Rural India, home to more than 66% of the country’s population, represents an important consumer base for large companies. Today, it is no piece of cake to engage with this segment as they are value-conscious, brand conscious, opt for product & services that fuel their aspiration and is an extension to their social status.
With the availability of affordable smartphones, affordable internet tariffs, ubiquitous network connectivity, and access to information etc. in the rural market, these consumers conduct intense research before making their purchase decision and their behaviour is precipitously evolving.
Hence, for a success story in a rural market, it is utmost significant to focus on elements such as understanding the right target audience, developing a relevant product portfolio, designing a local & customised marketing strategy and choosing the right platform for communication to drive the brand’s business goals.
Step 1: Understanding the rural audience
Around 35% of the population in India is below the age group of 40 and are residing in rural and semi-urban geographies. This section of the audience due to income constraint, struggles to fulfill all their desires. Hence, aspires to experience products or services that are affordable, trendy, technologically advanced and eventually enhances their social status. This segment of consumers is mindful and intellectually evolved. Rather than aimlessly following brands, these consumers settle for their instructed choices and consider the option that offers the latest features with affordability, and reliability.
If we narrow down the psychographics of the target audience from itel’s perspective, currently a number 1 mobile phone brand under 5K in offline channels, this consumer segment is broadly partitioned in two types i.e. minimalists and aspirers. The minimalists are feature phone users and look forward to buying their first smartphone. While the aspirers are existing 3G or 4G smartphone users who are willing to upgrade to a better version with advanced looks, features and technology as it is their social status card.
Hence, it is of utmost significance to conduct meticulous research, gain insights on their behaviour and comprehend the target audience basis their need, demand, desires and aspiration quotient.
Step 2: Developing the relevant product portfolio
As the rural populace seeks value, affordability, and connects everything with his social status with the purchase of products & services, , it becomes increasingly important to develop a product which is relevant to their needs, desires, and aspirations.
For instance, in mobile phone industry, to cater value seeking attribute among this rural populace, handset manufacturers and service providers joined hands to offer bundle offers i.e. handset with a service offer comprising free mobile data and cashbacks.
Another instance from FMCG sector, India was always the promised land for FMCG with a sizeable population and pent up demand for products that were ‘value for money’. While higher costs, big quantity pack, poor distribution, and high landing costs kept this consumer away from these products. To transform this challenge into an opportunity, these brands brought sachet pack offerings which were ultra-affordable and had one-time use quantity. These two attributes of the offering not only drove the sales but also helped in evolving consumer preference and purchase behaviour.
Step 3: Create a customised marketing and communication strategy
Deep market penetration and understanding the consumers’ aspirations etc. while assuring a robust service promise are the key tenets for winning the rural consumer. The core principle here is to connect with the consumers in a way i.e. localised, relevant and personalised. Brands that take this mantle of responsibility stand out and build consideration or intention to purchase. A large part of this awareness is made via Point of Sales Merchandising, Shopfront Activations, On-ground engagement programmes through Market Storming, Nukkad Natak, local connect activities and festivals.
With this context, Transsion’ s sub brand itel has crafted a differential marketing strategy that varied from region to region, depending on consumer requirements, language and sensibilities with the right balance of conventional and unconventional marketing initiatives to ensure brand connect, saliency and visibility.
Step 4: Focus on the right medium to create connect
With the advent of internet in hinterlands, the rural market is constantly evolving. As per the inmobi research report, over the next five years, it is expected that 9 out of every 10 new Internet users in India are likely to prefer regional languages to access the Internet. Hence, it is important to ensure that consumers see the brand at the right touchpoints.
With regional conversations becoming a predominant trend, brands operating in the rural markets must work on regional centric merchandising to bring impact and engagement. Another important aspect for this segment is the use of newer and highly engaging digital entertainment platforms such as Tiktok, Likee and Helo apart from Facebook and Instagram. Other highly receptive platforms for awareness include Out of Home (OOH), Wall Painting and Retail visibility for building engagement in this region.
itel being a mass-market brand also caters to this segment with strong local connect activities which include association with entertainment sport like Kabaddi and participating meaningfully through l festivals like Kumbh Mela, Pongal, Onam, Makar Sankranti, Gudi Padwa, Kanwar Yatra, Shravani Mela, Baisakhi, Bihu, Rath Yatra, Ganesh Utsav, Navratri and many more across different states.
Rural India is a hyper-competitive and constantly evolving market. The segment is driven through aspirations and also high emotional connect. For their purchase decision, this segment seeks attributes such as Value, Relevance, Affordability, Service Assurance, Channel Recommendation and local connect with the brand. Seeing this trend, it is imperative for brands to meticulously craft a customised marketing strategy evaluating the actual target audience it is talking to, developing a relevant product portfolio, and choosing the right and most receptive communique platform.
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