How Starbucks Hooked Me with Their Loyalty Program

12:46 AM, Saturday (Friday Night). I am at Starbucks and working on a project of mine. Usually, I love to work late till 1 or 2 AM and I do it in a cafe, and my favorite cafe is Starbucks. Suddenly a thing strikes my mind, why do I always come to Starbucks which is 20 mins walk from my home, rather than going to any cafe which is 5-10 minutes away from my home. My thinking was interrupted by a barista (whom I know for almost 2 years), who was asking me about how am I doing today and how was my week so far along with how was the coffee. And instantly it strikes my mind, actually I hooked up with Starbucks and this is one of the reasons behind it, the compassion and service of Starbucks.

There is another reason also and I am going to talk about that one in this article. The loyalty program of Starbucks Thailand. Starbucks Rewards Program has nearly 20 million members. The Rewards Program has a reloadable card that launched in the USA on November 14, 2001. It offers customers to add money to a card/application and can receive many special offers such as discounts and free drinks when they pay through the loyalty card/app.

Starbucks My Reward Application

This program has worked very well because it can keep customers purchasing and create new customers at the same time through collecting points, special offers, and gifts. All of these could make a relationship with customers.

Moreover, online campaigns on social media have led My Starbucks Rewards to become successful. The social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook combine different marketing strategies which are the promotion mix including sales promotion and advertising products, social interaction with users, and creating online word-of-mouth. Posing content is the key factor of these elements. Starbucks influences customers to purchase beverages through My Starbucks Rewards by posting its campaigns on Facebook and Twitter. The campaign combines extra privileges for Starbucks’ members, for instance, free upsize of beverages and free gifts.

All in all, My Starbucks Rewards does not only provide special offers and discounts to create successful customer loyalty; it is required to combine an application, technology, and online campaign. An application can provide convenience to customers which creates the decision of purchasing and technology can allow Starbucks to collect data from mobile users which has very high value for online marketers. They also provide different kinds of online campaigns to promote the benefits of this loyalty program and posting on social media platforms can lead to viral marketing by sharing content among users.

Through My Rewards Program, Startbucks have reinvented their relationship with customers and captured enormous value through their investment into digital technologies. A Harvard research quotes that — “The Starbucks Reward Loyalty Program has a staggering 16 million active members (as of March 2019), with 11% growth of their user base in Q2 2018. Starbucks attributes 40% of its total sales to the Rewards Program and has seen same store sales rise by 7%.”

PS: There is a fantastic article on the Starbucks Loyalty program in Forbes. Here is the link –

10 Red Flags for Investors which Founders should be aware of

In order to ensure a successful and streamlined fundraising, experienced entrepreneurs also need to be alert to what investors may perceive as red flags.

1. Too Many Founding Team Members

Too much equity in the hands of too many (especially inexperienced) early shareholders can be problematic. Even too many team members at the beginning can be problematic from an investor’s point of view. So keep your fundraising goals in mind when hiring and considering bringing on cofounders.

2. Overhead Is Too High

If overhead is already too high, or the profit margins are going to be too small, investors should rightly be concerned. One of Sam Walton’s core principles when building the Walmart empire was to always control costs better than the competition. That is where he found his advantages, and sustainability. Not everyone wants to run a discount business, but there is no lack of scale or revenue at Walmart.

3. Founders Have Other Jobs

Is this just a hobby for the founder? A part-time gig? Or are founders really serious and dedicated to making this work? Are founders available enough, and at the right times, to make the venture work?

4. Weak Marketing Plans

Scaling and generating real revenues is going to require a realistic and aggressive plan. If this isn’t your area of expertise, look for guidance. 

5. Relying Only on Paid Advertising

Startups can’t rely only on paid advertising. Especially if they have only identified one or two channels to use. There may be times when funds are tight, and you need to be able to generate sales regardless of fundraising success, and profits and profit margins will be a lot better if there are other sales channels working.

6. Blind Optimism

You have to be an optimist to launch a startup, but unrealistic, blind optimism isn’t going to sell investors, and it isn’t going to make for a sustainable startup. Be positive, but acknowledge the real challenges that exist too.

7. Claims of Having No Competition

Claiming you have no competition is a sign of being overly optimistic. There will be the potential for some form of competition. Recognize it, and admit it, and you’ll gain credibility and investors will be confident that you are on top of it. 

8. No Technical Founders

If you aren’t technical, and you have no technical founders, that means there will likely be significant cost in paying for technical development and maintenance. That is a hard cost that the venture may not survive without. Contrast that setup with having at least two or three cofounders who cover all of the main functions and skill sets.

9. Asking for Too Much or Too Little Capital

This can beared flag that founders may not really know that they are up against. Don’t be too shy. Don’t forget that you can raise additional capital in further rounds. 

10. Early Investors Not Participating in Additional Funding Rounds

If previous investors are not getting on a round, that can definitely be a bad sign. If there is a good reason for that, make sure to address it proactively, rather than allowing it to work against you. 

Ultimately none of the red flags above are a show stopper. As a founder, what you need to do is put a correction wherever it needs to be placed to address potential concerns and have a good explanation behind it.

Want to Understand Your Customers: Ask Questions to them first, not to the data!

In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company has seen market share decline for its flagship product for the past 15 years. The soft drink company discovered that consumers prefer a new recipe to Pepsi and even old Coke after performing blind taste testing with over 200,000 people. Coca-Cola launches ‘New Coke’ with an all-star commercial campaign that summer. The product bombs. Badly. Consumers clamor for the classic formula, which Coca-Cola quickly brings back.

New Coke launched in 1985

How could Coca-Cola, which decidedly did its homework in terms of tasting, fail so spectacularly? The issue is that Coke consumers slurp the soda down for more than taste. Coca-Cola forgot that every time someone pops the top, they’re drinking from a well of emotion.

Are you Asking the Right Questions?

Coca-Cola used the wrong tool to answer the wrong question. Instead of asking customers which cola tasted better, it needed to pursue the “why” of customers’ buying habits. Many participants had grown up with Coke and had an emotional connection with the product and brand. Caught up in taste tests, researchers had neglected to consider customer habits, nostalgia, and loyalty.

Market research is more than a numbers game. As Coca-Cola learned, failing to understand the broad range of customer motivations, triggers, and emotions can lead to a corporate black eye.

The power and prevalence of market research have only grown since 1985. Companies in the United States are expected to spend $16 billion on market research in 2017. By 2020, that number will have more than doubled, yet marketers’ skepticism of their own conclusions will be at an all-time high. Only a quarter of marketers thought they were employing the correct tools and processes this year, down 8% from last year.

Skeptical business leaders often blame the tool or the person administering the tool. But more often than not, the real culprit is a mismatch between the tool and the questions in need of answers.

Choosing Tools for Insights

To look into the variety of elements that go into a customer’s “why,” you’ll need the correct tools. Just as turning a screw with a chainsaw isn’t a good idea, marketers need the correct instruments when gathering customer data.

Business leaders and marketers often turn first to surveys — or methodological cousins like taste tests, in Coca-Cola’s case — due to their ease and affordability. But surveys rarely reveal why customers behave the way they do. Of course, cold, hard facts have their place. Adding more figures to the mix, however, would not change the fact that two out of every three CEOs feel disconnected from their customers. Today’s CEOs are having difficulties understanding the sources of motivation, emotions, ideas, and concerns that drive their customers’ purchasing decisions.

When it comes to tapping into customers’ hearts and minds, the key is qualitative research. Conversations held in focus groups and in-depth interviews equip company leaders with insights ranging from customer pain points to product satisfaction.

What makes conversations so valuable? Think back to New Coke. Are customers buying based on convenience, necessity, nostalgia, or something else? No figure or one-directional response can uncover that.

Quantitative techniques like surveys and qualitative tools like focus groups both have a role to play when it comes to customer insight. The idea is to start by having talked to gain a sense of the situation.

Had Coca-Cola first held a focus group to understand consumers’ relationship with the beverage and their reactions to its potential discontinuation, it could have contextualized the taste test. Learning how much of a role taste plays in the broader purchase decision likely would have led Coca-Cola researchers to assign less weight to consumers’ flavor preference for the new formula.

How might Coca-Cola have made the most of surveys? It could have learned when they crave a Coca-Cola, how often customers choose other colas over Coca-Cola due to taste, or how much they’d be willing to pay for a new product. None of those answers are helpful, however, without first understanding why people buy Coke in the first place.

What’s more, surveys could have helped Coca-Cola save money. Instead of surveying 200,000 people, it could have surveyed a 10th as many and then extrapolated its findings. Then, it could have followed up with that same group after rolling out New Coke to track the broader market’s satisfaction.

