In a conversation with afaqs!, mobile marketing platform Vserv’s co-founder Dippak Khurana discusses mobile advertising, and emerging adtech in the space.
It seems like yesterday when the marketing world was disrupted and changed forever by the introduction of mobile devices. Smartphones, along with the developments in Internet infrastructure, paved the way for refined advertising and marketing strategies for brands.
But the space has been riddled with challenges. Digital, while unlocking a treasure trove of advertising possibilities, has also pushed the brands to recondition and upgrade their marketing blueprints.
In a quest to target consumers on their smartphones, brands are often faced with the challenge of placing the right ads on the right channels. Between apps, streaming platforms, social media and regular websites, brands have sought information technologies to supervise their ad placements efficiently, for years.
On the other end, the challenge for app developers and publishers, is to effectively monetise these ads.
Vserv, a data-driven mobile marketing solutions platform, has been around for 12 years. Co-founder Dippak Khurana has watched the space evolve over the years, with emerging technologies accommodating the shape-shifting digital dynamics.
The inception and the path ahead
Vserv started its journey in 2011 with its flagship product ‘App Wrapper’. The platform catered to the feature phones of the time.
“When we started, the platform catered to the feature phone devices. Our tech integrated with J2ME (Java Micro Edition) infrastructure, so that the ads could be inserted at the launch and exit of these apps,” shares Khurana.
In 2016, after Android’s takeover of the smartphone operating system, many of the previously popular feature phones were forced to bite the dust. Nokia, for instance, struggled to sustain its market share with its Symbian hitting a dead end.
“We could clearly see that our existing business was going to completely go away by 2018. So, we shifted towards the area of building a consumer intelligence platform,” mentions Khurana.
Since 2017, the company has been running a consumer intelligence-driven business model, providing unduplicated reach to brands across OTT and social media through programmatic and hyperlocal targeting. The aim is to help marketers acquire customers, who generate higher lifetime value (LTV).
“Today, we have a tool called ‘Vserv Audience Pro’. It’s a customer intelligence and activation platform. Brands can conveniently leverage this platform to work with their other marketing tools. For us, the value proposition is, how can this customer intelligence platform have a simple application programming interface (API) integration with the brand’s preferred tools,” says Khurana.
Looking ahead, Vserv aims to immerse itself into deeper pockets of the Indian market, before amping up its international presence.
“We’re driven by the idea of growing into many micro-markets in India. Rather than us taking this platform and trying to replicate our business in a different country, our goal is to go deeper into the Indian market and cater to the large enterprises, while also providing our services to SMEs that largely operate on a self-serve model.”
Reforms in adtech
Currently, marketers work tirelessly to get their hands on the consumer intelligence data to polish their strategies. Typically, brands set up a campaign on a platform, and rely on publisher platforms such as Google or Facebook for their first party data.
What’s largely going to happen in the marketing world, is that there will be a rise of 1P and 2P data, where a lot of exchange of first party data will happen between different entities in the market
But, according to Khurana, brands are now shifting towards a new methodology altogether.
“The next phase will see marketers adopt newer practices, as they increasingly adopt digital for advertising. Now, brands can also collect first party data purely because someone is also visiting their web store or e-commerce ventures. It constitutes a lot of expansion of intelligence for brands, which was previously only available to publisher platforms.”
“What’s largely going to happen in the marketing world, is that there will be a rise of 1P and 2P data, where a lot of exchange of first party data will happen between different entities in the market.”
But won’t that be hindered by the glooming problem of ‘walled gardens’?
Khurana believes that the intelligence is sitting outside of the walled garden, because the data is sourced from a proper tech platform, like Vserv.
“Brands can now borrow someone else’s 2P data, and then send those signals to platforms such as Google, Facebook, Hotstar or Sony. That allows brands to have customer intelligence in one place.”
Adtech’s share of digital spends
With the continued growth of digital channels and personalised, data-based marketing requisite, the distribution of marketing spends amongst brands, is seeing a paradigm shift.
There are many categories today that are actively investing in consumer intelligence. The entire opportunity for the martech industry has exploded, which is also quite visible.
Previously, only a select few brand categories, such as banks and telecom companies, had a formidable record of transaction history for consumers, with information on consumer mobile numbers (due to KYC procedures) and email addresses. It was a solid place for these brands to accumulate their first party data.
But now, many other categories, such as fashion, personal care, home decor, etc., have grabbed on to the digital torch.
“There are many categories today that are actively investing in consumer intelligence. The entire opportunity for the martech industry has exploded, which is also quite visible. A few years ago, there were a select few martech paltforms in the country tending to so many brands. Over the last 4-5 years, there have been at least 30 martech platforms out there,” Khurana points out.
Every year, the digital advertising space keeps refining itself to become a foolproof hotbed for modern advertising. Between neutralising consumer privacy concerns and providing the best RoIs, brands are working towards a more robust mechanism, under the aegis of third party adtech platforms.
Khurana believes that the field is so big that there are parallel trends at play currently.
“There’s going to be a significant change in the technology of consumer experience. Whether it’s AR or VR, through Metaverse, this segment will see rapid growth. From a content perspective, so many verticals have opened up, from education to basic utility. The rise of immersive tech will disrupt the existing hierarchy over the next 10 years, making every service available on the Internet.”