Hands on

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Published: June 2, 2015 12:16:33 AM

A mobile phone is the closest one can get to a consumer. Its power to connect with all other mediums of advertising is another big plus. No wonder brands are scrambling to get their mobile-first strategy in place to net the elusive customer

This summer if you are too hot and tired to fiddle with the remote of your air conditioner, help is available on your smartphone, or rather an app on your phone. The Voltas Smart Remote app will read the weather outside and recommend the best mode of operation and even keep a tab on your power consumption. Once you are cool again and feel ready to take up that long-delayed home makeover project, reach out for that smartphone again. The Dulux visualizer app with its augmented-reality feature will allow you to picture the walls even before painting them. The app gives an instant and realistic impression of how any room will look, in the colours of your choice. Well, it’s now time to indulge your taste buds and reward yourself for all that hard work. Perhaps swiping on that Domino’s app will do the trick.

Welcome to the ‘mobile-first’ world where the smartphone drives everything. The handset is the one device that links the personal with the professional. The consumer is on a constant journey; the mobile handset is her co-traveller and increasingly it is emerging as the first screen in her life. No wonder marketers across the board are striving to deliver a mobile-friendly seamless experience.

According to the ‘Mobile Internet in India 2014’ report of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB, the number of mobile internet users in India is expected to reach 213 million by June 2015. Further, more than half of the mobile internet users spend more than R100 but less than or equal to R500 in availing mobile internet services. Nearly 30% spend more than R500 on the mobile internet connection. It is evident from the data that usage of mobile internet has gone up amongst the users from the previous year. Other data from start-up industry tracker Tracxn suggests that there were 444 mobile application companies founded in 2014, versus 240 in 2013.


“Of late, we are witnessing the trend of mobile apps replacing mobile sites with desktop, providing the consumer with a choice of interacting with a brand while on the move. Brands across service sectors such as travel, e-commerce companies in the realm of fashion, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) are increasingly moving towards mobile app,” says Nilotpal Chakravarti, associate vice president, IAMAI. The metrics is moving away from getting traffic to acquiring users. “A user on the app is more engaged since he or she has already taken the effort to download the app and it opens up a lot of possibilities to give a good experience.”


While the mobile app hogs the limelight when it comes to the mobile strategy adopted by a brand, the mobile first approach encompasses mobile advertising starting with a missed call to a designated number to rich media and video ads, as well as transactions over the mobile. For instance, FMCG maker Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) used the missed call method to approach rural consumers in Bihar with an innovative mobile radio platform called “Kan Khajura Tesan”. The station was aimed at rural consumers who do not have television or other media entertainment available to them. They could call on a number and get access to a radio station with music and talk, and ads for Hindustan Unilever’s products. Others such as Coca Cola, Procter & Gamble have listed phone numbers on billboards and in ads. When customers sent a missed call, they got back deals, coupons and offers.


HUL’s mobile marketing strategy has not been restricted to this only. In 2009, it launched a beauty, fashion and lifestyle content platform called BeBeautiful with multiple digital touch points across mobile, website and social media while making its five beauty brands — Lakmé, Dove, Ponds, Sunsilk and Vaseline available for consumers to consider. Users registering at the site get expert tips, makeovers and discounts with the brands following up with SMSs and phone calls. “With 3.5 million visitors annually coming to the website, 7 million engaged users on Facebook and over 40 million views on YouTube – BeBeautiful is amongst the largest beauty content platforms in India,” said the HUL spokesperson. Three years back it launched the TRESemmé range of hair care products with a first-of-its-kind digital marketing campaign that brought alive the brand proposition of “salon style at home every day”.

“The TRESemmé India YouTube channel, created a virtual salon experience and was thus an engaging way in which the consumers were introduced to the brand. With 6 million views – this campaign was at a never before seen scale. Following this, there have been regular “digital only” campaigns in which the brand brings the best of international hair trends to the beauty conscious consumers. This emanates from the Google search trends—the top trending search terms in the hair category are “hairstyles” and “DIYs” are the biggest format in which videos are consumed,” said the spokesperson. With 21 million views TRESemmé India is the largest YouTube channel in the hair category in India, and globally the largest YouTube channel for TRESemmé.