As Donald R. Keough, then-president of the Coca-Cola Company, stated after the 1985 New Coke debacle, “We did not understand the deep emotions of so many of our customers for Coca-Cola.” Employing just one research tool was Coca-Cola’s mistake. Had it started with customer conversations, it would have realized New Coke wasn’t such a sweet idea after all.

The Growth of the Influencers Marketing in Bangladesh

Now-a-days the presence of digitalization is visible in every aspect of our life; such as education, health and medicine, entertainment, marketing, finance sectors etc. When it comes to digital marketing, it has rapid changes in Bangladesh. Currently, the brands or companies use third parties’ content creators for promoting new products in digital media.

As people are spending more time on social media instead of TV and trust word to mouth marketing rather than the traditional advertising method, brands are investing more in influencers rather than advertising for effective digital marketing. Those influencers are affiliates and for that they take a payment from the companies.

For an example- Shams is a content creator and usually she creates comedy videos in her YouTube channel and Facebook page. She is very popular among the new generation and 2.1 million people follow her on Facebook page and in her YouTube channel there are 359 thousand subscribers. Recently, Realme Bangladesh promoted their new mobile phones in her videos. Sometimes brands want to create traffic on their website, in that case they provide promo code to their publishers. If any customer visits the website through the provided link or uses the given promo code to purchase a product or service, the influencers will get a percentage of the sales.

Though traditional forms of marketing through TV, radio, newspaper advertising have achieved huge success, the effectiveness of brand communication is decreasing as the market is now dominated by the customers. Virgin America Inc. is a US airline that spends around 70% of its total marketing budget in digital marketing including social media. According to the McKinsey Gen Z Survey, 2019, 65% of Gen Z is influenced by online reviews, blogs or social media when they recommend a product or brand. Influencer marketing is expected to grow to be worth $13.8 billion in 2021. Businesses are making $5.78 ROI for every $1 spent on influencer marketing and that’s why companies are now getting involved in influencer marketing. There has been a 465% increase in searches for the phrase “influencer marketing” on Google alone since the pandemic. In the USA 67% of consumer brands use Instagram for influencer marketing.

According to Hype Dhaka (a digital marketing agency in Bangladesh) statistics of the marketing advantage of Instagram as a marketing platform which is shown by this digital marketing agency.

  • 80% of merchants think that influencer marketing is successful.
  • 71% of merchants think about the performance of customers and the traffic from influencer marketing. 
  • 49% of consumers’ purchasing decisions depend on influencers’ opinions. 
  • In last three years, Google’s scope for “influencer marketing” has increased by 1500%
  • 48% of merchants who work with influencers believe that audience connections play a vital role in influencers marketing. 

One of the most visited websites in Bangladesh is Facebook; through social media like Facebook and Instagram, brands can easily get attention and popularity. For this reason, startup businesses or even well-established businesses are now investing more in digital marketing specially in social media to gain and retain more customers. For example, is an online grocery shop, provides special promo codes to the members of Pop of Color which is declared through the influencer Tinker Jannat Meem, admin of the group. also follows the same strategy, they choose female influencers of Facebook and provide promo codes to promote their services i.e. has partnered with Rounak Ashrafi Prema, owner of Shopping Glowrist to promote such promo codes only for Shopping Glowrist members.

Coupon for Shopping Glowrist group members

Usually influencers in Bangladesh do live sessions or post image content to present their affiliation with the products. Nowadays, promoting products through live sessions in social media is very popular in Bangladesh. Brands use different mode to promote their products like tutorials if it is a cosmetics/skin care brands, showcasing products if it is a lifestyle product (i.e. Shwapno do regular Facebook live hosted by Aysha Akhter Towshi) or interviews with influencers and customers to give more personal, authentic, and genuine feelings to the customers (i.e. Daraz has launched several launching events with celebrities).

In near future, Micro and Nano-Influencers will also play a big role in the influencers marketing arena. As Big-name influencers and celebrities with millions of followers are expensive to hire and don’t always make the best hosts, using influencers with a few thousand dedicated followers can generate a more intimate and trusted connection with audiences at lower cost. According to one survey, the engagement rates for nano-influencers on Instagram are ten times those for mega and macro influencers. One of the Bangladeshi startup HypeScout, a influencer marketing platform developing a pool of micro and nano-influencers and helping companies and SMEs to conduct their influencers marketing more effectively.

As social media marketing is growing expeditiously; so it is also a concerning issue to maintain a good environment in influencers marketing. Both the consumers and companies have to focus not only on the number of followers an influencer has, but also what message they are delivering and how they are delivering. To maintain the quality, the digital marketing agency and influencers platform like HypeScout can help the brands and as a medium of broadcasting, Live Commerce can play a vital role too.

4S: The Web Marketing Mix

After the evolution of technology and Internet innovation, everything is continuously changing from its traditional characteristics. Even the communication system, transport, lifestyle, business model, marketing strategy is changing due to the internet. 4P defines the marketing mix, and was first expressed in 1960 by E. J. McCarthy in his book, “Basic Marketing – A Managerial Approach” is only applicable for physical business not online based business. As the internet has taken over the world of commerce swiftly; as a result marketing mix 4P has an alternative which is known as web marketing mix 4S and this theory is developed by Efthymios Constantindes. To become a successful marketer it is essential to apply 4S in e-commerce or online marketing.

The Web-Marketing Mix model identifies the online marketing critical elements and addresses the main E-Commerce strategic, operational and organisational issues in an integrated and manageable manner. The WMM is an appropriate basis for the Web Strategic and Marketing planning, especially intended for click-and-mortars operating in the Business-to-Consumer segment.

The model can be also useful to pure-plays or existing online organisations in re-evaluating their E-Commerce presence, provided that such organisations already have or are considering having a physical presence next to the virtual one.

The Web Marketing Mix approaches the marketing planning process in an integral manner, on different levels:

4S Web marketing Mix

Scope: Strategy and Objectives

The scope of web marketing mix covers all the strategies which are related to organization’s online marketing and operations. This strategy includes web-based marketing strategy, market analysis, synchronizing objectives and organization’s responsibilities, definition & classification of the potential customers and analyzing their buying pattern and behavior on the online. 

Site: Web Experience

Site in the web marketing mix focuses on communication between the organization and their customers. User friendly website, customer service, website design and content included in this marketing mix. 

Moreover, during the website development a developer has to focus in some areas like whether visitors get the related information during searching in the website or not, offer or campaign banner in the website have to be linked up with the products page, landing page loading time, flexible order system, organized and precise information of product or service. Usually a customer looks into this matter and if she/he had a great experience during browsing or purchasing then obviously she/he will come back to your website for the next order or will feel more connected with your website than your competitors.

Synergy: Integration

Synergy in business indicates that team work outcomes will be greater than the individuals. In web marketing mix synergy is the combination of 3 components- the front office, the back office, third parties. Usually online marketers invest most of their investment on synergy for a greater result. 

  • The Front Office: It indicates the website itself and conventional corporate communication and distribution strategies. It is important to have an online presence of the organization to provide primary level support, order and campaign related support to make a worthy marketing campaign.
  • The Back Office: It refers to a service which is provided after processing the orders. Starting from the marketing campaign strategies to product related after service strategies all are included under the back office.
  • Third Parties: It is quite costly and time consuming for an organization to do all the tasks internally. So for cost cutting and increasing the productivity; usually an organization linked up with external parties on a campaign or project basis.

System: Technology, Technical Requirement and Website Administration

It deals with technological related issues of a website. Based on time, customer demand; it is necessary to give a right to your team to keep the online platform always up to date for effective online marketing. Moreover, while running a sale or promotional campaign the technical team always has to check whether software is working properly or not and able to process the order in their system. As a result, marketing team efforts will bring great success for the organization.


As every physical business is now trying to have an entity on the internet; it is very important for a business owner to give attention to the web marketing mix theory. So that they can handle their online business very smartly and effectively. At the beginning level of implementing this theory in their online business can look a bit terrific but later on it will be easier after entering and understanding the pattern of the online business. This web marketing mix 4s will help a web business owner to maintain a standard and increase the business size.

Importance of First-Party Data for Marketing and New Product Development

Now-a-days marketing relationship is continuously improving the relationship with both customers & consumers to create a better impact on their mind than before. To build up that relationships, companies are now investing more in customer relationships such as-provide sample products, communicate with customers & ask for feedback, proactive customer support etc. During product launching, along with media promotion, companies also provide samples. Providing samples is a part of increasing brand value and promoting the product in the market which will boost the sales. But, customers’ choices or preferences are continuously changing, so companies have to come up with a new product in the market. At the beginning stage of a new product, companies use both competitors and customers data to predict the new products demand in the market.

Now a question can come into your mind: how can a company utilise their customers personal data and track their engagement during new product development? To solve these loopholes; companies come up with marketing analysing ideas which measure marketing activities, sales and connect with customers’ personal data (PII), company’s both social media and website related data. So, we are going to describe how companies collect customers personal data, provide data security and product sampling effects customers buying behaviours.

