Are P&G & Wal-Mart enemies!

Procter & Gamble (P&G), the world’s biggest consumer goods company, has been exploring a long-term partnership with Future Group akin to the one it has with Walmart in the US, that could involve joint sales forecasting and planning, exclusive product releases.

And yet in the US, there have been signs of tension between these giants.

Wal-Mart is focusing on improving the store’s physical image by reducing clutter and focusing on private label brands that offer consumers the chance to save more.P&G on the other hand, wants Wal-Mart to accelerate sales of its products, maintain higher prices on some of its key items and provide additional shelf space. This battle will continue & it will interesting to watch how it pans out in India, where P&G has less clout. And yet FMCG companies are operating in a “data dark” environment where they have hardly any data about customers. So on one side, the huge walled gardens of Facebook, Amazon & Google are forcing them to spend money on Digital media & on the other side Retailers like Wal-mart have consistently build a treasure trove of customer data.

FMCG companies can use the data produced by Retailers very effectively. Organized Retail is still small in terms of sales contribution for most FMCG’s companies in India. But this will change over time & it would be interesting to see how Retailers & FMCG companies develop their relationships! Western countries have adopted these partnerships, calling them Efficient Consumer Response initiatives (ECR).

It’s amazing; P&G was always the bully till the early 1980’s. It used the enormous consumer data that it obtained through market research to bully retailers! Then retailer’s developed sophisticated Point of sale systems & began to bully P&G right back. Wall mart was of course the gorilla of the pack. And yet surprisingly, in the mid 1980’s, this adversarial relationship between the two gorillas began to change!

Robert McDonald was the P&G CEO & was a man on a mission: to make Procter & Gamble the most technologically enabled business in the world. To get there, the 31-year company veteran and former US Army captain oversaw the large-scale application of digital technology and advanced analytics across every aspect of P&G’s operations and activities. Here is what he says:

“It would be heretical in this company to say that data are more valuable than a brand, but it’s the data sources that help create the brand and keep it dynamic. So those data sources are incredibly important. Therefore, we go to the extreme to protect whatever consumer data we get. It’s a board-level enterprise risk-management issue for us”

Hearing this from P&G is truly heretical-can data rival Brand equity in the P&G world! I wrote about this earlier. How companies store, transform & use their data will become as potent a marketing tool as Brand equity itself! Companies have huge amounts of data now and there is technology & skill sets available to decode it.

If used powerfully enough, data about a customer can transform the customer experience!

Here is another comment from Robert McDonald about P&G’s data partnerships: “For companies like ours that rely on external data partners, getting the data becomes part of the currency for the relationship. When we do joint business planning with retailers, for example, we have a scorecard, and the algorithm is all about value creation. Getting data becomes a big part of the value for us, and it’s a big part of how we work together. We have analytic capabilities that many retailers don’t have, so often we can use the data to help them decide how to merchandise or market their business in a positive way”.

P&G’s Gillette unit, for example, claims to have mined Wal-Mart data to develop promotions that increased sales as much as 19 percent. More than seventeen thousand suppliers are given access to their products’ Wal-Mart performance across metrics that include daily sales, shipments, returns, purchase orders, invoices, claims and forecasts. And these suppliers collectively interrogate Wal-Mart data warehouses to the tune of twenty-one million queries a year

In India, the first meeting on ECR took place on 10 December, 1999. The attendees included representatives from J&J, Nestle and erstwhile FoodWorld & PwC. But I wonder how this initiative has developed or are we in the stage where FMCG companies are the bullies in the neighborhood !! I am sure there will be some startups who are trying to disrupt the FMCG space!

Data, data everywhere!!

Wal-Mart, a retail giant, handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes—the equivalent of 167 times the books in America’s Library of Congress.

Homework Overload

Only 5% of the information that is created is “structured”, meaning it comes in a standard format of words or numbers that can be read by computers. The rest are things like photos and phone calls which are less easily retrievable and usable. But this is changing as content on the web is increasingly “tagged”, and facial-recognition and voice-recognition software can identify people and words in digital files.

