How mobile marketing helps brands reach and engage with rural audiences
The low prices of mobile devices and broadband have created huge potential for marketers to play their hunger games with vast, hitherto untapped audiences.
Representative image. AFP
India is a land full of marketing opportunities, a playground to learn, unlearn, experiment and build successful business cases. The land of diversity, a potpourri of cultures, a cauldron of hundreds of languages and many religions brewing together. India ties everything together in a common thread of values and ideologies, connecting the details between the old and the new. In all of this heterogeneity, the one thing that has created seamless coverage and brought the nation to a common platform is digitization. No other country has absorbed and embraced the internet and mobile technology like Indians have.
The low prices of mobile devices and broadband have created enormous potential for marketers to play their hunger games with vast, hitherto untapped audiences. This affordability and accessibility to new era technology has opened up a prospect of potential waiting to be unlocked. Mobile technology and growth have made India the sone-ki-chidiya (golden bird) again. It is a trader’s delight. Today, India is emerging as the fastest growing global mobile app market. Mobile apps help collect user data, which provides insight into consumer habits and gives brands the ability to micro-target audiences and create more personalized content.
With a strong mobile marketing strategy and growing mobile penetration in India (Deloitte research indicates that India had 1.2 billion mobile subscribers in 2021, including 750 million smartphone users and the smartphone market expected to reach 1 billion smartphones by 2026), a mobile-first strategy is the need of the hour! The pandemic has accelerated the whole digitization process. Rural and urban sectors, as well as booming sectors such as fin-tech, e-commerce, food delivery, pharmacy, ed-tech and many more have taken the plunge. Vernacular advertising, the use of augmented reality/virtual reality, mobile games and hyperlocal marketing are all new ways to target potential customers. According to a report published by The Next 10 – Artificial Intelligence, voice technology coupled with augmented reality, machine learning and AI are all poised to revolutionize the way brands can communicate with their audience. Digital payments have replaced all literacy limitations. Today, UPI and e-wallets such as Phonepe, Paytm, Google Pay, etc. increased transactions in all geographies. All you need is a bank account!
How Marketers Reach Rural Audiences
• Missed Call Marketing Campaign and Mobile Entertainment Channel: It works surprisingly well in India. In a country where more and more people are opting for prepaid mobile plans, missed calls are an economical way, when you have limited call minutes. Customers choose to choose advertisements by dialing a number on the screen and disconnecting before the call is connected. The marketer then starts sending text messages and other calls with advertisements and information.
Hindustan Unilever Kan Khajura Tesan Campaign was featured in the Harvard Business Review as a case study in missed calls and mobile entertainment strategy. They first tasted success with their “missed call” strategy for their popular Wheel laundry detergent. To gain more votes and gain more brand recall, they launched a mobile entertainment channel accessible via a toll-free number offering free music, movies, news and advertisements for select products. White Beauty, Close-Up and Wheel by Ponds gained spontaneous awareness and brand recall exploded with eight million new subscribers!
• Vernacular messaging: For a country that is home to 1.3 billion people, only 125 million people have an English-speaking base. This awareness, coupled with ubiquitous coverage of mobile technology, has boosted the interest and potential of regional language internet users in the country. Rural and urban populations are voracious consumers of information and content in their mother tongue. It is a lucrative market.
PEAT GmbH is a Germany-based company with a mobile app which is the world’s most downloadable app for farmers called Plantix. Farmers who are their customers have been able to obtain accurate diagnostics related to their crops and identify diseases. Plantix Mobile Kheti – the app has been customized for Indian farmers in Punjab and Telangana and created engagement games and engagement tools to match on-the-ground initiatives to gain better access to all farmers in these regions. Automatic push alerts help them connect with their communities and give them information on the latest in their industry. Vernacular messaging is an important factor enabling this revolution. Today, apps like Takatak, Moj, and Josh are among the successful players thanks to the regional messaging strategy that gave them widespread access across the country.
• Video ad consumption: Video ads are here to stay for the foreseeable future and with advancements in mobile technology and increased mobile usage, video ads are only going to grow. In India, the majority of rural people have access to smartphones. The majority of people in these regions are increasingly inclined towards OTT platforms. Therefore, video ads can help promote and attract customers. According to the Bain report released in 2021, online video consumption is set to skyrocket by 2025. It lags behind its global counterparts, but is growing at a very healthy rate of 24% per year.
• Location-targeting ads:
Micro-targeting is the way to go, and geo-targeting is just one way to reach niche audiences. This results in better messaging, relevant messaging, and improved ROI. It’s about getting the right messages to the right people at the right time. It helps businesses become locally relevant and helps marketers reach more people, increase brand penetration, and speak to rural audiences in a culturally relevant way.
• In-app advertisements:
Leveraging mobile ads as a marketing strategy has become imperative today. It accelerates people’s reach and engagement, increasing brand popularity and loyalty. In-app advertisements aim to connect with audiences in their comfort spaces. It targets people based on their likes or search history, making it easy for brands to identify and connect with the target audience. Displaying banner ads while using an app can improve audience engagement and persuasion. It can be both a time and effort saver for audiences and brands. India has about 65% of its population residing in rural areas.
Constituting the majority, it becomes essential for the government and entrepreneurs to reach out to them and involve them in the course of development and advancement. The easy availability of smartphones has contributed to digital empowerment and bought a paradigm shift in the rural digital market. Until now, missed calls and text messages have been a big part of mobile marketing. However, the increasing penetration of mobile phones and improved online access in rural areas have amplified market opportunities and business growth prospects. Social apps, entertainment apps, etc. have widely adopted the strategy of in-app advertisements in rural areas through which they appeal to a large number of eyeballs and target users.
Growth and participation are two sides of the same coin. Therefore, mobile marketers have focused on making rural consumers an essential part of the digital market. The deployment of mobile marketing in rural areas may be a likely solution to bridge the development gap between rural and urban strata. Mobile marketing has provided a strong platform for brands to reach rural audiences. As mobile usage increases, brands will have access to a large chunk of the rural population, and then it all depends on their ability to leverage it. Brands that do this well will ultimately enjoy the fruits of an engaging, loyal, and growing user base.
The author is Vice President, Globale Media. Views are personal.
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