At the present, maximum companies collect most of their customers PII online. PII data is used by the company during digital marketing activities. PII data helps the company to know not only the demographic information about their customers but also individuals choice, area of interest, purchasing pattern and based on that companies provide push up notification or email for marketing. Now companies are now investing in collecting the customers data, in a more secure way as digital advertising is reshaped by a number of significant, privacy-driven changes, investment in first-party data is emerging as a key strategy that can help marketers and publishers adapt.  At the same time, web browsers and mobile operating systems have begun restricting the use of third-party cookies and mobile identifiers, which have been used for years to deliver relevant ads and enable critical measurement use cases.

Image 1: Field Agent interviewing customers

 That’s why multinational companies like Unilever start using more complaint services to collect first-party data. For example, Unilever Philippines arranged a campaign with Next Billion PTE LTD to collect PII information, distributing samples and collecting feedback from consumers by using Next Billion’s survey solution. NEXT BILLON has developed 3 different platforms which are visual flyer advertising platform, web based PII platform and chatbot platform to collect users personal information of interested customers with their consent. In this campaign after submitting the PII information, the users get either a free sample of Unilever products or other rewards according to their choice.

Another multinational company did a similar type of project in Bangladesh and India.They targeted their audience on facebook where they can see the free sampling offers video and get a unique offer code. Then, participants are redirected to a website where they asked for to input the unique code and personal information. Later on, that company sent a free product sampling box to the participants by using a local logistics company. This is the process to collect first-party data in return for a free sampling product.

At its core, first-party data signifies a direct relationship between a person and a business. At key moments along the customer journey — whether a purchase, an account creation, or a subscription sign-up — people share information about themselves and trust that the other party will protect it and use it responsibly. Over time, as people engage regularly with their preferred providers, those businesses learn more about their customers or audiences, and can use those insights to serve them better.

In fact, research shows that people expect businesses to use information about them to personalize their experiences, and that they are willing to share more under the right circumstances. A 2019 survey conducted by Harris Poll for RedPoint Global found that 63% of consumers surveyed across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. expect personalization as a standard of service. The study also found that a majority (54%) of the 3,000 participants expressed a willingness to share personal information if it would be used to create personalized experiences; that number jumped to 70% and 72% when focused on millennials and Gen Zers, respectively.

An important part of creating a privacy-forward, first-party relationship with users is clearly communicating what they are agreeing to. Make sure your privacy policy is easily accessible and up-to-date with your latest practices. Be transparent with your customers about how they can exercise control over the data being collected, including how to opt out of tracking or submit a request to have information deleted.

Image 2: Solution developed by Next Billion to collect PII, sample tracking and feedback platform

You learn more about your customers and audiences through each interaction you have. But there are also deliberate steps you can take to collect the information you need to deliver great experiences or provide great service. Brands might offer a loyalty program that provides customers with exclusive content, personalized recommendations, and merchandise rewards. Or they could simply offer a coupon or deal if people provide their email address or phone number. For example, With the help of NEXT BILLION, Wall’s ice-cream brand under Unilever Indonesia arranged a campaign for free Wall’s minion banana flavored ice cream. In this campaign participants can register after submitting their PII and get a free ice cream voucher code as a reward.

Another great example is Mondelēz. In the past, candy shoppers have made their purchases in-store or on retailer sites. But as the marketing landscape shifted, Mondelēz worked to develop a direct relationship with shoppers and a first-party data strategy. That strategy carefully considered the value being offered in exchange for establishing a relationship. Take the company’s Sour Patch Kids brand: Fans of the candy can go to a website, handpick flavors, customize the packaging with their names, and order their own unique box of the multicoloured, sugar-coated candies. According to Jonathan Halvorson, VP of global media, digital, and data at Mondelēz, “When people choose to connect with us directly and share information, we ensure that a high bar is met in terms of the value they get in return.” That’s why NEXT BILLON provides a secured solution to their clients to save the encrypted database either in NEXT BILLION’s server or in the client’s server.

To learn more about how to grow and implement your first-party data, I am open to talk and share my knowledge with you.

(Co Author – Kaniz Fatema)

5 Myths that Every Startup Entrepreneur should know!

In the last 8 years, I worked in 3 start-ups and also mentored 5 start-ups, and saw 100 other start-ups to start their operations. Unfortunately, most of them completely failed or just operating on a small scale or still trying to figuring out their revenue model. The most common reasons to fail are – run out of cash, couldn’t recruit the right team members due to budget, false traction leads to unnecessary expansion or no business model. This connects directly to the five startup myths that I am going to discuss today. So, let’s do it!

Myth#1 – You can raise money on an idea: This is 99% false. You need traction to raise money. Traction in the form of Revenue ideally or at least traction in the way of users the notion that you can raise capital to build the first version of your product or to recruit. You might be very lucky if you can raise even from an Angel investor with your idea only. So before raising money, try to achieve traction.

Myth#2 – CEO or Founder is the highest-paid employee: Shouldn’t be the CEO or founder/s the highest-paid employee in the company? Sorry but that’s not true. The founders may not be the highest-paid employee of the company, sometimes not even in the top 3 of the list. Company share value should be the motivation of the CEO/founder, not the salary.

Myth#3 – Fast Growth first, Profitibilty later: This is a classic one! All you’re worried about is scale and growth ratio. And the fact that you need to grow faster. As long as you have money in the bank and new investors are continuing to fund your operation. For the most part, if your company is growing fast, you will be able to raise more funding. ‘Fast’ has different definitions depending on the industry, but you are probably looking at tripling or quadrupling your revenue YoY.

But,  what happens if you are growing at, say, 50% YoY. That’s not going to get investors excited and probably won’t get you that Series A or Series B funding. So what to do, well, two paths: A) Keep going full steam ahead until you win, or you die. B) Take a step back and get your company to a profitable state. The point is, the purpose of a company is to make money. Slow growth is better than dead. A challenge many startups comes when they’ve raised too much money. In that case, the pressure from investors to get an ROI on their capital might put you in a tight spot.

Myth#4 – You need to develop your own the tech solution: Until you are developing a business that absolutely needs a tech solution first to test the leap of faiths and/or hypothesis, don’t invest your all resources in it. For example, in Next Billion, when we were working in B2B retail eCommerce, we use Shopify to test the initial hypotheses and understand the core operations. Because our core hypothesis was whether the FMCG retailers will order from some company that is not an FMCG company and/or wholesaler. And then we use the call-center to test whether the FMCG retailers placed orders without seeing anyone in front of them. Because during the research period, we have identified that these 2 will be the huge behavioral change for them.

Myth#5 – Everyone is starting a Startup, I should start one too: Obviously you should start your own business but before that, you have to know why do you want to do it. As long as you know why do you want to do it, the rest will follow. But you have to be sure, why do you want to do it. The best reason to start a startup is to solve a problem you‘re passionate about. Passion leads to excitement, ownership, and the motivation to stick it out when it gets tough. It also makes it more likely that the problem you‘re solving is real and big enough.

Bottom line: If your gut tells you to go for it and there’s something you really believe in, then go for it. We need more startups, as they are the change agents that can save the world.

(inspired by Caya)

My 2020 Reflections: Part 2 – The Achievements

“Allah has already planed your life. If something goes wrong, it went wrong for a reason”.

In my whole life, I have noticed a pattern. Allah has granted almost all my wishes, but when the time is right for me, not when I wished for it. Now if I need anything, I ask to him and tell him to give me when he thinks that I am eligible for that. So far in my life, I am very much thankful to Allah (SWT) for his blessing. In 2020, there is also no exception.

When I left Jeeon in November 2018, I had no concrete plan what I will do in my career. I already had 10 years of experience and I am feeling that my growth is getting stagnant. I put myself in a silo, very comfortable with the position and I was very happy with that. I forgot that one has to be uncomfortable in order to be successful, in some ways. If one stays in his comfort zone! S/he would never do the things that one needs to do. Leaving Jeeon was the first step I had taken to break that comfort zone. Before leaving Jeeon, I had no full time opportunities in my hand, only a consultancy which can cover my 3 to 4 months cost. But I believe that the strength of an individual’s convictions in his/her own effectiveness determines whether he/she will even try to cope in difficult situations. And as I said, with the grace of Allah (SWT) I have joined Next Billion in March 2019, just after completing my 3 months assignment in Nathan Associates’ project BFP-B.

