Are Marketers ready for the Digital E-way?

24 Jun,2013


By Ritu Midha


The internet has long stopped being Wonderland. Indians are adapting to the ways of the web, and flocking to it for multiple reasons. The third largest internet consumer on the web, India is also one of the largest smartphone markets. Indian marketers are experimenting with the capabilities of the internet and while early adapters are already reaping benefits, others too are looking at getting into a far more serious relationship with it. Flirting alone is not enough!


First a quick look at some recent internet studies. The numbers might vary from study to study, but the trend they plot is the same:


– As per the Boston Study ‘From Buzz to Bucks: Capitalizing on India’s ‘Digitally Influenced’, Internet users in India will grow from 125 million in 2011 to 330 million by 2016, nearly a 300 percent jump. This will lead to more purchase decisions being impacted by digital influence.


As per this report, 40 per cent of India’s 90 million urban internet users already say that what they buy is influenced by online activities such as product research and price comparison. The digital influence right now affects $30 billion of urban consumer spending, and is likely to accelerate further.

It states that men are far more likely than women to be on the internet (32 percent versus 12 percent) and more than 300 percent likely to be digitally influenced (14 percent versus 4 percent).

– Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker’s report, meanwhile, states that India will have 67 million smartphone subscribers by the end of 2013, a 52 percent growth YoY.


Interestingly, more than 50 percent of Indian respondents surveyed stated that they share nearly everything online, while the same number for the US is just 15 percent.


– As per 2013 global ‘Internet World Stats’ report, India is ranked third (following the US and China) in number of active internet users. In sheer numbers it translates to 120 million users (up from 81 million users in 2010). In percentage terms, however, it is only 11 percent.


As for the smart phones the study estimates that from 18 to 20 million smart phones in 2012, the number will grow to 30 million by 2016.


– The Google study perhaps is the most interesting of all. It states that of the 150 million internet users in India about 40 per cent are women. It indicates that of these about 60 percent (24 million) are online every day. Among their key activities online are checking email, interaction on social networking sites and online shopping.


Though the numbers might not sound huge when compared to television viewership or readership numbers, the medium’s continuous growth, India getting younger by the year, and purchasing power of this populace make it a force to reckon with. And then there are the medium’s inherent traits like high involvement, engagement, focused targeting, and measurability.


Another key reason for the marketers to join the digital bandwagon is reducing cost efficiency of traditional media. States Vivek Nayer, CMO, Marketing Division, Mahindra & Mahindra, “In traditional media there is huge competition for commercial time and column centimetres. With the new guidelines, channels will be able to show ads only for 12 minutes per hour. It might lead to further increase in ad rates. In traditional media due to the high rates, ad sizes and durations are being reduced. Brand stories cannot be shared in 20-30 seconds. The digital platform allows you to tell the brand story. Secondly, there is high spillover. In digital, media interaction is far more targeted.”


Marketers are not looking at digital just as a medium of brand communication but as a platform to engage with the consumer. Vivek Balasubramaniam Srivatsa, Head Marketing, Renault comments, “Online is not just a media choice, it creates brand experience and drives transactions. The key is to bridge the virtual world with the physical world seamlessly.”


India getting younger and the young Indian being bolder and far more web savvy than his/her parents too is a key reason for the advertisers to look at internet far more seriously. States Ranju Kumar Mohan, Director & Business Head, JK Ansell – Kamasutra, “Audiences are evolving. Digital is the right medium for targeting bold experimental Indian youth. An effective way to use online is to link offline events with online activity. It immensely helps in growth in conversations.”


Rajiv Dingra

One of the key reasons digital engages with the consumer much better than the traditional medium is because here consumer is not listening to the story, but is a part of it. According to Rajiv Dhingra, Founder & CEO, WatConsult, “Digital marketing reduces marketers power to control the message – that power here resides with consumer. For the brands to be able to connect with the consumers online, it is important to make them a part of the story.”


