Rokomari has built its initial brand awareness riding on low-cost offline campaigns such as banners, festoons, posters, wall writing and so on.
In the early years of Rokomari, back in 2012 and 2013, the company had a consistent loud presence in every prominent corner of the city with its colorful banners and festoons and posters. Walls littered with Rokomari posters were a common sight in many parts of Dhaka.
While their effectiveness to generate sales remains under question, with its witty copy and attractive designs, these promotional campaigns have helped Rokomari built brand awareness unmatched by many high profile ecommerce companies in Dhaka.
Time has changed though. We now live in 2019. Rokomari has moved on as well. The company maintains an offline presence but it has moved much of its marketing and communication activities online. Today, the company puts outsized importance on analytics.
“In the first few years of our operation, we did not use any analytics tool,” says Mahmudul Hasan Sohag. “We started using Google Analytics after 2/3 years of inception probably. We now put immense importance on analytics. In the beginning, we invested a lot in off-line branding. We have gradually shifted to digital. Our communication is mostly digital now.”
With the analytics came growth hacking. In fact, Rokomari is one of the few companies in Dhaka that uses growth hacking techniques to perfection.
The company started off with growth hacking in a rather tentative manner. Over time, it has doubled down on it. Today, it has a dedicated growth hacking team. And the company says growth hacking is now part of its culture and informs how it operates as a company.
“Another level of change came when we started testing growth hacking ideas across Rokomari, says Mr. Sohag. “At first, there was no dedicated growth hacking team, now we have one. We have started growth hacking in marketing and communication first and now almost every department uses growth hacking techniques to test ideas and improve.”
Using growth hacking techniques the company has introduced a long list of features that now generate outsized impact for the company. The company did not pay much attention to reviews and ratings in the early days, these features are now some strong engagement drivers for the company. “We have found that people do give reviews and do care about reviews.”
The most significant change would be that Rokomari’s entire approach to marketing has changed. “Our marketing has changed,” says Mr. Sohag. “Initially, we were mostly Facebook focused. We now do a ton of different things. I remember pushing the marketing team for email marketing. Initially, they didn’t care. However, email marketing is a hugely successful initiative now. People like our content and emails because we have been trying to do it right. As a result, the unsubscription rate is meaningfully low.”
Over the past years, Rokomari has built a multi-pronged approach to growth and marketing. The company has shifted focus from mere marketing to a data-driven approach informed by the idea of growth hacking. “We started to rely more on data to make decisions. For marketing, we started to look into data to understand the efficiency of campaigns. It has been a very useful shift for us.”
There are several lessons to learn from Rokomari when it comes to growth. I would note two broad ones. One lesson is at the tactical level where you copy the things that Rokomari is doing and getting results such as put together a growth hacking team, a content team, and an email newsletter. This would certainly bring some results. The second lesson at the principal level where you copy the principles - a mindset to continuous learning and testing. However, this is the most important lesson of two.
Rokomari’s growth hacking juggernaut
“I came across the idea of growth hacking when one of my students gave me a PDF. I got really fascinated after reading it. Then I started to dig a little deeper and I was hooked. I shared the idea with my team which eventually led to weekly sessions where we learn and discuss growth hacking and how we could apply the techniques at Rokomari. That’s how our growth hacking journey started at Rokomari. Before that, we were doing random things without doing much measurement,” Mr. Sohag explains how he came across the idea of growth hacking to Future Startup.
A closer look into the company’s growth initiatives offers an interesting understanding of how one of the earliest ecommerce companies in Dhaka is achieving extraordinary growth using a low cost but highly effective and efficient model. The company has done three things to push growth using growth hacking model:
A relentless content push
Rokomari has been doing a long list of things with content. The company has a blog that publishes great content every day.
Rokomari has an active youtube channel and currently runs a popular interview format program called Boikotha (book talk).
Each of these touch points are critical.
‘Content is the king’ has almost become a cliche. Content does work.
Content helps in building a strong brand image, brand narrative, and it generates organic leads and continues to give SEO value for a long time.
For Rokomari, the investment it is making today in content is likely to produce outsized results in the next few years.
Growth hacking to the perfection
“One of the important aspects of growth hacking is that you have to measure everything you do,” says Mr. Sohag. “You generate ideas, test them and then measure their impact.”
He then goes on to explain an example while Rokomari used rapid ideation and testing model to generate extraordinary results from an experiment. Here is from Mr. Sohag: “when we added the “look inside” feature, we realized the people who look inside a book have a higher tendency to make an order. But we found out that a majority of the visitors were not using the feature. After a little bit of research, we understood that most people do not even know that there is a feature like that at Rokomari.com
We then made some changes to the feature. We asked our users for a better name for the feature. We gave it a more prominent position. With that more people came to know about the feature and we also received some good names. Then after some modifications, we changed it to “Ekru Pore Dekhun (read a bit)” and received a 27% increase in the use of the feature. That’s a growth hack. We ran several tests and found something that worked.”
The company says it has adopted growth hacking as a cultural norm and applies the techniques of growth hacking in every area of our operation.
Rokomari routinely makes big and small changes to its website to see how people respond to each change.
The company not only makes these changes, it also tracks how each experiment affects orders and other important metrics.
“We run tests with email marketing. We change font, color, headlines and try to see the impacts of each change in terms of conversion.”
Growth hacking, broadly, is a model where you generate ideas, test them, measure results, learn from each test and continue the cycle, Rokomari is one of the few companies in Dhaka that has applied principles of growth hacking into work to almost perfection.
“We don’t take the growth hacking as some sort of marketing tool, we have taken it as part of our culture,” says Mr. Sohag. “With new ideas, we have been able to save time, improve user experience and grow our business. Take our call center for example. We analyze every call so that there are more value-adding calls and fewer non-value adding calls. We have started an order tracking service so that customers do not need to call us about the delivery and they can see their orders for themselves. We are continuously testing new ideas.”
Rokomari has already made a good name for its ingenious email newsletter strategy in Dhaka’s tech community. The company is one of the few companies that have taken the email newsletter seriously and done it right.
The benefit of an email newsletter that is done right are many. Email is the most intimate medium in digital communication. Someone giving you email means, they are giving you entry to their inbox. The power it offers is immense. But it comes with responsibilities like any other power.
Rokomari has been able to build a large email newsletter, it has several hundred thousand subscribers, and it has also been able to use it properly. However, this evolution did not happen overnight. Initially, the company did not take email seriously. Like everything else, it started as an experiment. When it saw the result, the company doubled down on it.
“We have used growth hacking techniques with email as well,” says Mr. Sohag. We routinely make changes to the content of the email, headlines, colors and everything in between.”
Today, email is one of the strongest channels for Rokomari and a highly profitable one at that.
There are several lessons to learn from Rokomari when it comes to growth. I would note two broad ones.
One lesson is at the tactical level where you copy the things that Rokomari is doing and getting results such as put together a growth hacking team, a content team, and an email newsletter. This would certainly bring some results.
The second lesson at the principal level where you copy the principles - a mindset to continuous learning and testing. However, this is the most important lesson of two.
“We are an agile company,” says Mr. Sohag. “We always wanted to have a culture of learning in Rokomari. Seek, you will be given. We have been able to build a culture of learning.”
That’s the most important lesson to learn from Rokomari - building a mindset and a culture of relentless learning.