In 1975, Sony took a huge bet to change the fate of audio-visual content forever. It decided to roll out Betamax, a cassette tape used to record video.
Despite being miles better than its competitors, Betamax failed spectacularly during its 40-year existence.
It had a cheaper alternative. You might have heard of it: VHS?
This is our Betamax story. Except, we shuttered it down in 6 months.
MEeSHO != MEri SHOp 🛍
‘Meri Shop’ was our 10x bet to change behaviours of our sellers and provide more legitimacy, better cataloguing, discovery, sales, and ultimately… business growth and profits.
The biggest problem with Betamax was trust. It was expensive, and shooting videos was restricted to big-budget movies & TV shows. They never understood the simpler, more ubiquitous customer who wanted videography options.
Trust was hard to come by. More so, when you’re pioneering e-commerce for the next billion. In our universe, seller trust is paramount for repeat orders. This may not be for e-commerce customers in Tier-1 cities, but seller affinity is supremely important in Tier-2/3/4 markets.
Meanwhile, sellers were concerned only a few “hero” products from the catalogue were getting visibility. The ability to gain eyeballs for a catalogue was getting hampered — this was important if sellers had to improve sales, build trust on non-hero products.
Our team thought of a simple solution to solve these concerns: create a ‘virtual shop’ for each seller, where a customer can view the seller’s items neatly arranged in one place.
Think of this as a personal e-commerce website for every seller on our platform.
Above all, sellers having a virtual shop gives a sense of ownership. It helps establish a store’s identity, and can build trust among customers.
What's your @? 📱
About half of our sellers had some presence on social media. Our end goal was for this half to only share the Meri Shop link to sell products.
Conversely, our customers can bookmark a preferred seller’s website, and use it to browse products.
Our solution: help sellers with a website (meesho.com/xyzstore) to take care of the legitimacy aspect. This would give customers a more focused selection of products, and helps make the purchase decision easier.
To start with, we decided to include the following details on the Meri Shop page:
- Supplier name
- Cover image
- Supplier rating
- Number of followers
- Number of products
- M-trusted tage
All these details would mitigate a customer’s trust issues ✅
Adding reel to our film tape 🎞
This was the first version of Meri Shop:
We observed hundreds of orders directly from Meri Shop pages. 4% of all sellers immediately received a direct order from the Meri Shop page.
These were early, but encouraging numbers.
Sellers were excited. Many shared links of their newly minted website all over social media.
We wanted to make sure no small or medium business gets overwhelmed by the thought of managing a website. And it seemed to work.
Losing the tape wars 📼
Betamax’s launch was seen as a breakthrough moment in filming and storing home videos. When VHS launched, it had an inferior product in every single way — recording time, audio and video quality, and even size of the tape.
But in just 3 years of the launch, VHS had beaten Betamax’s sales.
Admittedly, we couldn’t foresee how our Meri Shop played out.
Meri Shops were created for every single seller on the app. However, we noticed that the link to their websites wasn’t being shared.
We went back to User Research and started digging.
Feedback: most sellers didn’t quite understand what the website was supposed to do 😬
You see, there’s very little market education on what a digital storefront is actually supposed to do. Although it had a feel-good factor, most sellers didn’t understand what benefits did Meri Shop provide.
Changing these inherent behaviours was hard, and two factors played a critical role: trust and education. We needed to win more trust. We needed to impart more education.
Groundhog day 🔁
We created videos explaining the benefits of Meri Shop. As an additional benefit, we provided rewards for the early adopters who sold products directly from their Meri Shop pages.
We again saw an uptick. And then the numbers plummeted again.
More research. We steadily noticed that Sellers were apprehensive about sharing these storefront links. We dug out more reasons apart from just trust & education.
- Most sellers preferred using social media to do their sales. This is because they could avoid the hassle of easy returns. You see, our sellers were pricing their products competitively, and they were already cheap. Returns would just add to those costs, and be untenable 🤯
- Another interesting insight: Sellers wanted to know who they were selling to — someone they can talk to, get feedback, understand their user base. With Meri Shop, that aspect was lost. To get sellers to make that compromise, to exponentially increase sales, began to prove hard.
- Selling on social media means buyers can’t find competition. Sellers operated as the de facto player for their buyer’s universe. Meri Shop changed that. Again, this goes back to a combination of market education and trust. Sellers wanted more control, and to make that leap proved hard.
These were powerful insights, and all 3 had strong solutions we could tackle. But for all practical purposes, the first avatar of ‘Meri Shop’ had failed.
We built a product that sellers needed, but did a sub-optimal job of marketing, packaging and selling to sellers 😔
But that’s part of building 10x bets — we were insulated from failure. For each insight we got, we dug deeper into how to tackle these.
A colleague of mine is working to mitigate point 1 — digging into these insights and funnelling these research into other projects.
Failures make us stronger, and ‘Meri Shop’ was our amazing 10x bet at Meesho 🙏
Huge thanks to Sankalp Rastogi for providing all the information for this blog!
If you want to undertake such huge projects with us, why not check out our careers site for all openings?