A Reason to Buy

Updated: Nov 12 2013, 08:28am hrs
So many clearance sales of this season perhaps prompted me to pen down my thoughts. In the midst of a Sunday rush in a south Delhi mall, while my wife shopped, I decided to take a spot in a corner and observe the various reasons why people buy.

My attention was drawn to people from various walks of life.

The first was a young girl who swiftly entered a store, turned right and headed towards the jeans section, picked up her size and made her way to the billing counter. She must have been eyeing those pair of jeans for a while now. Another young lady kept checking the price tags of each item she liked in the store and quite possibly put only those in her cart which were value for money. Another woman shortlisted what seemed like a thousand items to me and walked towards the trial rooms. She must have ended up buying those clothes which probably looked the best on her.

In short, each individual has his or her own reason to buy. I realised that it is no different in the telecom sector, which I belong to, where each subscriber scouts for an offering to suit his/her particular needs. While one customer may want only extra talktime each time he gets a recharge done, another one looks for a data connection at the lowest possible cost. Alternatively, if one is looking for a free calling pack, another may want roaming free. But what makes this even more complex is the fact that telecom as a service, like a commodity, is very difficult to differentiate.

Since the desires are countless, operators offer an array of products and services to cater to all such demands. However, the pertinent question that arises is whether its enough to help a customer make a purchase decision In a scenario where a customer is spoilt for choice and a product parity market exists along with hyper-competition, what is it that extra that a telecom service provider should do to assist his customers in choosing his brand over its peers

The answer lies in offering experiences and that too at every touchpoint possible. The evolved customer is probably more aware than ever about his needs and requirements and the products available in the market to meet them. In response, telecom marketing has to step up as well.

Today, as a telco marketer, in the hope to sell my products and services better, I am banking on clubbing experiences along with as many offerings as possible, with experience being the top priority. The focus is now rightly shared by how we sell, in addition to what we sell. The ability to create experiences comes from customer insightsthe research we undertake to understand our customers better.

Customer insights need to be derived at regular intervals to create offerings that are differentiated. When the telecom industry was still focused on driving voice, behavioural evolution of customers happened resulting in them moving towards text messaging, ringtones and other value added services (VAS). Gradually, with change in customer behaviour towards value for money, operators moved into the space of rate cutters, full talktime and extra talktime. Subsequently, we saw an increased adoption of VAS and internet services, making internet and content as a part of the acquisition portfolio along with focus on the handset ecosystem by all telecom operators.

Other than the customer, category evolvement plays an important role as well. Till three years ago, mobile internet was a new category in itself, but today this category is being driven by first-time users of mobile internet in India. To tap this category, given that market differentiation through simple product offering is not enough, as a marketer, I am now moving to the next levelexperience selling to a particular category of my target audiences. For instance, Aircel works towards bringing to the market youth centric products and services and in sync with that, we try to fine-tune our offerings as well. Therefore, keeping in mind the end objective of inducing purchase, we design our product basis the insights received from the need-gap studies.

The underlying intent is to design experiences for customers which not only make them say wow but also brings them closer to the brand. This is possible by doing two things. One, as mentioned above, a telecom operator can pre-empt the needs of his customer basis insights gathered through extensive research and studying behaviour patterns and bring to the market a product that a customer till then did not know could make his life easier. Second, the element of surprise can also be offered through various schemes and promotions. For example, a lifetime opportunity such as Kaun Dega Man of the Match award during the IPL season made the Aircel customers feel Extra special. A chance to be in front of millions of people while giving away the award along with an opportunity to share the stage with players was definitely rare.

Promoting such experiences is a challenge in itself for a telecom marketer. Deciding upon the right media to reach out to as many customers as possible and that too innovatively, requires out-of-the-box thinking. Apart from relying on the traditional forms of media and regular touch points, the need of the hour is also to take the experience right till the customers doorstep. Besides exploring traditional forms of communication, telecom companies are also increasingly engaging with their audience through social media platforms. By conversing directly with the customers at such forums, and quickly responding to their queries, suggestions, complaints, in addition to offering an opportunity to participate in contests and win prizes, operators give customers another reason to buy their products and services.

Having said this, the bottom line remains that experience selling is the next competitive battleground as far as telecom marketing is concerned. Through successfully delivering such experiences, operators also cultivate customers as their brand ambassadors. As a result of a telecom operators investment in generating these experiences at multiple occasions across multiple touch points, the only hope is that one of these will be able to transform a customers purchase intent into favourable purchase behaviour.

Anupam Vasudev

The writer is chief marketing officer of Aircel