From the desk of a digital marketer.
Last night as I was watching a popular science fiction movie for the nth time, I began to wonder - as a marketer, if I had entered a state of cryogenic sleep a few years back, I would have woken up to a digitally transformed India, and wouldn't have known if the transformation is in my sleep or in reality.
This new India has already become the second highest online market in the world with a staggering 430 million users today, double of the number just four years ago.
So, what did I miss while I was asleep? How did all this happen so fast?
This rapid digitisation is catalysed by access to cheaper data plans, a variety of affordable smartphones, and personalised online content evolved to suit more niche and vernacular audiences.
However, there is a flipside to this story - Only one in every five people in India shop online today.
This potentially means that as marketers in India, we need to be cognizant of this significant shift in the consumer journey where a large part of consumer engagement and brand loyalty is built online... however, the transaction may happen online or offline.
This requires us to redefine what digital marketing can potentially do for a brand. As we go deeper, we see that this fairytale digital transformation has also brought with it some garish nightmares:
1. How do you get a cart with two differently sized wheels to go straight?
In a world where most people use the internet for browsing, research, finding validation, direction and so on, one common concern to address is - all the customer interactions across omni-channel touch points need to be designed for a unified experience.
Much like a two-wheeled cart with two differently sized wheels, the online world is known for its agility and dynamism whereas the offline world is known for its stability... but for a customer, they are parts of the same cart and they expect a seamless experience across both.
It's important to invest in driving a consistent and unified customer experience across online and retail formats, early on. This includes all communication, creatives, product availability, pricing and brand tonality. Today's data tells us that 50-60 per cent of all customers actually switch between channels depending on their current stage in the journey.
There may be many customers who've been aware of one's brand for a long time, but it takes having an offline experience to convince them to make their first big ticket buy. This invokes a sense of trust and leads the way for the customers to make their next purchase online.
2. Can a Butterfly in Brazil Really Cause a Tornado in Texas?
Much like the Butterfly Effect in the Chaos Theory, digital marketers are faced with a complex problem of attribution. With a mix of over a dozen marketing channels available today, unifying all the data and attributing the right credit to the right channel, and hence ROI, becomes extremely crucial to success. There are multiple algorithms that organisations use to solve this, including last click, first click, linear, time-decay, and the more recent machine learning, data-driven attribution by Google. Marketers could try experimenting with a mix of these algorithms to give the right weightage to each channel.
3. What if I told you your job is to spot a shooting star every night?
The digital world is continuously evolving and one of the continuous challenges is to find those new and upcoming features and channels for marketing that are cutting-edge, but have not yet got cluttered or expensive - the window of arbitrage is generally quite short. Identifying them early on is just like spotting a shooting star in the few seconds it glows for. It can create a huge impact, but if you're too late, you generally miss the boat.
Marketers could experiment with new features, like we did, for example, life events or household income for YouTube, first-in-India local inventory ad implementation for our retail formats, live features on Instagram, and some interesting innovations on SEO.
4. What if everyone had Attention Deficit Disorder?
With the digital universe getting flooded with a plethora of content, the span of attention of customers has significantly gone down. People on an average spend 1.7 seconds with any content on mobile and 2.5 seconds on desktop - numbers that have been consistently falling. As marketers, the challenge is to evolve every day and create unique clutter breaking content that brings joy to the viewer.
Another observed phenomenon is Micro Moments - where people reflexively turn to a smartphone to know something, watch something, buy something. Remember those midnight desert cravings or the resolution to get fit? Customers look for an instant fix and the key challenge for a marketer today is to be present when and where the customer is looking... and to grab their share of attention; else, you'll probably lose that customer.
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5. If I told you "they" have arrived! What will you do? Get the linguists!
In the last few years, the bulk of growth in internet audiences has been powered by an explosion in vernacular content on the internet. In fact, according to a report by KPMG and Google, Indian language internet users are expected to account for 75 per cent of India's internet user base by 2021. Hence, brands would need to, very soon, figure ways of integrating this into their content strategy while still retaining the brand identity, a tough task for aspirational brands.
For a digital marketer, on the onset it seems like a bright green playground. Promise of huge potential for e-commerce businesses and higher efficiency of marketing investments. But upon closer observation, there are still some blaring obstacles given the evolving customer needs. In a world of high attrition and low loyalty, brands have the uphill task of remaining relevant to their customer base. Building an omnichannel marketing plan is currently the most optimum solution if you want to sleep easy.
(The author is Director - Marketing at Urban Ladder)