And this is creating a situation of “Analysis is paralysis”. It is leaving marketer’s confused about what data is valuable & what is pure noise.

Seth Godin put it simply in a recent post: Too much data leads to not enough belief.

Luckily in emerging markets the challenges are somewhat different:

  1. Yes data is growing rapidly. But a lot of businesses have not focussed on how they can convert data into information and then into knowledge.
  2. Huge opportunity exists to just create a simple “customer one view” and collate information at a customer level. A retailer could look at how an individual customer is shopping, what SKU’s does she buy and when does she shop. And then put it together with payment data –did she pay by debit /credit card or by cash.
  3. Retailers can then look at how simple data analysis can help build business. Some years ago as a Retailer, I had the opportunity of executing simple campaign experiments on loyalty program data. We sent a simple letter, from the store manager, to customers who had not shopped with the store for more than 6 months and who lived within a 5 km radius of the store. The campaign did wonders and got back many customers to stores across India.

Have a look at this interesting article about this issue

http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displayStory.cfm?story_id=15557443

Customer Experience -the Amazon,Uber, Google way!

I have always believed that words like Customer centricity, Customer experience,Customer obsession etc are all fluff unless there are changes in the company’s operating model. Unless customers are given a place in the boardroom, it isn’t likely that we as consumers would sense a difference, despite all the analytics & technology at play. There is this anecdotal story about Jeff Bezos at Amazon leaving a seat vacant at every important meeting & telling everyone to treat that vacant seat as the customer in the meeting.

Now, companies have petabytes of data & a plethora of technology choices with which they can analyze this big data & get big insights. But the rubber meets the road, when the customer gets a better experience because the “customer data ” enables it!

Today I addressed a webinar at the Super CX week organized by Oracle.

Customer experience is changing as a concept & is creating large opportunities for companies who truly believe in bringing the customer up front & centre. Remember, it is easy to talk about Customer obsession rather than embrace it.

India now has close to 450 million Internet users. In fact, we now have over 440 million Millennials & over 390 million Gen Z consumers(born after year 2000). These consumers think very differently & have very different expectations from brands & companies.

And these youth have a social megaphone that allows to wrest the bargaining power towards them!

This leads to a whole new way of Marketing & these are the trends that I see:

  • Marketing will move towards relevancy
    • “Marketing that is done so well that it feels like a service”-To service is to Sell
  • “Marketing as a relationship”
    • Customers would only respond to “profitable conversations”
    • No one wants a relationship, unless it is relevant
  • Mass customization: segmentation to increase dramatically
    • From 3-5 segments that most businesses maintain to lights-out, automatic modelling that is driven by the data
    • Segment of 1

Delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. How do companies embark on such a journey.

A few points to consider:

  1. Support an institutional memory of the customer-different silos or “lines of business” creating campaigns & running them independently means that you do not have a centralised contact history or “intelligence” about customer response
  2. Enable dialogues not just campaigns. If campaigns are seen as just “list pulls”, then anyone who knows basis SQL should be able to do the job. But the consumer is no longer ready to listen to “push marketing” & the creation of a “dialogue factory” is one essential element of a strong Customer strategy
  3. Establish a strong Customer management council: group of top leaders in the company who are able to mediate to solve the issues that arise out of taking customer centric action. This council becomes a strong enabler for Campaign management playing a differentiated role.
  4. Being loyal to customers & not the other way around (customers needing to be loyal to the company). This needs companies to have a longer term view of customer lifetime value & not a short term view of immediate profit. It needs an internal senior level stakeholder who champions the customer cause (CMO?)

Two years back Gartner predicted that by 2017 CMO’s will spend more on IT than CIO’s. Is this happening? So how big is the market for marketing software today? IDC has an answer to that question, $20.2 billion in 2014. IDC expects that the market will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.4% for the next five years, resulting in a $32.4 billion market by 2018.

I would urge CMO’s & CEO’s to first articulate & get board level agreement on a differentiated Customer Strategy. Make Marketing technology & team structure investments after that.

