickly, six to seven months after building the product, he moved on to WebEngage and together with Ankit, one of the first things the two founders did was to step out and speak to prospective customers, hear them out, gather their feedback, and then build the product.
Avlesh said the startup increased its sales by 4 percent in a month, signing on some of India's large Internet retailers as customers. With WebEngage, publishers in the U.S. and elsewhere increased engagement on the site and fixed product workflows based on user insights. One of its largest customers ran an on-site user satisfaction survey among customers who made a purchase, after which one of the feedback revealed the customer support number listed on the WebEngage customer's contact page was incorrect.
An interesting feature the Indian startup offers is Notifications, which is a a plug-and-play, do-it-yourself messaging tool. Web site operators can use the tool to announce new products and discounts, or any other messaging they want to share with site visitors. More importantly, the notification tool supports the smart rules-engine WebEngage built, enabling users to target visitors by various parameters including browser, location, number of visits, referrals from search engines and social network sites, time spent, and so on.
Avlesh said the feature is popular among customers.
Improving with user feedback
Avlesh also said the company takes feedback seriously. This quote from a YourStory article explains his views: "Feedback was the first product in the suite but we always knew this was only a starting point. It would be too much to expect that highly relevant customer insights would come via the feedback tab for the customers. We realized that a Web site has to proactively ask for customer insights rather than expect the customer to tell them. And this led to the birth of our Survey product. We made it relevant by making it hyper targeted."
Thanking their engineering staff, he added: "The way this targeting piece was executed, it is now one of the key selling points for WebEngage."
As the survey product became mainstream among bigger Internet companies which deployed it, the Indian startup realized there was an expectation mismatch for a lot of customers.
"Some of them would use the survey product like a messaging tool to pop discount codes, and so on, on their Web site." Avlesh said in the article.
It was based on this customer feedback that the WebEngage team decided to come up with the Notifications tool. received.
Here's another interesting point about the startup. Offering a product focused on analytics and sales from marketing, the company also wanted to ensure it left a smart tactical digital footprint to increase visibility by simply carrying a "powered by WebEngage" logo which links back to the site.
Only enterprise customers on a paid plan have the option to remove this logo. In fact, as Avlesh noted, the logo is the single biggest source of traffic and sign-ups for them, accounting for almost 45 percent of overall sales.
Avlesh, though, said the fees will increase starting next month. Enterprise plans will start at US$1,000 per month, per Web site.
He also revealed the company will be adding Live Chat as the fourth product in its suite. Soon after, it will change the dashboard to a "Live Dashboard" which shows user activities on the customer's Web site in real-time.
He added the startup was bullish about the mobile market and will launch an in-app notification product as its first mobile offering.
About the WebEngage team
WebEngage is supported by an engineering-focused team as evident from the team bios. Avlesh said the team was meticulous about its hiring choices and focused on candidates' core skillsets and functions. "We'd rather not hire than work with the wrong guy or girl," he said. "Most of our hires have been people we have worked with in the past, or those who have been referred by people we trust."