Achievement#1: B2B Retail eCommerce

At the end of 2019, we have launched B2B retail in Tangail. We launched the 1st prototype in 2 days. With 1 month learning, I have attended an accelerator event in Hong Kong. It was a great experience. Implementing B2B retail eCommerce was one of the challenging projects I have implemented in my life. Although due to unavoidable circumstances, we have to close the project for the time being but I have learned a lot from it. Some achievement of this projects is given below –

  • Establish the pilot operations of B2B Retail initiative with 1500+ rural retail outlets
  • Total revenue reach to $120,000 in 6 months, with an average basket size of around $60
  • Completed around 2000+ deliveries in 6 months
  • Designed a GPS based route plan for products delivery to last-mile retail shop in a cost-effective way
  • Designed both Online (eCommerce site) and Offline (call center) order management solution

In terms of learning –

  • Understood the buying pattern of rural retailers, specially union and below union market
  • Understood the smartphone using behaviour of these retailers
  • Understood the market dynamics like the alternative channels of procuring products, existing financial terms among wholesaler and retailer etc.
  • Understood the roles and value added by the existing market players. It’s really important because then you can plan and design your automated/semi-automated solution.

Achievement#2: Live Commerce

In 2020, I also got opportunities to implement couple of projects in Bangkok, Thailand and I have experienced the whole eCommerce ecosystem of South East Asia. Not only got the user experience but also met people from Lazada, Shopee, aCommerce and some eCommerce merchants. I am really amazed with the whole ecosystem, especially the return procedure and logistics facilities. After experiencing the whole ecosystem, my learnings plus realizations are –

  • We all know that if customers have to work too hard to find a way to contact the company to resolve their problem quickly, they will be dissatisfied and their frustration can go viral faster than lighting. However, if customers have issues resolved by customer service, you will see lower return rates, more positive motion of your companies on social media (even when there were problems), better online review and more customers.
  • The company should give enough authority to customer officer so that they can solve the problem for the customers, not just following some checklist and procedures.
  • The e-commerce marketplace should also be obsessed with this customer service. They should expects that their merchants will be similarly obsessed with the customers services to gain the confidence of the customers. For that, the e-com marketplace can incentivize their third party merchants who obliged that and can punish those who didn’t.
  • For marketplace third party merchants, it is critical for them to understand the company’s customer-service mindset to be successful.

Another thing really amazed me is the growth of Live Commerce in China and SEA. Live commerce is a combination of TVC or Asian Sky shop, plus Facebook live, plus an eCommerce platform, all rolled into 1 app. I wrote couple of articles on Live Commerce, and one of that was published in The Daily Star, the leading english newspaper in Bangladesh. You can find the article here.

Achievement#3: Blogging

Before 2020, I wrote few articles  but in 2020, I have started it seriously. So far in 2020, I wrote 12 blog, and also I developed my own blog site,  I have started my own blog site in May 2020. So far 1200+ visitors visited my site and all of these are organic flow. I didn’t do any SEO or Adwords or any social media marketing. 22 people also subscribe to my blog. In 2021, I am planning to post at least 1 blog weekly and promote my blog in social media. Apart from my own blog site, all of those articles are also published in other platform like Marketing in Asia,  and Thrive Global.

Achievement#4: Active Networking in the time of Pandemic

Although due to COVID-19 we all were in lockdown and currently maintaining the social distancing, still I identify 2020 as the year of networking for me. Till 2019, my total LinkedIn connection was close to 2000 and 95% of my connections are from Bangladesh. And now at the end of 2020, total connections grows to just over 4000+ and 55% of them are from Bangladesh. I not only focus on the quantity, but also quality, like I actually met (obviously virtually) 80+ of my contacts in this year with whom I never met before. Mostly it was an intro call, knowing each other. I think I will continue this virtual networking activities in 2021 too.

I also joined Lunch Club and Cuppa Club. Both of the platform is actually is a super-connector that makes introductions for 1:1 video meetings. These platforms will get you  connected smartly to professionals around the world based on your goals to help you form the personal connections you want. I also met very smart and passionate people through these platforms.


Since I left Jeeon, in last 2 years, the way I way I grew (also in terms of speed), I am really thankful to Almighty Allah and also to few of my friends (Tajdin, Chinmoy, and some junior friends), my colleagues (especially Oliver Gilbert, my mentor and boss) and some well wishers (especially Zahed Bhai, Rashed Bhai, Muhymin bhai, Sajid, Saif Bhai, Arafat and many more).

In last 1 year, the almighty has given me lots of opportunities to learn. In 2021, I will take a step back to make two steps forward. I will take a step back to reflect on my learnings, form ideas and courses of actions to attain my goals. I know that life is often unpredictable, so you have to be prepared even if things are going just fine at the moment. So I want to stay positive and have a clear focus on my goals. And Insha’Allah by the grace of almighty, I will reach my goals.

My 2020 Reflections: Part 1 – The biggest Loss

My father, Md. Muhitun Nabi! I lost him on February 9 ,2020 at 8:45 AM. He had no pre-existing condition except diabetics but it was also in control. But on night of February 8, he sudden stroked and we admitted to him hospital around 12:30 am and in the following morning, he left us all. It was a huge shock for all of us but in a sense I am happy, because he always wanted this type of sudden death.

My father may not be a highly successful man (in terms of materialistic wealth), but he lived his life fullest. He is my hero. He was a very religious man. He had a huge influence in my life. He always believe in me, he always told me that I will be very successful in my life (I guess every dad told this to his son/daughter). But the way he used to say that, it inspired me a lot. It also gave me strength to believe that yes, I can do it.

My dad retired as Principal of Government College of Commerce, Chittagong in 2004. He had lots of students who loved him for his guidance and honestly. With his limited income, he always tried to fulfil all our needs. In 1990 or 1991, I was 6/7 years old. We went to market and I saw a pair of cricket pads for kids (protective equipment used by batters in the sport of cricket). On that time, the price was around BDT 500, like BDT 5000+ in current time. I was a stubborn child, so when I demand anything, I need it, whatever it cost. My dad bought that for me after like I cried for 20-30 minutes. That was one of the best day in my childhood.

My dad was always serious about his job and responsibilities. He also loved to do gossiping with his student in the class and outside class. He used to tell me that his age is stuck between 16-22, as all his students in that age group. As he spend 6-8 hours a day with this group, so his age is stuck 16-22 years old. May be that’s the reason he was so progressive. I remember, at the age of 53-54, he learned how to operate computer and how to use MS word and type in Bangla bu using Bijoy (even still I don’t know how to type in Bijoy). He also loved to play Brian Lara 1998, desktop game. One of his favorite song is Habib’s “Din gelo”. He used to believe that it was a very religious song and I didn’t argue with him because actually it is if you think on that line.

From childhood, I was good in general knowledge and he was very proud of that. Interesting thing is, as a teacher’s child, he never pushed me or my elder brother to do good results. He was always concern about are we good in math and english. Even in my SSC or HSC, he never pushed me for distinction. He just told me to keep 1st class. Even in my BBA, he never pushed me for my grades but he was very happy that I had secured “performance based scholarship” in my BBA. Me and my elder brother, both of us graduated from private university. My dad completed his bachelors and masters from University of Dhaka, #1 university of Bangladesh. That’s why he used to say to me that I should try to University of Dhaka for my MBA, and I did it. On that day, he was more happy than myself.

From the beginning of my career, I have to travel a lot for official purpose. Every time before starting my journey, either I met him or called him for his blessing. Whenever I faced any hard times in my life, I used to talk to him and asked for his guidance. Most of the time, he told me to keep faith in Allah, Allah will show me the path. He was a very religious man, he hardly missed any prayers or even tahajjud prayer (also known as the “night prayer“, is a voluntary prayer performed by followers of Islam) since his teenage.

I gifted him a smartphone and within a week he learned how to use and he was a regular YouTube viewers. In September or October 2019, he called me one morning and told me that 2020 will be very successful year for me. I asked him why do you think that, he told me he saw a horoscope video in YouTube where an astrologer said that. We both laugh for a while on that. Today, I don’t know whether 2020 is successful for me or not but definitely the worst because I lost him.

I dont know whether I was a good son to him but definitely he was the best human, best friend and best dad to me. Please keep him in your prayers.

Live Commerce: The new retail trend shaping the future of eCommerce

What is Live Commerce? Live commerce is a combination of TVC or Asian Sky shop, plus Facebook live, plus an eCommerce platform, all rolled into 1 app. Alibaba has started combining Livestream with eCommerce in 2016 and now it’s a USD 63 billion business in China.

In Bangladesh, sellers go on Facebook Live to promote items, respond to questions, and take instant orders. Some merchants/products attract larger crowds than others. On average, there are 100–200 live-streaming sessions performed in Bangladesh, which increased to 500+ during the festive season. Sometimes there are 1000–2000 viewers in each live session. Unfortunately, there is no reliable data on what amount of sales the merchant generated from each session.

Why Live Commerce is rising?