Here is a copy of my presentation at the Super CX week organized by Oracle today. Hope you will evangelize some of these concepts at your company.

Customer Experience Oracle

Data driven Lingerie!

Data driven lingerie=Better products

In difficult times,
fashion is always outrageous.

—Elsa Schiaparelli

How can Lingerie & data have any correlation? I am sure you are asking that questions. But bear with me & don’t forget to watch the video that I have provided a link to.

 

But before that, allow me to digress a bit. Almost 78% of consumers think it is hard to trust companies when it comes to use of their personal data (Orange, The Future of Digital Trust, 2014). And yet Personal data has become a currency today. All of us are leaving our data behind in a digital exhaust that has begun to worry us as consumers.

And yet, the World Economic Forum is calling personal data a ‘new asset class’: “a valuable resource for the 21st century that will touch all aspects of society”. But companies will need to understand how they can gather customer information without compromising the customer’s trust!

A recent PEW report had this to say:

“While enthusiasts see great potential for using Big Data, privacy advocates are worried as more and more data is collected about people – both as they knowingly disclose things in such things as their postings through social media and as they unknowingly share digital details about themselves as they march through life. Not only do the advocates worry about profiling, they also worry that those who crunch Big Data with algorithms might draw the wrong conclusions about who someone is, how she might behave in the future, and how to apply the correlations that will emerge in the data analysis.”

True & co is this interesting company that combines data & design to create an opportunity for consumers to share data with the company thereby improving the appropriateness of the product to the customer. True & co claims to be the first company to fit women into their favourite bra with a fit quiz – no fitting rooms, no measuring tape, no photos – and to recognize that there’s so much more to fit than her band and cup size. The data they collect allows them to match the customer to over 6000 body types on their database.

Research suggests that women loathe the bra shopping experience and the massive $14B intimate apparel industry is dominated by one primarily brick-and-mortar player. So True & co uses big data to make shopping online for lingerie easier & better. They collect over Half a million data points from users to help customize the experience. Since the company launched in 2012, True & Co has collected some 7 million data points They used this data to launch products designed using this data. Body type, implicit explicit preferences etc all mashed together to create a personalized recommendation engine.

Do have a look at this video telling their story:

http://bit.ly/1tiQitb

So consumers are happy to share personal information as long as they see a “value add” for themselves. And organizations with trust-based information sharing relationships with customers will have a significant competitive advantage over those with traditional data gathering relationships.

 

Sous Chef’s & data??

A Chef’s Data-Driven Empire

Geoff Tracy couldn’t clone himself. But as his restaurant empire grew he did the next-best thing, creating a complex, data-driven system to ensure that his employees always do everything—from plating a salad to setting the dishwasher temperature—the Chef Geoff’s way.

I have not heard of a restaurant that used data effectively to run its business & so Chef Geoff was a huge surprise. Isn’t it amazing how large companies often hesitate to use data effectively & end up setting up a central analytics function which needs to fight turf wars to even enable them to get their hands on data? While at the same time a restaurant like Chef Goeff’s could so effectively use the data to enable its business.

Finally, it boils down to belief, are you ready to make changes in Operations basis what your data tells you. And it is always a Catch 22, unless you make the changes that data is telling you to, you can never prove what is more effective.

I read this interesting statement from D J Patil from Linked In

Data Jujitsu: the art of using multiple data elements in clever ways to solve iterative problems that, when combined, solve a data problem that might otherwise be intractable. It’s related to Wikipedia’s definition of the ancient martial art of jujitsu: “the art or technique of manipulating the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force.”

I have seen that the strongest data-driven organizations all live by the motto “if you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it”. And in such companies, the “data or analytics people” are embedded in the operations! Analytics may not even be a separate function; rather it is the way business is done!

Read this interesting story about Geoff Tracy & how he is building his restaurant business on data steroids!! Also remember that now with Social data streaming in, the possibilities are endless. If Geoff Tracy was to claim his business on FourSquare he would also get access to a whole bunch of Analytics dashboards from Foursquare telling him about his daily check-ins.

http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/food-dining/everywhere-at-once-chef-geoff-tracys-data-driven-empire/index.php

Amazon & it’s bold experiments!

