I’ve been closely watching the acquisition of Otlob, the market entrance of Talabat in Egypt and the GTM launch for the latter.
I don’t like it.
I cannot feel any connection between Otlob and Talabat. I can sense compressed deadlines, rushed messaging, and very little and meaningful communication with users. The shift was so abrupt, I’m pretty sure there is a loss of market share at the moment.
A bit of background
Long story short, in 2016 Delivery Hero acquired Rocket Internet’s foodpanda , and with it Talabat. Then, they acquired Otlob in 2017. In 2020, DH decided to rebrand Otlob in Egypt to Talabat & unify the MENA brands.
Otlob was not doing as well as its peers, barely achieving growth rates comparable to similar food delivery apps in the region & Turkey. In 2015, when Otlob had 200,000 users, Talabat was already at 500,000 users with operations in 6 Gulf countries.
In 2016, Talabat had higher growth rate than Otlob in the past 10 years to achieve almost 10x orders per day. Otlob’s slow growth rate has always been a mystery in such a promising market, with millions of potential users and orders. (Source)
Yet, here we are with Talabat going through some hick-ups. Perhaps this country is different when it comes to food delivery. The shutdown of Uber Eats from the region earlier this year took many by surprise, which previously follows Carriage and Glovo’s abandoning Egypt operations as well.
It’s a curse, and if Talabat doesn’t modify its tactics, it’s bound to have a difficult time here. I decided to analyse Talabat’s marketing activities since they “launched” on the 1st of September, and recommend some changes.
What Talabat Needs to Change
Below, I will quickly outline 4 buckets Talabat needs to change, and the mistakes currently happening.
1. Communicate benefits with discounts
Talabat has a much better product offering: faster app, process and a better customer service. They also have groceries, health products and even cosmetics (you’ll find them under Groceries). Talabat has the potential to be the ‘super food app’, yet falls short in communicating that.
Having huge billboards for offers is nice, but let’s do other benefits too.
This is the chance to look like the ‘good cop’ vs. the ‘bad cop’ of Otlob, who was always suffering from negative brand connotations anyway.
Tomaso Rodriguez, CEO of Talabat comments with regards to Otlob’s acquisition and the rebranding strategy,
‘We are excited for our customers to experience our new updated [Talabat] app – which will feature a cleaner look, feel & user experience… This means that the whole order process will be simpler, more engaging, and more intuitive … when we rebrand on September 1.’
This falls short in the final touch points with users, when all digital posts on Talabat’s page and the billboards, are just about offers. It’s a lazy strategy, and will not be enough on the long run.
2. Combine digital ads with OOH
Billboards are great in Egypt, probably the few countries where it is one of the highest ROI for many companies. Talabat missed the opportunity to mix that with digital ads.
On Facebook’s ad library, Talabat has no ads targeting Egypt. A better use of the market entrance budget would be:
- Extract all Otlob’s users with 1+ orders in history in the past 6 months.
- Retarget them (with highest frequency) to install.
- Retarget them again until they convert to 1+ order, or equal same order frequency they had on Otlob (using same time frame comparison).
- Use more faces and people in the creatives. Now is the time to really personalize the brand in Egypt.
Ask users to engage with you on social media. Use hashtag on your order and get a discount on your second order, for example.
The campaign could use the hashtag #TalabtTalabat طلبت_طلبات#, which would also play on the Egyptian dialect vs. the Gulf dialect, and would push for the market localization strategy.
Every user who shares their order gets a discount on their second order (retention), and this UGC can trickle down to more activated users.
3. Have a story
What’s the story you are trying to deliver to your users?
The acquisition means that there is a destruction of the previous brand. Unlike Careem and Uber, for example, the acquisition of the former did not result in the removal of one brand. Instead, you can still access both Careem and Uber apps separately.
If you have this style of acquisition, then you have to have a story.
- Personalise Talabat, and make it look like a new friend who’s more organized and ready to fulfill all of the needs.
- Ask users to be patient while Talabat creates its newest “home” in Egypt.
- Celebrate the “friendship” of Otlob and Talabat, and thank “Otlob” for pampering thousands of hungry mouths with juicy burgers, pizza offers and daily breakfast orders for the office.
This way, users will be more accepting to see both brands still on delivery boxes, emails and other communication channels.
Instead, you see mixed branding in the streets. Otlob boxes still rushing through traffic, and no one knows what’s going on.
