E-commerce is still at a nascent stage in India and this infancy allows the industry to be disruptive. It has created disruption in terms of scalability of business, not only for the entity but also for merchants listed on the platform. While e-commerce has shrunk the country in terms of reach, it has provided exponential business opportunities for medium and small scale merchants to take their products pan-India. And in doing so, e-commerce companies are constantly challenging marketers to innovate to reach out to millions of customers across the country.
I have been constantly questioned about the efficacy of doing business beyond metropolitan cities and on the market for an e-commerce platform beyond tier I cities in India. With cheap smartphones and cheaper data packages, mobile internet penetration in India is growing faster than perceived. To match the aspirations of consumers in tier III, IV and beyond, it is imperative to have logistical capabilities to meet the demand. With the government encouraging digital payments, e-commerce marketplaces can look forward to enhanced business growth.
For a marketer, the challenge now is not how to reach consumers, but how to grab attention, convert and retain a customer. Before I delve into the marketing aspect, let us take a step back and see the viability of e-commerce in India. According to Morgan Stanley’s report India’s Digital Leap — The Multi Trillion Dollar Opportunity, the e-commerce market will be worth $200 billion by 2026.
But I won’t be surprised if we touch that figure in the next four years. While technology will help take the market to people in rural areas, the question remains how to convert them into purchasers. I reckon that a healthy mix of ATL and BTL activities is the order of the day.
* Go local: Existing and potential consumers are spending more time on their mobiles, consuming news and entertainment. Digital advertisement in local languages will create an instant connect between the consumer and the brand.
*Experience: Digital assets should have a supreme user experience on the handheld device. Studies show that a big chunk of online shoppers in India shops on mobile apps/websites.
The evolution of mobile technology has opened new advertising avenues for marketers that are dynamic, personalised and targeted. Furthermore, mobile apps and mobile websites of e-commerce platforms are becoming lighter with crisper call-to-action buttons. A smooth and hassle-free mobile shopping experience can ensure better customer retention.
*Vernacular website: Options of multi-language websites go a long way to create a bond and build trust. By personalising the website and/or its content to match a user’s preferred language, marketers can target consumers not just through its offerings but also through its willingness to connect with the consumer.
*Connect: A great way to connect with consumers in tier III, IV and beyond is through street plays and local market activities. Creating local activities around the interest of the people and weaving in the brand leaves an indelible mark.
*Aspire: Responding to growing aspirations is the key. Creating value products without compromising on quality and reiterating them through campaigns can help marketers reach aspirational shoppers in tier III, IV and beyond markets. These shoppers are both value and price conscious; they do not want to compromise on quality while also aspiring for brand value. Marketers need to understand these aspirations and respond by creating a value proposition that is both budget-friendly and good quality while also being aspirational.
* Building trust: Marketers are now looking at capturing rural markets by identifying the aspirations and demands of tier II, III and beyond markets, and creating targeted offerings for such markets. However, while the offering might meet the demand, it is important to build trust in such areas for continued customer retention. Tier III and beyond markets are much more sensitive than tier I and metros, and value trust and a good experience. These consumers are still concerned about privacy, protection of their banking details, theft of money, etc and need to develop trust in the brand before buying from it. Thus, word-of-mouth and trust are very important factors in rural markets.
Consumer behaviour is never constant; it changes and evolves. E-commerce platforms need to adopt and adapt fast to the changing behavioural patterns of consumers to stay relevant and occupy their mind space. Technology has enabled us, to a great length, to understand needs/requirements of a consumer and pre-empt the next likely purchase. Data miners and marketers have to work closely to create campaigns that are effective, evocative and resonate with emotion. Personalisation through data analytics and targeted digital marketing strategies can go a long way in building trust, and in turn, customer retention. And let me sign off by saying word-of-mouth marketing is still the boss, even on digital platforms.
Radhika Aggarwal is co-founder & CBO, ShopClues