Jeff Bezos writes an annual letter to his shareholders which is an amazing lesson for any business. He always attaches a copy of his original 1997 letter to reiterate that even today it is Day 1 in his business. He believes that “A dreamy business offering has at least four characteristics. Customers love it, it can grow to very large size, it has strong returns on capital, and it’s durable in time – with the potential to endure for decades. When you find one of these, don’t just swipe right, get married”. Here is a link to one of his letters:

http://bit.ly/2eC3NPt

Anyone who thinks Amazon is just another online retailer isn’t paying attention. Amazon is constantly experimenting. You have to compare your business to Amazon & ask how many experiments did I run today & how many of those did I scale up?

In comparison, most legacy companies love structure & defined process. They test few things after a lot of shortlisting & then test them to scale up. They measure them vs financial returns metrics like IRR hurdle rates & only scale up those that pass financial metrics. I have nothing against this rigor. What I believe is that the metrics need to change. Companies must allow far more experiments to happen & measure the one’s which customers start to vote for & then change the system to understand how to scale them.

And mostly Amazon experiments are about how to provide more value to its customers.  Everything in this list of customer-facing projects that set Amazon apart started with experimentation:

  • Amazon 1-Click,
  • Mechanical Turk,
  • Amazon Marketplace,
  • Customer Reviews,
  • Amazon Recommendations,
  • Amazon Wish List,
  • Amazon AutoRip,
  • Amazon Storyteller,
  • Amazon Studios,
  • the Kindle line of eBook readers,
  • Print on demand,
  • Amazon Cloud Drive, and
  • Kindle Direct Publishing.
  • And of course, AWS lives on innovations:

I would like to talk about two Amazon experiments:

  • Courage to change pricing:

At one of Amazon’s meetings, Jeff Bezos said that the company’s goal is to make Prime benefits so numerous and valuable that it’s irresponsible not to be a member. Wow, that’s almost a challenge to consumers to become more responsible!!

Amazon has been experimenting with physical retail stores since 2015. Though their efforts have mostly been experimental, there are lessons in it for Brick & mortar” retailers.

Customer loyalty is much more than a Loyalty program. Many Retailers launch loyalty programs but over time they are not able to clearly attribute the success of these programs. There are vague references to what percentage of sales is attributed to the Loyalty program but no clear mention of how much of that sale comes from repeat customers. The typical approach to customer loyalty shouldn’t end with the launch of a program, emphasizing discounts and offers. Rather it should signal the beginning of a strategic intent: the desire to building a relationship of value to the customer. Companies need to be loyal to customers & not the other way round.

Making significant operational changes is not easy.  Cashiers at Amazon’s physical bookstores now ask each customer the same question: Are you a Prime member? I know that we do get asked this question at many retailers we visit-Shoppers Stop Customer care associates ask if you are a member of the First Citizen program. But what is radically different is that the Prime customer actually gets far more value. That’s because Amazon recently implemented a new pricing structure at its bookstores that could signal a broader strategy for the company’s brick-and-mortar retail expansion.

At the Amazon bookstore in Seattle’s University Village, Prime members who pay $99 for an annual membership— or $ 10.99 per month— can purchase books and other items at the same price that they sell for on Amazon.com.

However, if you’re not a Prime member, you pay the list price

.

  • Bringing in new data, reading your car license plates: Identifying cars would help it speed up pickup times at brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon knows that to truly win the retail wars, they have to attack the grocery segment & provide significant value for consumers. One of Amazon’s many ambitions for the next version of its grocery-delivery service, Fresh is to innovate like crazy. The company will set up a series of “convenience stores,” the Journal reports, where it will sell basic goods like milk, produce, and meat. For customers seeking a quicker checkout, Amazon will soon begin rolling out designated drive-in locations where online grocery orders will be brought to the car, the people said. The company is developing license-plate-reading technology to speed wait times.

    In India, the government is providing the digital data of registered vehicles to banks, insurance companies etc. as a paid service. Here’s the link to apply for the same: https://vahan.nic.in/paidnrservices/faces/welcome.jsp.