I’ve taken these 2 photos in the past 10 days to showcase that Otlob’s branding is still there, so why not use it to your advantage?
Include “Talabat previously Otlob” in communications in Egypt. We can’t assume that all Otlob users are avid business readers, bookmarking Bloomberg, and knowing well that Delivery Hero’s regional expansion strategy is to rebrand Egypt’s Otlob to Talabat!
Some users are just hungry, and now, users are hungry and confused.
4. Better copy and segmentation for email marketing
When I first downloaded Talabat in September, I was not even in the geographical area serviced within the app. I couldn’t even place an order, and I was still getting tons of emails. The audience segmentation needs to be redefined.
Last week, I’ve already received 3 emails (picture above)! Let’s check the last one received.
This email asks me to install the application, which I already had on my phone.
All in all, it was a very confusing email because:
- The sender and email is from Otlob, but signed from Talabat.
- There are 2 email headers with 2 logos. I mean, can’t we have one design; one blending into the other to show more coherence? Wasting a lot of space for mobile screens.
- Why is Otlob asking me to download Talabat? because the offers “won’t redeem themselves”? I would mention both brands in the copy and explain to the user. The suggestion is something like:
Thanks for being part of the Otlob family. We're moving to Talabat and want you to redeem all the discounts you love. Use the code OtlobNowTalabat to redeem your unique discount! Install Talabat now.
What is the problem with the existing copy?
Couple of points here:
- I already have the Talabat app anyway, so I shouldn’t be getting this email.
- I started receiving these emails even when my area was not yet geographically accepted in Talabat app, so at that point even if I did not even have the app, I wouldn’t have been able to make an order.
- No personalization. No use of first_name tags, but instead it is “Hi [space] [comma].” Come on! You even know where I live. Use my name.
- “Yalla Beenaaa” and overuse emojis is not Talabat brand or is it? Reminds me of Otlob’s desperation.
- How about asking people for more ‘top of the funnel’ activities. Engaging on social media through the campaigns happening? Why should I install? Faster! Cleaner! More products! Groceries! Health!
- The social media links in the footer are broken links, because they are pointing to Otlob not Talabat.
GTM Strategies for Acquisitions
These excerpts below are taken from Deloitte’s document on Merger & Acquisition Driven Sales & Marketing – Know Where to Play & How to Win.
“A merger or acquisition often surfaces difficult questions about the value of one brand relative to another, as well as the business areas impacted by a rebranding effort. Branding is one of the first visible indicators of a combined company’s direction and, thus, should be addressed at the corporate, product, and service levels.”
Which means Talabat needs to really take care of all touch points with current and new users, including email copies, notifications, digital ads and OOH,
“A poorly planned and/or executed rebranding campaign … can result in a “Frankenstein” brand that dilutes the power of the legacy brands; an overly long branding process can result in missed sales and marketing opportunities.”
I am not attacking Talabat. In fact, I want to open a discussion about this because we don’t usually find these great headlines to analyse, for fun over a cup of tea.
I’m sure its so much easier to be here on the outside criticising, rather than in the kitchen. However, I do want to point out a couple of notes, and in these notes I also write about plenty of potential solutions.
Here are my recommendations on what Talabat should focus on right now:
- Referral discounts: They are much better than just losing potential revenue accumulation by plastering discounts over the country. Have referral discounts, then market that it exists. This way, you’re playing on a virility effect to re-engage all Otlob’s users and new ones.
- Re-marketing ^ infinity: keep remarketing activities central to the GTM, and make sure users are soft activated and convert into paying orders through a series of highly targets ads.
- Have a story: brand yourself as a friend of Otlob and working together. The aggression is obvious. Don’t take your board meetings out on us.
- Influencer marketing: consider a campaign to start creating creatives with people’s faces, the brand and the app. This can humanize the brand, and encourage other non activated users by Otlob to join the new Talabat train.
- Social engagement campaign #TalabtTalabat: UGC heavily reliant on sharing pictures of food ordered through Talabat, and allow for a hard activation to order number 2 by giving a discount on the re-ordering.
- Call Hesham Afifi. You need a video campaign that’s very down to earth right now.
I hope Talabat pauses, replans and executes a stronger marketing strategy than what we see right now. It’s a hard game and not an easy one. I’m a big fan of the company, and I hope Talabat reduces the marketing and communication mistakes happening.
There has never been a truly successful food delivery application in Egypt that has managed to capitalize on the market size available in the country.
Opportunity is everywhere and best of luck to Talabat team!