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Guest Article: This Diwali, social media emerges as answer to ‘engage’

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Guest Article:  This Diwali, social media emerges as answer to ‘engage’

The festival of lights is soon approaching and consumers are itching to indulge themselves in fun, frolic, shopping and looking new. It’s a period of the year when every retailer and brand goes all-out on its sales strategy to achieve the toughest possible targets. With a rising number of brands and ever-rising mall culture in India, the biggest challenge for brands is to break the clutter in communicating its message to the consumer and eventually convert their indulgence into a buy. With the idiot box’s viewership levels inconsistent brands now have to travel uncharted territories of the digital space, which is gaining momentum through mobile devices and the advancements in mobile technologies.

‘Web on the go’ is the new mantra for the consumers today. Mobile devices and smartphones act as a natural extension of their Web browsing experience. Mobile phones have higher penetration than PC Internet in India and with a number of retail chains and brands using the mobile Web and applications as mini-storefronts, having an aggressive mobile merchandising strategy is becoming increasingly important to succeed and drive sales. Big screen touch phones and app stores (Blackberry App. World, Android market & Apple Store) are only filliping this cause.

Time sensitivity is the key in mobile merchandising because mobile users have less time and patience to browse and yet want to take advantage of offers and discounts. However, it is not always as easy to show things on the small screen of a mobile phone as it is to show on a computer browser. A mobile website should not simply repurpose a retailer’s original website. It should be made exclusively for mobile performance and navigation. It is essential to understand the consumers and their reasons for accessing your mobile Website. There is however no standardization in the rules that retailers must follow. A Website should reflect upon the unique persona of a brand’s consumer base. What is relatively consistent however is the mobile data usage pattern of the users… read, social media!

Social media experiences of users are the same across mobile devices and can be used as a tool to allow consumers in sharing their experiences, assessment or information on products and services. Major deals and discount days should be communicated through wall posts, which may be missed on the PC but not necessarily on a mobile phone. Consider using QR codes and enabling mobile phones to draw interest to deals that take place in-store. Retailers can even consider selling products on social media and add another dimension to achieving their targets. Launch ‘Facebook only’ offers, get users exposed to a brand and rely on the power of social influence to sell more!

Going deeper into the rabbit hole reveals that location-based services and geo-tagging is gaining its foothold in India with applications like Foursquare and Facebook Places. Geo-tagging applications can be used effectively when a consumer registers himself at a store location by providing mobile coupons and spot-deal information. With location-based social services retailers can also identify their most loyal consumers and make them feel special by rewarding them. Furthermore, with location pages brands and retailers can add tips for consumers at various locations. This information can be a brand’s way of sharing its expertise with its followers or engaging them around something more interesting. Leveraging on-shelf mobile bar codes will provide even greater access to product and inventory information when the consumer is in store – all at a push of a button.

Recently, Red Digital, launched India's biggest location based social networking initiative for its client Monginis using foursquare. The national launch kicked off with special offers across 447 Monginis outlets across India. This is the largest deployment of foursquare in India till date and with this strategy, Monginis is hoping to latch on to the location based social networking bandwagon which is already prevalent and popular in the western world. Users, through foursquare, can list their favorite food items and also add tips to the outlets they have visited.

A frequent visit by a particular customer to Monginis outlet helps him to earn points and also achieve the title of Mayor for that particular location. Mayors are the most loyal customers a brand can have, which is why Monginis has rolled out special rewards for the Mayor of each outlet and is also in the process of introducing check-in deals. Foursquare helps in gamification of a loyalty program, adding to the fun of collecting points by making the information public.
Mobile commerce and marketing is still in its infancy but combining social-media and gamification to present a brand will capitalize on the key elements of a mobile user’s experience in the future.

A recent statement by Assocham says that Indian companies have gauged the might of social networking & are spending over Rs 1,200 crore on digital media. Providing the consumer an opportunity to purchase while on the go could be the next big wave.

Brands and retailers need to plan such events and activities accordingly with their expert digital team to carry out the strategy seamlessly and most importantly keeping the consumer interested engaged throughout and even after the campaign. This continuous engagement of the consumers will result in a higher brand recall along with brand loyalty, which every brand wishes for.

(Yashraj Vakil is COO, Red Digital.)


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