    Can we pick up video feeds from Mall parking lots and automate the process of picking up the license plate dos from the video feeds & then hit the Vahan site & get the name of the owner & car make.

    Post that we keep deduping it with our client databases to get matches & then append the information.

    Amazon is teaching companies to experiment & learn how to build value.Hope legacy companies are listening!

     

Banks & Customer profitability!

It is interesting to see the Mobile phone services in India beginning their journey to increase profit per customer! During the last two years, profits and revenues of Indian telecom companies have suffered from a bruising price war that has cut call tariffs to less than one US cent a minute.

But looking at profits per customer does not come easily to most companies. Banks have done it well & so have some casino companies-Royal Bank of Canada & Harrah’s Casino come to mind here!

Also, the solution does not lie in “firing some of your customers”. Here is a lovely comment from the Vice Chairman, Royal Bank of Canada:

“There is no such thing as an unprofitable customer. If we can’t make money on the client, then it’s not the client’s fault – we have to change something in the way we operate. We can either charge the customer more because we have not got the price right or we need to take our costs down or we need to stop selling the product to them and find something more suitable to their need. We try to match up the package to the client so that they are only paying for what they need” Jim Rager, Vice Chairman, RBC Financial Group

I have seen a Bank in India, practice this strategy very effectively. I was the CMO of HDFC Bank & I saw how effectively customer profitability was baked into the bank strategy.Here are some observations:

  1. Start with a simple model of customer profitability or Customer value segmentation. Have different segments of customers; band them from least profitable to most profitable. Analytics can help here but try to keep measurement principles simple.
  2. Keep the measurement consistent –it need not be the most advanced analytic technique but important to hold it consistently over a 3 year period at least!
  3. Ensure you link management action to it. Look at why a customer is in the low profitability segment. If it is a bank, ask if the customer is doing too many cash transactions or has not been sold another product. This analysis can lead to clear management action.
  4. Review customer profitability metrics aggressively. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a customer level P&L, too much to ask for?

 

 

Analytics & the art of the Puzzle!

The problem with analytics is that sometimes it becomes an ivory tower! But journalism is showing some wonderful examples of how analytics & visualization can connect economics & everyday life in interesting ways.

I continue to believe that this trend of “Information journalists” is what we must bring into the analytics practice in the corporate world. Make data interesting & actionable & you will see adoption go up like crazy!

Sometime back David Leonhardt, an economics writer for The New York Times, created an “interactive puzzle” that enabled readers to create a solution for reducing the federal deficit by $1.3 trillion (or thereabouts) in 2030. A variety of options involving either spending cuts or tax increases were offered, along with the size of the reduction associated with each option. Visitors to the puzzle simply selected various options until they achieved the targeted reduction.

Nearly seven thousand Twitter users completed the puzzle, and Leonhardt has summarized the choices.

The starting point for their calculation is work done by Alan Auerbach and William Gale, two economists who are experts on the federal budget. Mr. Auerbach and Mr. Gale have written two recent papers that review what they call “the dismal prospects for the federal budget.”

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html

Now imagine how interesting it could get if a company decided to use analytics in an interesting way to set up a Budget planning exercise within the company. And then leverage the techniques in user-friendly ways to get output that business users can play around with! It could be a powerful way to embed Analytics in the Business Planning cycle.

Again this needs Analytics to be embedded into the planning cycle of the company & only having an Analytics department is not sufficient.

The important point here is that it is the intersection of technology, creative & analytics that gets us to move ahead!

 

IBM, Adobe,Oracle…watch out!

IBM, Adobe & Oracle have all decided to focus on the CMO. Don’t get me wrong, I love these companies & I think they are doing a great job of reaching the CMO’s.

But the job of the CMO continues to get harder! And the number of options the CMO has to wade through just keeps getting larger. According to Scott Brinker: “From 2016 to 2017, the marketing automation category of the marketing technology landscape grew yet again, by 36%, from 156 vendors to 212. If you predicted it was going to consolidate in the past six years, sorry, you were wrong”

In the past there was a difference in the business models of software & service companies. One was low-margin analysts and the other was high-margin code. But that difference is now disappearing. SaaS has also entered the business lexicon. But it isn’t so simple for SaaS players also.

