Consumers in India have a new, unique way of connecting with local businesses. Twitter announced it is partnering with Lookup, a mobile chat application connecting individuals and businesses, to allow shoppers in Bangalore, the Delhi region, Pune and Mumbai to make inquiries and purchases with their Twitter accounts. Users of the social media platform can send a tweet or direct message to @lookuplite to book appointments, ask questions, make reservations and more.
According to TechCrunch, Lookup attempts to streamline the mobile shopping process for both users and merchants. Businesses with no online presence can easily sign up and connect with mobile shoppers. Meanwhile, customers are instantly connected to stores through a platform that is familiar and easy to use. Payment processing takes place offline for now, TechCrunch said, as a system to send and receive online payments hasn't been set up. Still, both companies are excited for the effect this pairing will have on communications between businesses and clients.
Though customer inquiries are a big component of the app, Lookup's founder and CEO Deepak Ravindran found most were using the service to shop for local goods.
"Basically we act like a 'I want it right now button'," said Ravindran. He said most transactions were for items below $10, but the company has sold expensive consumer electronics such as Fitbits and iPads.
A separate report by TechCrunch stated there are 70,000 businesses across three Indian cities engaging 250,000 monthly active users via Lookup. The platform is available for Android and iOS and currently has 1.2 million total users.
Twitter and Lookup versus Facebook and WhatsApp
The partnership has benefits for both tech companies. It brings Lookup, based in India, to an international platform and provides Twitter the chance to increase its reach in the South Asian country. Facebook and WhatsApp are currently the social media and chat platforms of choice in India, but Twitter hopes this pairing will give it a competitive advantage.
There are already similar services connecting customers and vendors available in India. However, Lookup distinguishes itself by marketing as chat and not an e-commerce platform. Lookup doesn't list stock levels or handle point of sale systems; rather, it keeps the decision-making in the hands of businesses by allowing them to set up their own system for e-commerce payments. Lookup just brings the customers straight to their doors.
The importance of communication
What makes Lookup so interesting is how it understands the benefit an open line of communication can have for both vendors and consumers. The company used a modern, popular channel to provide that line, connecting shoppers and sellers like never before.
According to Penny Gillespie, an expert in e-commerce who spoke at the Gartner 360 Customer Summit in 2014, communication leads to personalization, an experience where consumers feel the business they're interacting with treats them like an individual.
"Customers actually like it," Gillespie said, "because customers' expectation is that they have a relationship with you and if someone has a relationship, they expect to be recognized; they expect to be valued; they expect to be respected."
Entrepreneur stated communication increases repeat customers even during hard economic times. Still, there are right and wrong ways to reach out. Instead of creating more emails and advertising, e-commerce companies should focus on conversations that increase engagement. Entrepreneur suggested allowing customers to submit questions, and this is exactly what Lookup was made for. This allows customers and businesses to become closer, which Entrepreneur said is a good thing. A close relationship increases the likelihood that shoppers will turn to one business over its competition.
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