Brands need to think about innovative ways in which they can help consumers have a healthier relationship with technology and create initiatives for consumers to fill their idle time away from digital devices writes Sanjeev Jasani, Head Digital, Cheil India.
Recently I read this interesting quote on twitter. I don’t remember who wrote it but the line stuck with me. It said “In the Digital World, make an impression, don’t buy them.” I’ve been thinking about this from then. Today there are all sorts of technologies available to help you grab the consumer’s eyeballs. But are we getting fixated on technology and missing the real point?
Today, it’s not technology that is changing our worlds; it’s the dream behind the technology. What matters most are actually the supercharged lifestyles – the dreams – that technology enables. Because in the end, consumerism is still (and always will be) about people and their fundamental needs and wants.
I’m not going to talk about the obvious. You already know that and probably better than me. I just don’t want marketers to forget that no matter what the medium, the insights will never change. It’s not about the technology but what we can do with it to solve consumer needs.
TREND #1 – MORE THAN MESSAGING
Look around you. People are so entrenched on messaging apps. It’s become a remote control for day-to-day living. Whatsapp is a dominant force in our lives today; but where is the opportunity? Stop, think a while. And maybe you may find the answer there.
In a recent visit to China I was amazed to see how WeChat has become an integral part of people’s lives. But more importantly how the ecosystem around the messaging app was expanding so quickly. Brands have integrated into it. Mobile wallets are built onto it. Infact, I don’t think we can call it a messaging app anymore.
Today consumer expectations have increased beyond stickers and chat. They want more. Smart brands are responding by using messaging apps not simply as shopping and content channels, but to offer lifestyle solutions, solve social issues, provide financial services, and ultimately make individual and community life better.
That’s the opportunity I’m talking about. India is on the edge of this change. We will soon see brands integrate into Watsapp and allow people to transact right through it. The question is which brand will make the first move?
August 2014 saw the Delhi Police Department launch an anti-corruption helpline encouraging citizens to register complaints via WhatsApp. The initiative allows members of the public to send in audio or video clips if they witness officers seeking bribes or harassing people.
This trend spells massive opportunity. How to apply? Partner with the messaging platforms your target audience is already using. Think about how you can make familiar processes easier and faster, offer content that's genuinely new, or provide useful new information. And yes, the same thinking can be applied to other social platforms, too. See how Kotak Mahindra Bank launched a Twitter-based savings account in India.
TREND #2 - DISCOVERY DIRECTORIES
Today you ask anyone in the communications business and they will tell you about Social Media. Kids have started making a profession out of this. Brands now know the importance of it. And it finds a prime place on every media plan today. But what does that mean for us. Let’s ask ourselves, “what do people do on Social?” They connect with one another, seek opinion and even use it to explore new stuff. You will be amazed that today you are more likely to believe a total strangers recommendation on social than believe what a brand says.
This rise of online culture and e-commerce has blurred the boundaries that previously defined the consumer arena. That means all kinds of new products and services, suppliers and marketplaces, as well as the ability to organize access to resources in new ways and with so much choice now available, new directories and platforms are springing up to help consumers navigate the consumption-sphere. That means better decisions, with minimum effort.
This gives birth to aggregator apps like HandyHome. An app that aggregates the service centers of various home appliance brands in India. When an appliance is in need of repair, users can go to the app, select appliance details from a drop-down menu. HandyHome then sends a trained member of staff at the requested service time.
Another interesting India-based app GottaGo generates a list of nearby accessible restrooms that are clean and hygienic. Users can also search for restrooms based on street or place names. As of July 2015, the free app listed over 10,000 restrooms, mapped across public places in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and Jaipur.
Think about everyday pain points where consumers need information but do not want to invest time and effort on the search process. Create directories for the most unlikely services, from public toilets and parking spaces, blood groups etc. then go one step further and facilitate instant purchase!
TREND #3 - BOTTOM OF THE SMART PYRAMID
Let’s not forget that we are a developing nation. And like most developing nations, a large part of the population resides in rural areas. I have been fascinated by the way people in rural India have been innovating and driving digital.
Now, the Asian BOP is making use of cutting-edge technologies that can solve shared problems, make people safer and improve quality of life. Fishermen using satellite tech to locate the best haul, anyone? So when you're thinking about tech innovations for BOP consumers – think smart.
I was particularly excited with the project called ‘Khushi’. Khushi is a smart necklace designed for infants in the developing world, starting in India. The USD 25 necklace includes an NFC chip that can be quickly scanned by community health workers to find out which immunizations are needed by the child. The device replaces traditional vaccination logbooks which are slow to search and often incomplete.
Another project I was excited about was “The Escalator Project”. An initiative from K Raheja Corp providing rural homes with electric lights. The Indian real estate group provided 50 homes with lamps using rechargeable batteries which could be charged via dynamos in escalators at the K Raheja Corp-owned InOrbit Mall. Charged batteries are swapped each week, in order to ensure a consistent supply of light.
Can you use simple technology to create meaningful innovations that solve real issues in India's emerging markets? The current pollution problem? Anyone listening?
TREND #4 - DIGITAL DISCIPLINE
Off late I’ve been trying to get my son to stay away from the iPad, the phone, the TV and technology in general. The fear being that he is beginning to become a couch potato and not have enough human interactions. I’m very sure I’m not the only one who feels like this. Technology has surrounded us. Do we need a digital detox? Or maybe we just need some discipline.
Of course, for most consumers switching off entirely – even for a few days – just isn't an option. So now, innovative brands are helping consumers cultivate healthier relationships with their digital devices, instead of depriving them altogether.
I’m a big fan of McDonald's and the kind of work they do in India. In April this year, McDonald’s India launched a campaign to inspire people to 'Share quality offline moments'. The campaign encouraged customers to connect with friends and family offline, and spread the word with the #KuchPalOffline hashtag. Anyone using the hashtag online was automatically entered into a draw to win a day-long adventure trip with their friends. The campaign’s TV ad shows young people choosing to place their cellphones upside down and start a conversation with their friends.
Today, brands will need to think about innovative ways in which they can help consumers have a healthier relationship with technology. Creating initiatives for consumers to fill their idle time away from digital devices.
In conclusion, trends are useless, unless you think about how to apply them. I am no digital guru and a lot of people might think I am crazy but let me say this to you “Focus on your consumer changing needs and see how you can use technology to address these needs.”