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Home / Tech-news / News /  How Facebook helped Ola expand its business

Sudarshan Gangrade is a happy man today. After all, online taxi aggregator Ola cabs, that he manages as vice-president, marketing, category and alliances, has managed to spread its wings from 4-5 cities to 100 cities across India with more than 200,000 vehicles. Not only this, 99% of its bookings are coming from the cab’s app now.

The Bengaluru-based Ola that started as an online cab aggregator in Mumbai is today among the fastest growing businesses in India. And all this happened in a matter of just nine months.

Ola’s initial #ChaloNiklo brand campaign was not getting the desired result in terms of increasing brand awareness. So in October 2014, Gangrade chose to take to the online ‘Marketing on Facebook’ platform that helps companies meet specific business goals.

“Facebook has the people (audience) and the tools," said Gangrade. In January-March 2014, the monthly active users (MAU) on Facebook was 100 million; by January-March 2015, this figure jumped to 125 million. Out of this, 114 million are mobile MAUs. Undoubtedly, Facebook offered Ola a captive audience in terms of the number of mobile users who could be used to promote their app.

Given that Ola was an app-driven company, it made prudent business sense for the company to tap into Facebook’s network to meet its goals such as boosting brand awareness as part of its #ChaloNiklo brand campaign on a large scale, targeting the right audience, increasing sales by 25%, boosting online searches by two times and increasing its customer base.

Through the ‘Marketing on Facebook’ platform, Ola took advantage of Facebook’s wide variety of ad formats and custom targeting, both powerful and unique ways of increasing brand awareness and promoting apps.

App awareness

App Analytics, a customized mobile-specific methodology that has been designed by Facebook for apps to track and measure performance, enabled Ola to track their performance and make informed decisions about reaching their customers.

“Building app awareness is a three step-process: app discoverability, app re-engagement and app measurement. And Facebook provides solutions for all three steps," said Arjun Kolady, e-commerce lead at Facebook.

Ad campaign

Ola started its campaign by running multiple Facebook ‘reach blocks’, which allow advertisers to reach all of a specified demographic on a given day. This included highly targeted video ads and photo ads featuring content from its #ChaloNiklo campaign that encouraged people to download Ola’s mobile app.

Ola also drove people to its website with link ads in the News Feed and right column, and ran mobile app ads to drive people directly to Ola’s mobile app.

Targeting audience

Ola then focused on targeting specific audience. Ola was looking to target people over 21 and wanted to segment its audience by gender, and whether they accessed Facebook via mobile or desktop. The company also used location-based targeting to reach potential customers in India, and in a few specific Indian cities that were priority markets.

In just five weeks, from 5 January to 9 February 2015, Ola’s Facebook ads strategy helped Ola increase its customer acquisition rate by three times and brand-related online searches by four times. Meanwhile, sales increased 60%.

“What makes Facebook so useful is its flexibility and targeting compared to other offline and online media. It allowed us to set up and launch our campaign very quickly on a massive scale. With help from Facebook’s excellent account team, we were able to continuously track and optimize our ads and reach people on a large scale quickly," said Gangrade.

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