When it works, SaaS has delivered phenomenal results.Giants like Salesforce, Atlassian, ServiceNow, LinkedIn, Workday and Zendesk have displaced on-premise software solutions and have a combined market value of $94 billion

Not all situations are appropriate for SaaS products. In fact for marketing, maybe service providers are better suited to deploy the SaaS solutions for clients. They bring expertise & can help improve speed to market & also maximise utilisation of SaaS product features. JEGI has nicely coined this term SaaSfraS. In their words: “Client service teams expertly operates the software on behalf of customers to deliver the desired results. Call it “SaaS as a Service”. Or maybe “Software as a Service as a Freakin’ Awesome Service”– SassafraS”.

Meanwhile, service companies are selling more software. For example, Deloitte Digital packages its own predictive models under the brand name nACT. Global holding company Publicis Groupe acquired mobile ad solution RUN, part of performance-marketing platform Matomy. Meanwhile, rival WPP claims to have invested more than $1 billion in technology, much of it gathered under its ad tech umbrella Xaxis.

CMO’s need to navigate this landscape & think before they commit to either a startup or to IBM,Oracle or Adobe? And the IBM’s of the world have to think harder about how they sell, how they implement & how they can bring more innovation into their products?

 

 

A Billion people customer behaviour experiment!

India’s population & the mirage of the huge middle class has existed for many years. It is only now that a few trends are coming together to make some of those projections into a reality.

In November, when the government Demonetised the currency, it set in motion what can possibly be called ,the world’s largest experiment, a billion people were forced to change their payment behaviour overnight. Banks were centre stage during this & would today have access to all the individual customer data that showed change in behaviour.Maybe companies can become a full-time laboratory? What if you could analyze every customer transaction, capture insights from every interaction, and have that data available real time? Actually technology now exists to make this a possibility for at least those businesses which have direct customer information-Banks &Telcos amongst others.Google has just launched a new feature to Google Calendars called Goals. This allows you to direct Google Calendar to fill in unscheduled hours with time devoted to work toward more personal goals, such as exercise more, meet your mother or read more. Google bought Dan Ariely’s company to launch this feature. Now with millions of customers using Google Calendar, they will have actually have transactional information that predicts how people prioritise between the short & long term goals. What a massive behaviour experiment that will be! And new age companies like Google have assembled the technology & people to constantly analyse the data that is generated by users consuming their products. New age companies, such as Amazon.com, eBay, and Google, have been early leaders, testing factors that drive performance—from features on a Web page to the sequence of content displayed.

India’s urban population grew from 290 million, in the 2001 census, to an estimated 340 million in 2008 (this is 30% of India’s population) & according to Mc Kinsey estimates this could go up to as high as 590 million by 2030. It took 40 years for India’s urban population to rise by 230 million (between 1971 & 2008) & India will add the next 250 million in half that time.

Aadhar is probably the world’s largest database. But with this kind of demographics, companies operating in India will manage to create significantly sized customer databases. So data about the individual & how she responds to marketing triggers will now be available at large scale for marketers. As India becomes increasingly digital, customer data will emerge on:

  • How customer’s shop?
  • How they save?
  • How they react to cash & digital currencies?
  • How they transact?

About 40% of India’s population will be living in urban areas by 2025, and these city dwellers will account for more than 60% of consumption. Much of this growth will take place in small towns. BCG estimates that by 2025, wealthy urbanites will be responsible for one-third of total consumption. Again BCG estimates that nationwide, internet penetration rose from 8% in 2010 to almost 25% in 2016. It is likely to grow to 55% or more by 2025, when the number of users will likely reach 850 million. The composition of the user base is also changing. It is expected that expect that more than half of all new internet users will be in rural communities and that rural users will constitute about half of all Indian internet users in 2020.

