Archive for the ‘product’ Category

The limitations of hive idea generation

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

We all know how disruptive ideas can change our lives significantly. I am writing on one. The very imagination required to think that we human beings will require an auxiliary device to write on is not more than 50 years old.  The power of ideas is all around us. We have become a hive mind. All of us feeding off each other’s ideas and building new and engaging things. This is all great news.

However, there are a few limitations.

  1. The hive think : As more and more people enter this hive, structures of thinking and innovation materialize so that all can stay organized. The “minds” have to think within this box if their ideas are to be husbanded. Think Microsoft products. Great in themselves but very much part of a structural system so it takes a while for any truly original thought to arise. The kaizen thinking approach has this huge problem of not being able to absorb really different ideas coming from without. The good people at Apple are in this position right now where their best selling product is the Airpod and there seems to be no other disruptive product left in the bag.
  2. The competition for a better kerosene : While the oil makers a century ago were perfecting the kind of kerosene that will burn with the least amount of smoke, other more adventurous people came up with the car and upended the entire oil producing industry. The quest of a product that is slightly better than other products of the same ilk is quite natural but adds to the paucity of good ideas because the minds are employed in an ever shrinking tunnel vision. We had Web 2.0 a decade ago, where is web 3.0? We have had no Google or Facebook come up recently because the people who would produce these great ideas are not focused on creating disruption anymore. Also these giants are gobbling up any competition or new product idea that they see.
  3. Too much of a good thing : The hive is built around ideas that were generated and nurtured in a small part of the world: mostly silicon valley. They cannot be really transferred across the various different cultures now accessing and playing a part in the hive mind. The problems of war-torn sub-saharan Africa do not find any cognizance, forget the desire to solve them. The great firewall of China has no desire to let people of the middle kingdom be part of this hive. South Asia has a huge consumer base ready to consume products not built for them. The lack of participation by a large group of humanity means that there is very little new thought that percolates in this hive. There is a lot more homogeneity than is desirable.

Well, so what do we do about it? As people who make or design products and services, we need to ground ourselves in the problems that we are trying to solve. Instead of sitting in sunny california(this is not a fair dig, I know) dreaming for the world, product creators need to differentiate between different cultures, their norms of work and life and try to fit in there rather than vice versa. Facebook, Google and Microsoft in a very well-meaning way have tried to create teams based on regions but have not been successful because they are always looking for talent that is a “good fit” for the original organization.

There is a lot of thought that goes into building new products but they are almost always for the haves, never for the havenots. It will be a warm and sunny day if we can think up services like airtime as money transfer, solar batteries, cheap smartphones for South Asia, etc. Let’s hope and work towards that time otherwise the next disruption will probably dismantle this hive that we have carefully built.

How to track UserID in Google Analytics

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Why do we need to do that?

Ostensibly Google says that you do this for tracking true users of your site. Since multiple devices generate a visitor cookie each, they get counted as different visitors. You can stitch sessions cross-device by creating a userid view.

However, if we want to track CAC and LTV by referral sources and we have only Google Analytics and an internal database around, we can piggyback on this method to them.

It is tricky and will require some testing before it runs in your environment. However, it works and I have managed to figure it out in Google Tag Manager and will lay it out for you dear analyst, step by step.

Step 1: Create the User-ID view in Google Analytics.

Go to the Property and expand “.js tracking Info”. Then follow the prompts as seen in the picture below.







After you have set this up, let’s go set up a dimension to store userid data into.

Step 2: Create the UserId dimension in Google Analytics

In the same property column, below the PRODUCT LINKING tab, sits a place to create custom dimensions as shown in this picture below.




Click on create dimension and add the custom dimension as shown below:
















Please note that you have to name it userID. This is because I am going to name the data layer variable later the same. They have to be so to capture your user information.

Step 3: Have your awesome developer pass the user-id value to the data layer variable called userID. The values that it should spit out if you click “view-source” on your site should look like this:

dataLayer = [{‘userID’: ‘yyyyyy’}];
dataLayer.push( {‘event’:’uidAvailable’, ‘uid’:’yyyyyy’} );

They can push this change live anytime and will be quite thankful for the Starbucks drink you will treat them to.

Make very sure that this userID being made cannot be Personally identifiable information(PII). So no names, email addresses, etc.


Step 4: Ok! Let’s push on now to the Google Tag Manager and the last part of this implementation.

Open up your tag manager and on the left hand side where it says, variables, click and add a user defined variable. We will call it userID.

Now, on the left hand side open up the tags section. On all the tags that have anything to do with an event or page view, we will make slight edits. Let’s start with the Google Analytics tag (it should be set to universal Analytics otherwise this will not work).