  • Human Elements: whenever you are visiting any eCommerce site, whether it’s Amazon, Best Buy, or Daraz, you will see all the information in the text (product info and reviews) or images. Live streaming has completely turned the way you can learn about a product online. Basically, it’s like a salesperson demonstrates all the features of the products, even sometimes in such a way that is not possible in a physical store. For example, in Live Streaming you can ask/see the host try 15–20 different colors of lipstick which is most of the time is not possible to do in physical shops. Moreover, you can also take advice from the expert (usually the host is an expert on the subject matters) directly.
  • Branding Ecosystem: Usually the brand needs to go to Google or Facebook or other social media platform to do digital marketing. However, Live streaming in eCommerce could be more effective than the current methods. In China, all types of brands have introduced live streaming in the eCommerce platforms. And the companies are giving more discounts to customers during live streaming to increase their viewers. So, more customers are watching live and buying products. As a result, more companies have started live streaming and more consumers have started watching live streaming to enjoy discounts and the cycle is going on and on.
  • Technology: Adoption of 4G increase the consumption of video content and the habit of mobile phone users. People now habituated to watch more videos than pictures and that’s why the rise of short video platforms like TikTok or Likee is on the rise.

Why Live Commerce Growth Will Continue and Brand should use it?

  • 5G Technology: We all know that 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices. 5G will make the internet more accessible, and an even smoother ride for those on mobile devices which lead to more consumption of video contents and also the introduction of augmented reality and visual reality in eCommerce.
  • More Product Categories Online: Live streaming will open the door for more product categories to become available online. In Bangladesh, items like furniture, jewelry (expensive one) car, and high-end electronics items are low selling items online because customers need more visual and experiential information to make a purchase decision and which is exactly Live steaming can offer. Live streaming is created the 3-dimensional aspect of online shopping — an interactive, mobile, and social shopping experience. The customer can say, I want to see the function of the TV or let me show how quickly the laptop/computer starts.
  • Supply Chain Efficiency: Live streaming will help to improve supply chain efficiency which will help to improve the product selling cycle too. Let’s assume, your store sells handbags, Today the product cycle might look like this — Design > Produce > Distribute > Display > and consumers make orders. From design to reach many users, probably it takes 1 to 3 months. And then you find out that the mass customers actually don’t like the products, or the products are not hit due to lack of some features. With Live Streaming, you can get the customers to feedback fast, what they like and what don’t, and what more they want, you can actually make the overall process very faster and efficient. You can also get a pretty good estimate of purchasing intent from the customer and estimate how many quantities you should produce.

Why eCommerce platform should include Livestreaming in their platform?

According to a survey conducted by on online buyers, the majority expect to see an average of 6 photographs and 3 videos per product before deciding to buy. What’s more, 66% of users wishing to find information on products prefer to look at a short video. 84% of people say that they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video. Moreover, People are twice as likely to share video content with their friends than any other type of content.

In May 2020, I have conducted a study on Factors Influencing Consumers’ Attitude Towards Online Shopping in Dhaka City, where the most 3 influential factors customers considered before purchasing from any online page/website are credibility and trustworthiness of the seller, clearly stated information on pricing and shipping and image and description of products followed by previous customers’ reviews and testimonials, clearly stated return policy and after-sales customer services. All of these factors can be addressed through Live Commerce. By showing the products live, providing information, and answering queries can increase the credibility of a seller. Moreover, during live, information like price, and shipping information can be explained properly to viewers and the viewers can ask if they have any queries. Moreover, there are more advantages to using video with eCommerce products –

  • It increases the amount of time the user spends on the page.
  • It increases the average amount spent per purchase.
  • It attracts new consumers with valuable content that answers questions.
  • It is taken into account by Google when determining search positioning.
  • It provides better click ratios and the content is shared more times.

Live Commerce can also help brands to –

  • Attract with a view behind the scenes. Behind-the-scenes live video is great for humanizing the business, but it also has an air of exclusivity, making it very engaging.
  • Close with a bang! Product launches are great events to stream if you want to boost sales. You can stream special programming in support of your flash sales, too.
  • Delight with extra valuable content. Provide that little extra to your customers with live-streamed training sessions or content centered around the community.


The worlds of eCommerce and live streaming are incredibly dynamic, especially where they overlap. Live streaming is great for e-commerce, even if the two are not a completely integrated solution in Bangladesh yet. So far, the overall live streaming in Bangladesh is still Facebook and Youtube focused and mostly used by Facebook merchants. Some brands are also doing live on Facebook but mostly for marketing and awareness purposes.

Live commerce is still a very early stage in Bangladesh. recently has launched the “Video Shopping” feature in their app which is kind of a step towards Live Commerce. Now need to see when the eCommerce platforms in Bangladesh start taking steps towards it. Combining this with low foot traffic on shops, as consumers feel more comfortable shopping at home, Live Commerce will get more popularity in near future. Those who get ahead will realize the benefits.

“See Now, Buy Now”: The rise of Live Commerce and Shoppertainment and why e-commerce brands should incorporating these into digital strategy

My introduction to F-Commerce industry happened when my wife started her own F-Commerce initiative. She requested me to set up few things for her like design a logo, design a loyalty program and obviously boosting the page and products. She was involved with F-Commerce since 2016 but started her own venture on 2017, Shopping Glowrist. She imports different gift items, cloths and accessories from Thailand and India and sell it through her page. On that time, I saw she sometimes used to live from her group (which has around 40K members) and page (around 42K followers). And that’s the first time I got introduced myself with this live streaming thing. From her, I knew that its now a new trends among F-commerce merchants to show their products on live. Potential customers can also ask questions about the products during live session and it reminds me about TVC or Asian Sky Shops but with more interaction from viewers end.

E-Commerce in Bangladesh and Facebook Live

Statista, a German research firm said recently that Bangladesh’s e-commerce market stands at $1.6 billion currently and will double to $3 billion by 2023 on the back of a digital foundation laid down by the government and a young and tech-savvy population. According to the Statista report, the online fashion market in Bangladesh is currently worth $598 million and it has the prospect to reach up to $1.24 billion by 2023. Electronic products amounting to $457 million and furniture and appliances worth about $196 million are sold online. The online sales of furniture and appliances will would go up to $352 million after four years. Online sales of toys and hobby products stand at $260 million and it can almost be double to $442 million by 2023. Now as the online fashion market which also incorporates makeup and skincare is one of the growing e-commerce market in Bangladesh, so the popularity of the Live Commerce will also increase as selling this products demand live streaming.

In Bangladesh, sellers go on Facebook Live to promote items, respond to questions, and take instant orders. Some products attract larger crowds than others. On an average, there are 100-200 live-streaming session performed in Bangladesh, which increased to 500+ during festive season. Sometimes there are 1000-2000 viewers in each live session. Unfortunately there is no reliable data on what amount of sales the merchant generated from each session.

Growth of Live Commerce in China and South East Asia

Globally, the new trend for online retailers is livestreaming, In China, consumers on Pinduoduo are using it to break into the $200 billion market for impulse and everyday purchases. The China Internet Report predicts China’s livestreaming market will reach 613 million users in 2020. That makes live commerce big business in China, with more than 900 live-streaming sites now allowing consumers to interact and buy from brands in real-time – a market that, according to forecasts by iiMedia, will reach RMB 916bn by the end of 2020.

If you don’t know who Viya is, you should. She is an internet celebrity in China who sells via live streaming on Taobao. In 2019, she sold $2.8 billion worth of goods. That is more than $5,000 per minute, a number that even China’s No.1 luxury shopping center located in central Beijing can only wish for. Lipstick Brother, Taobao’s #1 live streamer, tests 300 lipstick in 7 hours long livestream and sells 100,000 lipsticks per live-streaming session.

Live Commerce and Shoppertainment, an exclusive combo of live streaming, entertainment and eCommerce, will transform the online shopping experience for both merchants and customers.

E-commerce companies in South East Asia are taking inspiration from China’s ‘shoppertainment’ trend to sell goods during live streams. Lazada and Shopee are among those that believe live stream e-commerce shopping can greatly help brands and sellers can connect with audiences in South East Asia. Currently I am in Thailand, come here to implement couple of projects, experiencing the growth of overall live commerce in Thailand. I had the opportunity to visit Shopee and Lazada and talk to them and both of the organisation believes that Live streaming helps to bridge the omnichannel retail gap as consumers no longer need to visit a physical store to see a product, speak to a store attendant and fulfill the order.

Lazada has its own live streaming feature in the app, named LazLive TV. They also launched LazTalent show, where they search for new livestream stars. This talent show has been launched in Thailand and Vietnam, and soon in other markets, to encourage talents who may be experts in a certain field to shine online. More than 3,000 grassroots livestreamers and brand promoters have onboarded LazLive during the contest period. Another innovative LazLive addition is the launch of virtual tourism in Thailand, which brings viewers to meet the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park.

