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India’s Product Leaders Are Redefining The Marketing Funnel For Bharat

Marketers have changed the way they portray their products. Their growth tools have been influenced and so has their approach

Shakdher says that Bharat doesn’t necessarily need a substandard product, it aspires to own the best. It is on a journey of evolution

Brand affinity is pivotal as that’s when consumers feel that they are extracting meaning out of those brands

This article is a brief takeaway from The Makers Summit 2021 by Inc42 Plus, India’s largest product conference. Watch all the sessions & learn from India’s top 1% product leaders at Makers Academy.

Makers Academy

This article is a brief takeaway from The Makers Summit 2021 by Inc42 Plus, India’s largest product conference. Watch all the sessions & learn from India’s top 1% product leaders at Makers Academy.

Makers Academy

Startups have changed the way people see products. Ever since the pandemic, the adoption of digital products and tools has ramped up significantly, taking the tech industry years ahead in the growth trajectory. This has increased the spotlight on inclusivity as more and more new-to-internet and novice users embrace tech products and apps. This new audience is the much-coveted gateway to the next billion users or Bharat as this segment of India is known. 

The opportunity to reach these users in Bharat has changed how products are built and marketed. Diving into this was The Makers Summit 2021 panel on ‘Redefining the marketing funnel for Bharat’  featuring Sidharth Shakdher, EVP and CMO of Disney+ Hotstar, Gajendra Jangid, cofounder and CMO of Cars24, Kanika Mittal, the business head at Twitter and Sarika Grover, the cofounder of Green Giraffes Consulting. The panel discussion was moderated by Damandeep Singh Soni, the VP of growth at consumer electronics D2C brand boAt.

Shakdher, who oversees the 300 Mn+ MAU-strong Hotstar and looks to bring more users on board, said the exposure to new media has changed the perception and image of the Bharat audience. “When we look at the audience demographics for video streaming apps like Hotstar, we realise how Tier 1 cities have taken over metros for watching a series like ‘Game of Thrones’ most number of times and how it is the smaller towns that watch video content till the wee hours of the night and not the metros,” said Shakdher. 

So how else is the Bharat audience evolving in contrast to the more global and mature Indian audience? What should marketers be on the lookout for to create everlasting products? The panel dived deep into this and more.

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The Evolution Of The Bharat Audience

Sharing Disney+ Hotstar’s scale among the Bharat audience, Shakdher said that this cohort of users is on a journey of evolution and will take time to transform from being a price-sensitive cluster to a more emotional audience, which is what we see in metros. 

He added that Bharat users rise gradually from pre-installed applications and to downloading free apps and then more premium or freemium video streaming platforms. And it is from here that the propensity to pay for these services rises. The audience is gradually moving towards discovering and paying for content that they like and what fits their personalities.

“If you don’t serve them what they need, you won’t stay on their phones for too long. It is easy for them to form a transactional relationship.”

Jangid refers to the Bharat audience as price-sensitive and says that all the convenience, quality, servicing excellence multiplies to zero if the pricing isn’t set right. Pricing has to meet the expectations of the users as it complements the experience of the product. Adding to this, Grover said that the net promoter score (NPS) has become essential yet again and is being brought back to the measurement tool stack. Pricing is critical as it is linked to a good NPS. 

Despite the price-sensitive nature, audiences in hinterland India are more demanding and unforgiving when it comes to extracting value out of paid services. Startups need to develop quality products at the right pricing that suits the Indian audience. Jangid recalled leveraging influencer marketing to make a buzz for Cars24 in a country where car penetration is just 3% as compared to 80%-90% in developed countries like the USA. He says that Google and Facebook weren’t enough which pushed Cars24 to diversify its channels. The local impact of influencers helped boost the company’s relevance in the Indian market, which involves a layered audience with differential tastes.

The Metrics That Matter For Clients

Grover added about focussing on direct and organic traffic, since these are the best indicators of the wellbeing of a business. Talking about influencer marketing, she said that it is imperative to know what platform will be suitable for which industry — the gaming industry would benefit from Youtube influencers while fashion brands would gain from Instagram influencers. Consistency in the strategy applied is key, she said. 

Twitter’s business head Mittal said social media platforms use the three key metrics to measure performance among the Bharat audience. 

First is the share of voice that a business can command and the kind of communication it is harbouring. The degree of engagement and an analysis of its frequency on the platform is a crucial metric too. She shared how Twitter measures any company’s well-being and pushes its content based on the ‘spark, surge, and sustain’ principle. Creating that spark that excites the audience to lean in, then breaking through the clutter and ensuring that the audience notices the company when it matters, and lastly sustaining this momentum. 

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Peeping Into Important Success Metrics

For D2C companies, influencer and social media marketing are like a second skin. These may not always contribute directly to the native revenue, but will drive brand engagement. Thus those businesses need to run two funnels, including ‘webstore funnel’ and ‘marketplace funnel’. With ‘webstore funnel’, one looks at awareness considerations, remarketing, and retargeting, said Green Giraffes Consulting’s Grover. 

And equally important is the ‘marketplace funnel’ as that’s where technology comes alive, said Shakdher backing her up. Marketplaces will start to gain more precedence as that’s a strong platform to reach out to customers. Technology is powerful enough to enable marketplaces to grow better than directly managed models that have a certain amount of constraints.

Performance marketing costs have been rising year-on-year but companies have to continue to bear them. Shakdher shared the additional mapping structure that Hotstar has adopted of late to boost its performance marketing output. He said that instead of just being concerned about demographics, Hotstar has created taste clusters based on radius and distance as well. This has allowed the platform to concentrate on yielding better results. 

Jangid talks about how Cars24 changed their strategy behind influencer marketing from just looking at engagement to talking about the impact of an influencer and their performance. Influencer marketing has always been an important element for Cars24 hence, moulding the paradigm through which these campaigns were looked at had to be changed. He also shared that measuring the impact of influencers on their brand has become so crucial that 50% of the payment depends on it. 

Building Engagement Towards Maturity 

Engagement is in some way the lifeblood, says Shakdher of Hotstar. He shared three key factors —  technology, execution, and brand affinity. 

Through technology, the marketer can personalise the site for its users. Hotstar has the advantage of a live sports inventory apart from general entertainment and news in Indian languages. It is crucial to know who is coming to the platform to view what, and this problem is solved via technology. 

The second way of engaging users is by fulfilling the promise made through marketing campaigns or promos. When the relationship of a consumer with the brand changes from being transactional to a more emotional one, that’s when engagement rises. Brand affinity is pivotal as that’s when consumers feel that they are extracting value out of these brands, or that these brands are crucial to their everyday life. 

Jangid of Cars24 says that transacting customers aren’t extremely frequent due to the kind of business that the startup operates. So, while driving engagement has been difficult, today there are 1 Mn users checking the price range of their vehicles every month on Cars24. Constant notifications regarding the rise or fall in the price of vehicles have also kept engagement high. 

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