Key digital lessons brands should take into 2014

The Indian mobile & internet market once again showed exponential growth in 2013

e4m by Abhinna Shreshtha
Updated: Dec 16, 2013 9:31 AM

The year is about to end and we have seen a flurry of research reports and surveys around the state of the digital domain in the country. As expected, India’s internet and mobile growth, along all parameters has been extraordinary. But with the digital medium poised for even rapid expansion in the coming years, there is still a lot that remains to be learnt.

As part of our year-end ‘Rewind’, exchange4media takes a look at a few digital trends that occurred in 2013 and what the focus areas for 2014. Even as advertisers adapt to the evolving digital ecosystem, new media platforms like digital, social and mobile are set to bring in a paradigm shift in the way marketing works in the future. From improving content to suit each medium’s particular nature to exploring new options on social media, 2014 is set to be an exciting year for brands and agencies alike. Let us take a look at some of these.

Be more aggressive in promoting online transactions
The latest Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI) report states that India has 209 million internet users, a number expected to reach 215 million by the end of the year. In fact, India is already going to overtake the US in terms of internet users in 2014 and be second only to China (which currently has around 300 million users). Though, driven primarily by mobile internet, internet usage in India has grown by 40 per cent in 2013, the number of active users who actually transact online is just 9 per cent. Though this will definitely grow, it is not growing as quickly as many would have hoped for. (For example, Ernst & Young predicts that online transactions will grow from 11 million in 2011 to 38 million in 2015, with success rates of online transactions hovering just around the 71-74 per cent mark.)

Companies need to ask themselves why more users are not transacting online; leaving aside the obvious issue of broadband penetration and reliability? Brands (especially e-commerce sites) will need to do more to educate people about e-commerce, which will help improve the entire digital ecosystem.  There seems to be an inherent fear among consumers, especially of the older generation, when it comes to transacting online. Creating marketing campaigns and brand tie-ups that allay these fears should be one of the priorities going forward.

Don’t follow the social media herd
The social media segment has also seen tremendous growth in India, in fact, the country recorded the fastest social networking growth in the world of 37.4 per cent in 2013 with the primary marketshare being taken by Facebook and Twitter. However, there are other social media platforms available too and these have their own advantages. For example, a recent global study showed that visitors on Tumblr (2.93 million users in India) spend an average of 14 minutes per visit, a minute and a half longer than an average Facebook visit and a few minutes longer than the average Twitter visit, which begs the question, why are we not exploring other social media platforms?

When it comes to social media marketing, most brands and, to be honest, most digital agencies do not think beyond Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube. The rationale behind this is understandable, after all, brands will want to concentrate their campaigns on the most popular platforms, but it is also necessary that brands become more tactical about their social media strategy. For example, a camera manufacturer might have better consumer connect if it is more active on Pinterest or Instagram, than, say, Twitter. Brands will have to decide which platform best suits their image and their needs and then craft a suitable marketing plan, instead of blindly following the herd.

Innovation will be key
The new media (social, digital and mobile) are expected to be the platforms that will drive the next level of advertising growth in the coming years. For marketers, there could not be better news. All three platforms are interconnected and have tremendous scope for innovative campaigns. Digital agencies need to appreciate though that what works for one might not work for the other. Experimentation and providing relevant content for the medium will prove a differentiator between how successful or not a campaign is.

For example, on the digital front, ads can be audio-visual, instead of static banners every time. Mobile ads could take advantage of the touchscreen smartphone’s ability to pinch and swipe images. Create the right content for the right medium should be the mantra for advertisers and this can only come with an in-depth understanding of the medium’s potential.

Separate digital from the mobile
We have spoken a lot about this recently and for good reason. With mobile marketing currently the fastest growing marketing segment globally (A Pitch-Madison report in 2013 predicted that mobile ad spends in India are slated to grow over 43 per cent to reach Rs 430 crore in 2014) and smartphones ubiquitous across geographies; from Tier I cities to Tier III towns, it is time for advertisers to take advantage of the unique opportunities that mobile offers. Better content, more targeted campaigns will help.

Some brands have made use of the ‘missed call’ as an audience attractor; this is a great idea and uniquely suited to the Indian consumer’s mindset. What the mobile segment needs is more such innovative concepts. Don’t restrict yourself to traditional digital inventory like banner ads, etc., there is a lot more to explore. Can WhatsApp be used for brand promotions? It currently has 20 million+ active users in India and a push-to-talk (PTT) feature to boot. Can brands create interesting audio virals on it? Every idea may not be practical but as we mentioned in the earlier point, it is time to think out of the box.

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