For a brand like Bisleri, which has long seen success via tradition route, too digital is emerging as an important medium to cut the clutter. States Anjana Ghosh, Director Business Development & HR, Bisleri, “For the last 50 years we have built brands like Gold Spot, Thums Up, Limca, Maaza and Citra via traditional media. However, now with more 3000 brands trying to battle for consumer attention on television and print, it is inevitable that one uses digital in the best possible way. It is important to engage with the consumer, and know what the consumer says.”


Brands are increasingly using web to promote its on-ground activities. It helps in reaching a much larger number of users, and thus increases the RoI manifold. States Mr Nayer, “Amplification of offline events online enhances RoI. Mahindra has formed the Purple Club for Mahindra XUV 500 owners, and we do special events for them. One such event is XUV 500 torque day where we invite XUV 500 owners to drive on F1 track. We do considerable online activity around the event – we put up videos, send mailers and create buzz on FB. During the event, it is not only us putting live updates on Facebook, but also the participants themselves! It increases the buzz manifold. Another event we created was at Auto Expo Delhi – where we used augmented reality. Here a virtual cheetah sitting on the car and moving around became extremely popular not only with those at the venue but also online. The video had wow factor, and so went viral. Besides amplifying the ground event massively, it also won us a gold Abby and a silver Abby.”


Marketers are emphatic that brands’ online persona needs to be same as the offline one. The interactions and activities conducted online too should be in sync with its offline activities. Any dissonance, they believe, would end up impacting the brand personality adversely. Mr Srivatsa comments, “The online experience needs to be in line with the brand promise. The key is to interact with online users right and to make them our brand ambassadors. There has to be seamless integration with reality.”


A few brands have taken a leap forward. They are not only using online for brand communication and interacting with the consumer alone, but also to get insights into the consumer behaviour. Vinay Bhatia, VP, Marketing & Loyalty, Shoppers Stop reflects, “Marketers can get interesting and useful insights into their consumers by analysing data. We have a introduced a tab ‘Perfect for Me’ on our Facebook page. Here we display products to the users based on their preferences. Almost 50 percent of the people who use Perfect for me tab are First Citizen Club members. We now have both, their buying data and thinking data. Marrying the two provides useful and interesting insights.”


Adds Mr Mohan, “One gets sharper data and insights from digital platform. Our product extension in 2010 was based on feedback we gathered from trendsetters. It was done on a closed door FB page.Based on that feedback KS deodorants were created. These deodorants are now doing very well in the market.”


Marketers are also realizing that while they can talk to the consumer on various platforms, internet is the only place where they can listen to the consumer. Subramanya Sharma, CMO Cleartrip states, “Forums, Twitter, Facebook and feedback are the platforms to continuously listen to your consumers, understand their needs and pain points. What people like and converse about, are clear guidelines to improve one’s products and services.”


Sanjay Tripathy

For services the web is a completely different ball game – as the focus here is not on marketing alone but also on providing an excellent online service experience. Sanjay Tripathy, EVP, Head-Marketing, HDFC Life says, “BFSI (Banking, Financial Services & Insurance) is not a product business. Our online presence, to some extent, is about query and interest, which leads to new business acquisition. The web, however, works immensely well as a medium to service the customers.” He adds, “Having said that, for online to work, the right ecosystem is important. The company should have right mindset and right partner.”


So the inclination is there to use internet as a medium not of advertising communication, but of brand – consumer interaction. Though, there are still only a few examples of path-breaking digital marketing, the learnings are immense. What a brand expects and attains out of online brand-consumer interaction depends on the brand’s PLC, its involvement level, and also on its internet age. As more and more brands put weight behind digital in this tug of war with traditional media, it will get more interesting. However, inclination alone is not enough, brands need to condition themselves to listen to the consumers and evolve. If they just want to convey an advertising message, digital is no match for television.

Quotes in this article are excerpts from 9th Marketing Conclave organized by the Internet Mobile Association of India (IAMAI)


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