Shopee launched its Great Shopee Sale where it unveiled its livestreaming feature called Shopee LIVE in Singapore. Like Lazada’s livestreaming feature, users are able to chat with sellers, learn about products, and ask questions in real-time before buying them without leaving the app.

Taobao launched the live streaming feature 4 years ago, now dominating the market with $28 billion in sales in 2019. This number grew 150% year-on-year between 2017 to 2019. Despite the staggering growth, it only counts for 3% of Taobao’s entire GMV. Less than 30% of its merchants have tried the new way of selling, according to an executive at a data company we interviewed. The huge potential of this market attracted more players to join the race. Two emerging formidable rivals are Kuaishou and Douyin, the most popular short video apps in China.

In India, an app called Bulbul launched in November 2018 where customers can watch hosts present products live, ask questions about the product, place orders, and pay on the app. There is also Pesopie and Simsim where users can watch short-videos produced in local languages by influencers and buy products. Flipkart is also piloting a new social commerce platform called 2GudSocial, with influencer-led video commerce. It is aimed at consumers from small towns and lower-income groups.

There are few third party social sales provider too. Shoplus is one of the most popular in Thailand. Shoplus, an artificial intelligence (AI) social sales provider from Taiwan. Shoplus offers AI live sales tools and chatbots for Facebook commerce including an order management system that integrates Facebook payment and logistics with Thailand Post and Flash Express. During the New Year’s holiday, live social sales events numbered about 2,000 per week, doubling to 4,000 in February. Under the Shoplus system, about 1,200 Facebook groups of Thai sellers engage in live selling events till April 2020.

Problems faced by Live-Streamer in Bangladesh

Although Facebook Livestreaming is very popular among online buyers and sellers, unfortunately no e-commerce or social commerce platform in Bangladesh hasn’t gave focus on this new concept. Still the merchants are doing it in very traditional way. They show different products to the viewers, explain the usability, materials etc and if any viewer wants to buy the products, then they have to sent the screen shots of the products and message it to merchant. After talking to several merchants who sell products through live stream, I have identified few problems they faced –

  • Bullying from the viewers – sometimes its way too much and personal
  • Viewers can’t take the screenshots in real time. Then they have to wait till the live end and scroll the video again to find the right product. That’s why around 20% sales the merchant loss.
  • Sometimes, from each session, 100-150+ viewers placed orders. After the end of the live, merchant needs to accumulate all the orders and then match it with the available stock. If the stock is not available, then sometimes they have to face misconduct from viewers which is bad for their brand.
  • As there is no formal order management system on Facebook live, so sometimes, merchants missed orders or send wrong products to customers.
  • Sometimes viewers placed the orders in live comments, which is completely ignored by the merchant, again an order management issue.

Why Live-Streaming should be used in eCommerce platform in Bangladesh?

The customers’ ever-increasing demand for easy and convenient shopping gave rise to live-commerce. The frequent change in their lifestyle and online habits have made brands and influencers take advantage of live-streaming to enhance their online presence and increase revenue. Live streaming is a great way to build community, storytelling and engage with others in real-time. It builds out that know, like, and trust factor at a super-accelerated rate.

Shoppers are eager to spend bucks on platforms that offer them easy, faster, and innovative ways to shop. With such technology penetrating the retail industry, Live Commerce will become the new face of shopping.

Moreover, if the e-commerce platform wants to attract more merchants in their platform, they should give more ways to present their products to customers. Sellers can instantly connect with their customers through live streams that require just a mobile phone and a decent Internet connection. Sellers are able to address queries through the live chat function in real-time, eliminating the hassle of going through individual questions on item listings.

Closing Statement!

Live-commerce is a phenomenon that is grabbing the attention of every corner in rest of the world. The technical barriers to live-streaming are lowered due to increasing smartphones penetration and affordable costs with high-resolution front cameras. Moreover, in-app beautification making it easier for retailers to make aesthetic videos for buyers globally.

The future of retail with live streaming can easily be predicted at this stage. Live streaming is no more a mere branding platform. It has become a vital digital property for various eCommerce platforms that allow customers to directly interact with sellers and purchase items in real-time. There is no surprise that companies, whether big or small, are trying to integrate the live-streaming platform in their eCommerce business. 

Future of Retail: 3 trends that will define retail strategies over the next 5 years

Recently I read the Google Smart Shoppers Research Paper, where they have clearly stated the trends that will define retail strategy over the next 5 years. Here I have summarised the findings of the study and also put some data and thoughts in relation to Bangladesh market.

Businesses likely never going through a more tough time like this as a retailer. For many the focus has been on survival, though some retailers have seen huge growth as they responded to unprecedented demand in new and unexpected areas. In. Bangladesh, it is known that online sales have increased by 70 to 80 percent compared to the regular time. And while the reality is that we may not have moved completely out of crisis mode yet, the time has come to think beyond the current context to get your business ready for recovery and growth.

E-commerce has revolutionised during the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, buyers are not buying all kinds of products yet. They are buying more essential products. According to e-cab, the e-commerce or online shopping market across the country has crossed TK 6,000 crore during this pandemic. Consumers are now shopping for all kinds of products including medicines, clothes, food are done from different online platforms. Although economically marginalised and lower-middle income families are still market oriented, middle class or upper-middle people are shopping more online.

According to the e-Cab, shoppers are mainly city-centric. 80 percent of e-commerce buyers are from Dhaka, Gazipur and Chattogram. Of these, 35 percent are from Dhaka, 39 percent from Chittagong and 15 percent from Gazipur. The other two cities are Narayanganj and Sylhet. Eighty-five percent of e-commerce users are between the ages of 18-34.

Retailers with a strong digital offering will gain additional sales in the next five years

Google Trends Analysis

According to Google Trends Analysis, although the current crisis accelerated digital adoption and online sales are growing, it’s expected that most purchases will still be made offline by 2024 (78% versus 22% share online). However, it may be more helpful to think not just about which channels consumers will transact in, but which types of retailers they are choosing. The research shows that retailers with a strong digital offering will gain additional sales in the next five years, even if customers choose to buy in-store. This emphasises the importance of seamless and integrated retail experiences across online and offline.

Online food delivery service foodpanda, in collaboration with retail brand Shwapno, have officially launched an on-demand grocery delivery service through its app across the country. Customers will be able to get frozen food, dry food, fresh fruit, vegetables and daily household necessities like soap and shampoo from Shopno, which will be delivered at their doorsteps through foodpanda.

Meena Bazar, one of the country’s largest supermarket chains, along with their offline and online services, has also launched mobile shops in the capital.  It will serve customers near their homes at reasonable prices, without having to pay value added tax (VAT) on their purchases. The mobile shop, selling basic grocery items as well as fresh vegetables and fruits, was launched on Wednesday, initially covering parts of Dhanmondi, Gulshan and Banani at specific times.

Multichannel and marketplaces formats will drive 86% of sales growth in the next 5 years

Google Trends Analysis

3 Consumers Behaviour Trends will shape retail strategy

Looking at how retailers can prepare for this shift in market share across retail formats, Google Trends Analysis Report has identified three key trends. These consumer behaviour insights can help retail companies to develop their marketing strategy to drive long-term success.

  1. As consumers shop both online and in-store, multichannel (which includes physical-heavy and mixed retailers) and marketplace formats will drive 86% of the sales growth in the next five years. During the festive season in this year, we have also seen strong online presence by the fashion houses in Bangladesh.
  2. The pandemic has made consumers more fluid about whether they buy online or offline, with 73% describing themselves as channel agnostic (up from 65% before the crisis). Consumers will expect a more blended and seamless experience as they continue spending across both channels.
  3. As purchase decision-making becomes more messy, consumers also expect to have helpful information to make their own decisions, including competitive pricing, recommendations delivered in moderation, and helpful personalisation. I believe still Facebook merchants has a good contribution in the online sales due to the trust they have gained and also they provide more information like regular live stream and positive customers review, which actually help consumers to make informed decision.

How to prepare for the future of retail

In the next five years, retailers will need to bring together their digital and in-store experiences to make the biggest gains as consumers will continue spending offline but as online spend continues to grow. Consumers will favor retailers with a digital offering, even if they go on to transact in-store. As during this pandemic, we have learned that the only constant is change and retailers must be ready for what will come next. Here are a few of my thoughts –

1. Consumers have now a lot of choices. Retailers should help consumers make empowered decisions by providing helpful information to make their own decisions. This will increasingly become a key differentiator.

2. The future of retail is not about an either/or when it comes to physical or online presence. Retailers will need to move on from focusing on where the transaction is happening and refocus on integrating online and offline experiences.

3. Retailers need to meet rising consumer expectations and deliver seamless experiences. This means there is no going back from investing in digital transformation.