The close dance between social media and mobile enables this kind of precision. The great part about mobile is that it offers the “sharpest ever targeting”. The flipside is that the marketer needs to know its customer well enough. Coca-Cola has leveraged the digital media in an attempt to forge deeper connections with its target audience. Last year, Coca-Cola preferred to go to Twitter to announce the launch of Coke Zero  #Cokezero was trending for the first eight hours. It was the best starting point for the brand. “We also promoted the brand on other digital mediums including mobile,” said the spokesperson. Only later did it extend the Coca-Cola Zero campaign to TV and other mass mediums.

Personal care major L’Oreal says that it had targeted 2 million-plus consumers in northern India, through voice and text messages, for L’Oreal Paris R3 shampoo sachets. “The consumer in these tier 2-3 towns would get a call from actress Aishwarya Rai asking them to participate in a contest. A lucky few got to meet her. The activity was very successful and we plan to roll it all over India,” said Satyaki Ghosh – consumer products at L’Oreal India. For the more sophisticated customers with smartphones, Ghosh says it is constantly engaging with them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “About 80% of the engagement on these platforms comes from mobile,” he says.

The mobile can’t be a strategic decision anymore, it now has to be seen as a hygiene factor. “With the exponentially increasing number of mobile users and internet accessibility it is extremely crucial to have a mobile-first strategy. A mobile phone is the closest one can get to a consumer and it is a device with the power of connecting all your other mediums of advertising. Be it communication on TV, print, radio or outdoor, everything can have a call to action on your smartphone,” says Soumitro Ganguly, senior manager—mobile, Mobex, a mobile division of Havas Media.
Brands are discovering the beauty of that.

As Pradeep Bakshi, president and COO, Voltas Unitary Products Business Group, points out, the smart remote app actually helps deliver a superior customer experience thus nudging the customer to pick up its premium range of Voltas All Weather Smart AC. “We realised that consumers tend to forget where they have kept their remotes. Moreover, with the young generation being technology savvy, they tend to spend most of the time on their mobile phones and look at their handsets as a one-stop solution. Through the app we wanted to take our relationship with consumers to the next level. We are  developing the app further and will launch an advanced version of it with many more features.”

Agrees Kedar Teny, director- marketing & digital, McDonald’s India- West & South, who says the fast food brand’s mobile ordering application has been extremely successful and offers a customised experience. Apart from information on product offerings, and outlets, it empowers customers to  making informed nutrition choices by displaying calorie information of our products. “Mobile apps are key contributors in mobile traffic growth and therefore we anticipate an increase in the number of customers who place their order through mobile devices. The massive influx of smartphones and mobile apps takes convenience to another level by enabling consumers to place their orders on-the-go and simplify the process of ordering food to a great extent,” he says. “We aim to replicate the success achieved by McDonald’s globally for its mobile and digital strategy in India. Towards this end, we are introducing a deals application which is currently in beta testing mode. We also plan to introduce a loyalty element in our mobile applications. We are also working closely with McDonald’s APMEA (Asia Pacific Middle East and Africa group) to implement a global mobile application and other consumer promo oriented applications in India,” says Teny.

This is perhaps something that the e-commerce companies realised much earlier than the rest. Flipkart recently acquired Appiterate to strengthen its mobile offerings. Earlier Myntra acquired Bangalore based mobile application development platform Native5. Myntra has now become an ‘app-only’ platform. The numbers more than explain the shift. Early on, 95% of Myntra’s internet traffic and over 70% of sales came through mobile devices. In time, others such as Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal could go completely mobile. Mausam Bhatt, senior director – mobile marketing at Flipkart says that mobile apps are becoming the primary getaway to the internet. “The inherent mobility and features built into a smartphone like camera, location sensor and messaging will dramatically alter how users routinely shop. Our mobile apps are going to get much more personalised, social and intuitive providing a far superior shopping experience compared to desktop web,” he says.