This also means that thanks to Digital, a lot of consumers will become addressable through their mobile phones. The more marketers spend money on digital, the more measurable it will become. In developed markets, this is leading companies to make large investments in data analytics

The rate of increase in the amount of data generated by today’s digital society is amazing. According to one estimate, by 2020 the global volume of digital data will increase more than 40-fold.Beyond its sheer volume, data is becoming a new type of raw material that’s on par with capital and labour.Massive Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have shown the importance of collecting, aggregating, analysing and monetising personal data. These rapidly growing enterprises are built on the economics of personal data. I see many more companies beginning to take this very seriously in the years to come. Banking has understood this traditionally but I feel even the FMCG world will begin to grasp this in the years to come. Traditionally FMCG has been a data dark industry while service businesses like Banking, Retail, Travel etc have been customer data rich.

A lot of the growth in India would come with consumers moving up with affluence. And while consumers are becoming more affluent, companies now have the ability to reach & engage such customers through Mobile & other digital means.

Of the 650 million users expected to be using Internet in India by 2020, a whopping over 61 per cent will be accessing it in local language, forming majority of the online population, according to technology giant Google.

What kind of implications does this have for Marketers?

  1. FMCG brands should start to develop their own independent data to give them a picture of both consumer and shopper behaviour. Maybe the way to do it is through partnerships & creating coalition programs. Organized retail has low penetration in India. This impacts the largest “success criteria” for a coalition, the high frequency supermarket category. Consumers build points fastest with high frequency categories like supermarkets. But in India, organized Retail is less than 2-3 % of total retail spends. That makes it harder to effectively bring in a large number of smaller Retailers into a coalition program. Maybe the innovation required for India is that a consumer goods company leads such a Coalition & brings in its distribution muscle across small retail. Now that would be a game changer in India. Could such a venture be owned by a Unilever or an ITC? Or can the ultimate high frequency category, the newspaper pioneer this space in India. Imagine a Times of India led coalition!
  2. Loyalty: There are very large rural audiences in urban areas in India. This is due to the huge migration that is consistently occurring-moving people from rural to urban areas. I would look to experiment here. Build relevance amongst this segment with loyalty applications that are completely voice based. I would look at loyalty applications that allow this population to use voice based applications to share credits across: transportation, education, & money transfer!
  3. On boarding for new customers: Banks, Telecom companies & other service organizations will rapidly get new customers who are just not familiar with their services. There is likely to be a huge inflow of customers at the bottom of the pyramid who would with increased affluence be buying products & services for the first time. It would be critical to onboard such customers effectively. Also you would have a whole range of behaviours which would be getting triggered with the government’s move towards digitisation.  How do you get a customer to start using his debit card on POS without sufficient & relevant information?
  4. Growth of microsegments: need for analytics to study small consumer segments that may begin to display very different behaviour. As an example, youth in lower income household’s may take up Mobile banking in a much bigger way than what was traditionally thought-Marketers need to be watching this kind of behaviour change very carefully. Especially Banks, Telecom & retail companies have data at a customer transaction level which will help them watch this kind of behaviour change using advanced analytics.
  5. Impact on Retail: Many years ago during my Retail experience, I found that many stores were impacted by what we called the cluster effect-a store in Hyderabad got many shoppers from Vijaywada, a store in Pune got in customers from Solapur etc. And these customers came in for short visits to the city & ended up spending big time! So they were valuable high ticket customers! All this happens because these visitors had friends & family working in the bigger cities. It would be interesting to see Retailers develop focussed databases to identify such prospects in partnerships with Travel companies?
  6. Power of campaign management in local languages: Many brands will want to predict which language is their user or subscriber more comfortable in. Of the 650 million users expected to be using Internet in India by 2020, over 61 per cent will be accessing it in local language, forming majority of the online population, according to technology giant Google. So traditional campaigns in English would not be as relevant as content created in local languages. Google research shows that over 44% of local language internet users find it hard to comprehend product descriptions in English.
  7. Marketing technology can play a powerful role in all of this. Bring on a seasoned Technology guy into your marketing function to create a Martech vision.