This current pandemic has increased the uses of online technology and lots of companies has introduce new online services to adapt with the crisis. While businesses that are not yet well adapted to the digital world may find it more difficult, it can offer the opportunity to make these necessary and fundamental changes to the way their businesses operate. There is still time to pivot, introduce new services based on technology and think big, but it is the time to transform and grow.

Grow Your Business through Asymmetric Business Models

Currently, I am doing a course on Digital Business Model on Coursera. In one of the lectures, I encountered the term Asymmetric Business Model. The Asymmetric Business Model is a business model that crosses industries, by forcing profits to migrate from one industry into another. Asymmetric business models are based on the economics of complement. Let’s see how complements work. In economics, a compliment is a good that is dependent or requires the use of another product. Let’s see some examples. Home printers depend on ink cartridges to work. So, cartridges are a complement to printers and vice versa. Cars depend on gasoline fuel to work. So gas is a complement to cars and vice versa.

The economics of complements says that when you reduce the value of the complement, the demand for the product increases. When you reduce the value, that is the price of printers, more people will buy printers, and therefore, more people will buy cartridges. Similarly, when you reduce the value, that is the price of gas, more people will buy cars.

To understand the concept more clearly, let’s say that companies could grow their business either –

  • Diversify, which means branch out into new markets by investing their profits into that new market, and try to turn that new market into a source of profits in its own rights; or…
  • Grow asymmetrically, which means branching out into a new market with the intention of not turning huge profits within that new market, but rather to drive profit in the core market.
No alt text provided for this image

When the complement is commoditized, the demand for the product is increased. Let’s now see how companies use complements as part of their business model. To do that, we will overlay the architecture of a business model with three examples, using the economics of complements, Apple, Google, and Amazon.

Apple creates value by making it easy for software developers to create millions of apps. Apple has therefore commoditized apps by making it easy for anyone to build and distribute an app, and encouraging price competition among developers. In turn, these apps are the reason why users buy iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs and Apple watches. Therefore, reducing the value of apps drives the demand for its core product, which is devices. 

Google creates value by making it easy for handset and tablet makers to build smart devices. The open-source license version of Android is distributed at no cost to the handset makers. Therefore, by commoditizing Android, Google is effectively driving the demand for its core advertising business. 

Amazon creates value by making hardware such as Kindle Fire tablets and Echo devices available at cost. In turn, these devices are bundled, which is locked to Amazon e-commerce services. Effectively by commoditizing Kindle Fire and Echo, Amazon is driving the demand for its core e-commerce business.

In a nutshell, the Asymmetric business model consists of 3 major components –

  • A company identifies a complement in a different industry. 
  • Value is created by commoditizing that complement. 
  • The complements are bundled with a core product of the company, ie where profits are generated.

If you think about business strategy for your company, I recommend testing this model. Let me know what you think!

Factors Influencing Consumers’ Attitude Towards Online Shopping: An Exploratory Research on E-Commerce Consumers of Dhaka City

According to a german research firm, Bangladesh’s e-commerce market stands at $1.6 billion currently and will double to $3 billion by 2023 on the back of a digital foundation laid down by the government and a young and tech-savvy population. The knowledge on the factors affecting buyers’ behavior, the relationships between these factors and the type of online buyers would give assistance to the e-marketers in evolving their marketing strategies which will ultimately help to grow the industry.

This paper focuses on factors influencing online buyers’ attitude based on the evidence from buyers of Dhaka city. It also investigates how different types of online buyers perceive different important factors before buying anything from online and also their spending amount on online shopping. Data used in this study was obtained using an interviewer-administered structured questionnaire on 128 respondents, selected randomly having experience in online purchasing. According to Facebook users data April, 2020, 77% of users in Bangladesh lies between 18-34 years age group. That’s why this survey also focus on the people between 18 to 40 years old age group. The data was collected from May 5 to May 16, 2020.

Around 90% of the respondents from 23 to 37 years old age group. Around 50% of the male respondents belongs to 33-37 years old age group and around 45% of the female respondents belongs to 23-27 years old age group. The majority occupational group is private job holder followed by graduate students. These 2 groups hold around 75% of the total respondents.

Around 96% of the respondents has responded that they have purchased at least once from Facebook based business or from an E-Commerce website in last 3 months. Among those 96%, around 41% are men and 59% are female.

Around 23% respondents purchased regularly and frequently from online in last 3 months. However, only 17% of male respondents purchased regularly and frequently. On the other hand, 28% of female respondents purchased regularly and frequently. Around 80% of the male respondents purchased occasionally or rarely from online. On the other hand, around 68% of the female respondents purchased occasionally or rarely from online.

Age group from 23-27 years old respondents purchased most regularly from online followed by the age group of 33-37 years old. On the other hand, age group 33-37 years old purchased most occasionally followed by age group of 23-27 years old. Although only 5 respondents responded that they didn’t purchased anything from online in last 3 months, there is no respondents from age group 18-22 and 23-27 years old in this category of respondents.

Two major groups of respondents are graduate students and private job holders. These two groups consist around 75% of total respondents. 71% graduate student respondents responded that at least one a month, they purchased from online. Around 85% of the graduate students lies in 23-27 years of old age group and  around 71% of the respondents of graduate student group are female.

On the other hand, 45% of the respondents from private job holder group responded that they purchased rarely, once or twice in last 3 months from online. It is important to mention that around 60% of the private job holder group respondents are male and total around 38% male respondents responded that they purchase rarely from online.

The respondents were asked that whether they have purchased from online (either from e-com websites or facebook pages) in last 3 months, which means during January 2020 to March 2020. In terms of gender distribution, there is no visible differences between the responses from male and female, around 96% of both male and female responded that they purchased at least once in last 3 months.

Around 62.5% respondents responded that they purchased at least once in a month in last 3 months. Around 68% of the age range from 23-37 years old responded that they have purchased at least once in a month in last 3 months. It seems like graduate students and private job holders, 23-37 years old respondents are more consistent purchaser from online than other groups. According to Facebook users data April, 2020, 77% of users in Bangladesh lies between 18-34 years age group which complies with the findings from the study that these age groups of people are regular users of internet in Bangladesh.

Fashion accessories, Clothing and Groceries are the top 3 preferences of products while the respondents were asked about the preference of products they usually purchase from online.

Fashion accessories (incorporates shoe, watch, sandals, sunglasses, bags etc) is the most preferencial products among the respondents for online shopping followed by clothing and groceries. There is a very marginal difference between Groceries and Cosmetics items. So, it may conclude that Fashion Accessories, Clothing, Groceries and Cosmetics items are the top 4 categories among the consumers for online shopping.

However, if we look into the gender wise preference, male respondents top 3 preference products are Fashion Accessories, Groceries and Gadgets. On the other hand, female respondents top 3 preference products are Cosmetics, Fashion Accessories and Clothing.  Online shopping tends to grow in the coming years as consumers want to buy more in the future. Merchants should bring out innovative ways so that there is a growth in other categories of goods and services.

Around 75% of the respondents responded that they have spent maximum BDT 15,000 on online shopping in last 3 months. The majority respondents, around 41% spent maximum BDT 5000 in last months. 

Around 70% of the male respondents spent maximum BDT 15,000 in last 3 months and around 80% of the female respondents spent maximum BDT 15,000 in last 3 months. Around 15% of the male respondents and 13.33% female respondents spent BDT 25,000 in last 3 months. So it might be concluded that women spent more money in online shopping compare to male.

50% of the respondents who responded that they purchased from online on regular basis, spent more than BDT 25,000+ in last 3 months. There is no significant difference in responses from the respondents who responded that they purchased from online at least once in 2 weeks. Around 75% of the respondents who respond they do online shopping rarely (1 or 2 times in quarter) spend maximum BDT 5000. It is evident that the spending on online shopping is directly related with the frequency of shopping. It also evident that perceived ease of use which comes from experience helps to adopt the online shopping.

There are some respondents from occasionally and rarely group (6.25% of total respondents), who spent more than BDT 25000+ in online shopping, mainly purchased gadgets like mobile or electronics goods like TV. As fashion accessories (incorporates shoe, watch, sandals, sunglasses, bags etc) is the most preferencial products among the respondents for online shopping, might have a positive relationship with the spending amount.

The most 3 influential factors customers considered before purchasing from any online page/website are credibility and trustworthiness of seller, clearly stated information on pricing and shipping and image and description of products followed by previous customers’ reviews and testimonials, clearly stated return policy and after sales customer services.

Interestingly, only around 6% respondents respond that they also consider website’s visual appeal and free delivery before making any purchase.

Among the male and female respondents, the top 2 influential factors are same, credibility and trustworthiness of seller and clearly stated information on pricing and shipping. The 3rd most important influential factors for male are images and description of the products. For female respondents, the 3rd most important influential factor is customers’ reviews and testimonials.