We add two variable to be filled when the tag fires, one is the userId(please note that this is the exact name you need to set. The other is the custom dimension that we have created in Google Analytics so we can run reports based on our own user-ids, which I am sure, are aligned to email addresses.


Step 5: Now, let’s set our workspace on Google Tag Manager to Preview the changes that we have made. If this works, the Real-Time reports in Google Analytics will immediately start collecting data. Once it works, then go ahead and publish the new tags.

Now, you should be free to download the userID and referral source. You can download the LTV and userID from your own database and analyze in Excel or any other spreadsheet of your choice.

You would have noticed that I keep harping on the name and case of the variable “userID” and “userId”. I thought to name all variables the same and it didn’t work. However, hard-coding the variables works only!


If this doesn’t work, write to me and I will help you make it work. (ateeqahmad[at]gmail[dot]com)

A Framework for Measuring SaaS Product Success

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

This is a generic framework I would use to measure the success of any web-based SaaS tool. It could be an app, a website, or even your own blog. This could apply to any tool but that is too broad a base and tons of books have been penned on the subject.

Grow Visitors/Users
It is imperative to grow visitors so that we can improve the visibility of the tool.

1. Where is the traffic coming from? (SEO, PPC, Social Media channels etc.)
2. What are the main landing pages on the site? ( are they optimally designed)
3. What are the main partners or referrers to the tool? ( any referral entities or affiliates)

Grow Registration/Subscriptions/Orders

1. Minimize steps to sign up or to shop.
2. Are registration pages/landing pages based on different personae?
3. What are the calls to action? Are they prominent enough?

Improve Onboarding

1. What happens when a user subscribes or signs up? How do we drive them quickly through the process?
2. Track sharing of information, queries through chats, email etc.
3. Is there an onboarding video walk-through for the users so they can quickly see what they are getting?
4. Improve Usability & UX based on user testing of people navigating after entering through the paywall.

Improve Speed and Performance
1. This is where you look at your technology and ask if you need to migrate to better code.
2. Improve all landing page speeds by using either CDN’s or removing external elements ( Youtube videos) that will slow it down.
3. Enable tracking in such a way that the technology and product teams are always aware of the load that each page inflicts on the servers.

Pricing and Retention

1. Every product has several pricing options online that have to be tested and optimized every year. Your costs go up every year but SaaS pricing people are very reluctant to do anything with product prices lest customers be driven away. If you communicate the reasons clearly, your customers will agree to small price changes without a problem.

2. What happens when a customer cancels? Is there a churn management system? How are customers enticed to continue on?

3. Is there a way a customer can upgrade to the next pricing tier? Are they emailed or otherwise contacted about it?

Gather Customer Feedback
1. I have already mentioned usability testing but talking to customers and how they want information packaged will be very important for any tool.
2. Customer satisfaction surveys and NPS scores, if used properly can help the product owners and hence ultimate user experience tremendously.

There are going to be hundreds of KPI’s that you can build on these measures but I urge you to have as few vanity metrics as possible. Otherwise, you will be drowning in unnecessary data that is of no use to anyone.

Look to the grocers for COD

Monday, June 9th, 2014

You have a very good website.

Your products are many and very well priced (read:discounted well enough).

I have been buying from you by credit card for a long, long time. Just recently, I made the mistake of ordering by COD.

The shipment was charged an extra Rs. 40 although it was delivered on the promised date. So what’s the problem?

There were a few and they bear listing out so you can handle them in depth.

1. I didn’t have change. The delivery man when asked for changed replied “We make so many deliveries. How do you expect me to have change for everyone?”[ This was not said very politely]

2. When I insisted that I didn’t have change, he reluctantly pulled out the credit card swiping machine and showed me that it did not have a signal, all the while getting more and more impatient.

3. I finally scrounged through several purses and got the change necessary. Can we shrug and say, “deal with it”?

No! E-commerce in India is already struggling to make major in-roads. In such a situation, “chalta hai” attitude will not fly.

For heaven’s sake, just follow the example of my grocer who does as many deliveries in the neighbourhood and always send change with his delivery boy to the nearest Rs. 500. It’s simple to count the cash doled out at the end of the day. Outsourcing to local delivery companies should not hinder this process.

Also, it would pay to educate the delivery guys the proper behavior expected from a I thought you had already licked the logistics problem. It is disconcerting to see these lapses.

This is not only you. guys, though very polite, never carry change. Neither do! Are all of you interested in surviving in this market?


I haven’t ordered from with the COD approach yet. I will try that and let you know my experience.