Akshay Sethi, head of customer experience at Amazon India, says the e-commerce giant is focused on creating a mobile-first experience. “A lot of innovative work is being done on payments over mobile devices. The smaller screen size of the phone has an impact on how customers browse, search, discover and research products on the phone. We do not try to force fit one mobile interface to all devices, we have multiple mobile platforms that help us support all internet enabled devices in the market.”

Google has just released a new mobile friendly ranking algorithm that is designed to give a boost to mobile friendly businesses and help them score better in search. Ranjoy Dey, head of digital, Havas Media India, says this makes it  imperative for brands to shift their focus on developing the mobile assets. Once the destination is ready, executing mobile campaigns would become no-brainer. “The reason Google did this was to make brands aware that 60% of all searches for any category is taking place through mobile. Without a mobile friendly destination, the search results will either displease or distract the consumer,” said Dey.

Neeraj Roy, managing director and chief executive at Hungama Digital Media Entertainment believes that all brands will have to align themselves to a “mobile first” strategy especially in the context of Google’s new algorithm. He is not surprised that Google is going mobile first with almost 90% of the next 300 million consumers will get online through a mobile phone. “Over 250 million people have accessed some sort of entertainment on mobile over the past 12 months. Compare this to potentially 30 million e-commerce consumers. Hungama’s services were accessed by 227 million customers last year who transacted and bought a ‘digital good’ from us—music, video, movie, game or app,” he says.

With the increase in mobile devices, many news companies are attempting to go mobile-first. They are trying to create content, tools, technology and advertising tailored specifically for the medium. They are rethinking how their journalism is reported and presented.

Raghav Bahl, founder and managing director of Network18 Group until its takeover by Reliance Group, recently ventured into the digital news domain by launching Quintillion Media, as a pure play digital media company. Quint.com, under Quintillion Media, was launched as an interactive, mobile first news service where a lot of the content was videos.

Ritu Kapur, co-founder at Quint says  50-60% of their current traffic comes from handheld devices. “Even when we were at Network18, we were not thinking of content from the television perspective. We were looking at the growth of social media and live news feeds, and thinking of content specifically designed for the mobile screens —short videos of 30-40 seconds each, of sharp quality, which are easy to consume.” Kapur said. She added that it is inevitable that most news companies will have to adapt to mobile if they want to be where their audience is. “The long term goal is to personalize news for the individual. Long form journalism could stay in a mobile-first environment, but it needs to be presented differently, in digestible formats with the right kind of visuals,” Kapur added.

Even as everyone is euphoric about the advantages offered by the mobile phone, there are hurdles in the way. When Emami Ltd’s retail chain, Frank Ross Pharmacy, introduced a smartphone application for ordering medicines in Kolkata, the company realised it was up against many challenges. “Right from finding the right developer to developing the app and ensuring that we could add more features as required, technology was the main hurdle. Additionally, we realised that the app is used mostly by consumers in the 40-50 age group. Older people tend to use their phones to make calls, so we had to add call centres as an additional component to the app,” said Gautam Jatia, CEO, Frank Ross Pharmacy.

As Ganguly points out, mobile is still a new medium and therefore not understood entirely by everyone. “Therefore, to a certain extent there are a lot of hits and misses. There are many ad formats which are non-intrusive like native advertising or user initiated rich media which facilitate great engagement. Apart from the ad formats it is critical when and where you place the ad.”

Agrees Shubhodip Pal, CEO of Balaji Motion Pictures which is looking to make short films in parts for the mobile screen. “Something like a Gangs of Wasseypur could work really well, but in a shorter format. But we cannot provide that kind of content, if the pipeline is choked. Telecom operators need to ensure that data speeds are up,” he said.

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