The top 3 factors for not buying from any Facebook page or E-commerce site are Unavailability of Product Description, Poor Communication System with Seller and Advance Payment for the products. The customers don’t want to pay advance as they want to be sure about the products quality and condition. Also if the communication methodology with the seller is not easy, then customers also decide not to buy from that seller. 

For men, poor communication system with seller is the prime factor. On the other hand, advance payment for products is the biggest factors for not purchasing products from facebook page or e-com website.

Around 52% of the respondents respond that they have very good experience with the online shopping so far. However, 43% of the male respondents told that they have very good experience. On the other hand, 58% of the female respondents responded they have very good experience.

Around 15% of the male respondents have below average or very poor experience, where only 1.33% of female respondents have the same experience. It’s need to mention that male respondents mostly buy products from e-commerce website than facebook based seller. The reasons for poor experiences are related to delayed delivery, physical product is not matched with the picture and got totally wrong product.

As stated earlier that this paper focuses on factors influencing online buyers’ attitude based on the evidence from buyers of Dhaka city. The findings of this paper provide a guideline to merchants about the areas they need to be focused and the attributes they need to be incorporated in their services. If the companies and merchants consider these factors, they might have a competitive advantage in the market.

Based on the findings from this paper, the author will published few other articles on how the e-commerce companies and Facebook merchants can design their services accordingly and what are the international best practices considering these findings. 

Implementation Challenges of Telemedicine in Rural Bangladesh: From My Experience

In this moment of crisis, when going to hospitals are potential spreaders and the inability to physically consult doctors has emerged as a crucial obstacle for patients seeking medical assistance. The need for “Telemedicine” is very essential now more than ever. I am really happy to see that organizations like Pathao, Shohoz, Prava Health, Pulse One, Digital Healthcare Solution, etc, and private hospitals like Square and United have also come with telemedicine/tele-consultation solutions to solve this problem.

From October 2015 to November 2018, I worked for Jeeon Bangladesh Limited. At that time, Jeeon had a telemedicine platform that bridges the divide between rural patients and quality healthcare by providing local intermediaries with the training and equipment to facilitate meaningful consultations with remote doctors. I was the Head of Operations of that Telemedicine Program till 2017. Jeeon had stopped the telemedicine program due to numerous implementation challenges that can’t be solved by Jeeon itself. Moreover, the readiness of the market is also an important factor in that time too. In this article, I am going to share the challenges that we faced during the time of implementation.

No alt text provided for this image

To take the service of the Jeeon Telemedicine program (under the brand name of Projotno), a patient only had to come to the nearest drug-shop-cum-Projotno-centre in his/her nearest bazaar. Then the rural pharmacist of that center took his/her problem, history, and some primary vitals like weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, etc and send that information to a doctor by using Projotno Telemedicine App and requested an appointment with a relevant doctor. For example, if the patient come with a skin related problem, then within minutes, s/he was connected to a dermatologist sitting in Dhaka, who after reviewing his/her symptoms and pictures of his/her skin and talking to his/her, sent his/her a prescription over the internet. The prescription was printed out with the doctor’s e-signature, and she could walk away with the required medicines within 30 minutes.

We deployed 42 franchisees of Doctor-in-a-Tab across 4 Upazilas (subdistricts) in Northern Bangladesh (Netrokona and Kishoreganj) over the course of two years of experimentation, and through them served nearly 10,000 telemedicine patients. We chose unions that have a minimum population threshold of 20,000; thus 36 centers had a catchment population of ~700,000+. The pharmacies were located in the well-established middle to large scale markets with at least 50 shops and >=5 pharmacies, ensuring they were frequented by patients from all neighboring villages, there were strong network and road connectivity, and relatively stable electricity.

The price of each conversation is nearly USD 4, which expectedly was beyond the reach of the poorest income quintile of the population, but it served other underserved segments like children, elderly and female patients (60%+). Our target clients were patients in rural Bangladesh that reside at least 20 KM / 1 hour away from a major urban or medical hub, thus without direct access to qualified doctors, and earning between USD 64-260 per month per household (not the extreme poor). All of our selected centers were in Bazaars that were 10-35 kilometers from the nearest urban hub. In the typical setting patients in these areas incurred large opportunity costs such as transportation cost, doctor’s fee, prescription costs, diagnostic costs, etc. traveling to towns (amounting to upwards of USD 25), hence we expected that they would prefer an alternative of visiting a “Dhaka Doctor” at their next-door pharmacy for <USD 10 per visit (including prescriptions). This assumption was partially validated since we have been able to serve ~10,000 patients in the course of the last 2.5 years.

We also initially assumed that because RMPs are invariably male, we would serve a mainly male clientele. However, to our surprise, we found that a majority of our patients were female. We attribute this unexpected finding to the fact that male patients have more freedom of movement and mobility and hence can visit the town for care by themselves, whereas female and other less mobile customers (children & adolescents – 24%, elderly – 20%) tend to rely on the pharmacy for all kinds of care in the absence of financial means and mobility to travel. Therefore, this intervention was reaching the most marginalized and underserved segments of the population except the extreme poor.

Challenges: Difficult and expensive to deliver results consistently with telemedicine

When we launched, we expected remote consultations with doctors to solve the key challenge of rural primary care – bridging the quality gap inaccurate diagnosis and treatment. In reality, we found that delivering a consistently accurate diagnosis and treatment was extremely challenging.

  • First of all, doctors required more diagnostic tests than usual to diagnose problems accurately because of the inability to touch and examine the patient themselves. But due to the lack of diagnostic facilities nearby, patients would often not follow up with a diagnostic test. Moreover, if they have to go to the city to do the diagnostics test, then they can also take doctor consultation from there. So the lack of diagnostics facilities in rural areas was a huge challenge we faced.
  • Secondly, even when a patient was diagnosed accurately, sometimes the medicines were not available at the pharmacy due to poor supply chains or inadequate prior demand. Our field staff went out of their way to deliver uncommon medicines to our centers, but it became unmanageable and costly to sustain that long term and at scale.
  • Thirdly, many patients required treatment beyond just medicines, such as procedures and surgeries. We chose not to charge these patients for the referral advice we gave them, but because there were very few quality hospitals and clinics nearby, we could not endorse any particular referral facility which disappointed patients. Patients also did not like to be told to go to the town after coming to our pharmacies with the hope that the problem would be resolved locally.

So, ensuring only good doctor consultation is not the only verticle that needs to be solved. To launch successful telemedicine, other verticals like diagnostics tests, availability of medicine, and referral services should be formed.

There was also some demand-side barriers like due to a lack of health awareness and education, there is very little understanding of the concept of “quality” in healthcare. If a patient feels better from a stomach ache after taking a high-dose painkiller, they often would prefer that service over a doctor who diagnoses it as simple indigestion and asks the patient to sleep it off. Therefore, it was a huge behavior change for people to opt for an expensive doctor consultation when they could spend one-fifth of the amount on a few low-quality pills. Moreover, by the time a patient delayed care-seeking and self-medicated a few times with no results, the problem had often escalated beyond the ability of doctors to treat remotely, and referral was the only option, which was in turn highly unpopular with patients.

What we have attempted to adapt to the challenges?

Diagnostic sample delivery:In order to mitigate the challenge of diagnostics, we initiated a pilot in partnership with a diagnostic center in Kishoreganj called Health Aid. Under this pilot, patients would deposit their samples (blood, urine and stool) in the center and a representative from the diagnostic center would pick them up at a specific time of the week. When the samples were taken and reports were generated, the reports will be delivered back to the same pharmacies. This also would include a discount for patients.

What we found in practice was that in most prescriptions, blood/urine tests were accompanied by radiological investigations like Ultrasound or X-ray, which meant that the patient had to travel in person anyway.

Dermatology specialization:We had found from the first few months of the pilot that dermatology as a specialization was generating much better Positive Patient-Reported Outcome (PPRO) measures than general practice cases. This was due to the fact that dermatology is a largely visual illness, and can be diagnosed with a high degree of confidence from pictures alone without relying on a lot of diagnostic tests. We decided to hire more dermatology specialists and market the service as a dermatology specialty service. We were trying to see if we could get a higher patient flow per-center if we did that. We found that while we got a bigger share of dermatology patients after the marketing, the total patient volume did not increase by much, which indicated that we had already saturated the limited demand for telemedicine in the market.


I am really happy to see that in the last couple of years now lots of organization is coming with a solution for remote consultation. Moreover, the whole process expedites due to the Covid-19 situation. However, most of the solution is focused mostly on urban or only doctor consultation part. However, if someone wants to build a robust remote doctor consultation, s/he also needs to focus on the other 3 important verticles – diagnostics test, medicine availability and also referral services.