The most recent estimates from entities like the World Bank are that nearly 65% of India’s population still dwells in its rural areas. However, the narrative of rural life has changed in India over the past few years. Today, the rural economy of India is a booming ecosystem spanning a magnitude of diverse business domains, rich job markets, and superior connectivity. Being rural is no longer equated with being without means or having inferior living conditions in India. While the pandemic drove a contraction in the nation’s economy, the agriculture sector, a mainstay of the rural sector, actually grew by 3.63%.
The digital wave in India has made its presence felt in the rural market as well. The large-scale adaptation of smartphones with 4G connectivity, driven by cheap mobile data plans, has led to a rising population of digital-savvy consumers. It does seem that when compared to urban areas, the population’s spending power may be less. However, with the economy of scale, brands can reap rich returns by following an inclusive strategy that onboards new customers from Bharat. Having said that, it’s clear enough that going after them with digital strategies like those followed in urban areas will not yield effective results.
For India’s rural market, businesses must follow a different path to drive their digital plans.
Let us have a closer look at four ways in which digital strategies for rural markets must be different in India:
While urban consumers already have their fair share of knowledge about the products or services they want to consume, there is still a considerable lag in the learning curve for rural customers. Especially when it comes to innovative new areas, they are likely to have never heard of even the category of the product being advertised. Hence it is essential for brand building and advertising campaigns to focus on creating awareness of not just a brand’s product or service but the more significant cause it stands for and how it will make the lives of the consumers better. They can then spin narratives around such awareness themes and distribute ad content across the digital channels their target customers frequently use. Digital communications may have to be slanted towards education, awareness creation, and information to help in the formation of new habits. In this context, the choice of digital channels and media combinations will become crucial to ensure visibility, uptake, and resonance.
India is a hotbed of linguistic and cultural diversity, and rural areas are best at preserving the diversity in their hearts. While the urban population tends to adapt to international market trends and buying options that brands bring to them, the rural population may well want the messaging and narrative to be localized and offered in flavors that suit their own geographical and cultural preferences. In the case of digital ads, linguistic localization strategies should be prioritized to push digital ads specific to a target area or community in their most preferred local language. As possible, brands could look to drive another level of personalization by adapting nuances and variations in local slang or dialect along with localizing the messaging. This will complicate the marketing mix and selection from the basket of available options. This is where intelligent tech-led platforms could help make a choice faster and the delivery easier.
Newer forms of personalization
In the rural market, the target consumers are likely to have different preferences in devices, the time and manner in which they access the internet or social media, and the products they would invest in depending on various local and regional factors. Factors such as unregulated job shift timings, the speed of the internet, and less powerful smartphones dictate media consumption preferences. While literacy rates are rising, it’s a fact that rural areas are less literate in the aggregate than urban areas by a statistically significant degree. Factors like these will have to be folded into the communication strategy to build a new personalization landscape. Knowing the customer segments up close will become critical. Creating look-alike audiences and smaller cohorts will become necessary. That may prove essential to help brands penetrate rural markets with their digital strategies.
The ROI from digital advertising for rural markets can take time to mature. It is therefore important to invest diligently and scale-up promotional campaigns in a carefully calibrated manner. To do this, brands need to use digital platforms that offer more targeted personalization, improve capturing of market feedback, and incorporate input into their content and engagement initiatives. They require rich analytics and robust reporting capabilities to help provide transparent visibility into the metrics the various campaigns have been designed to achieve. While urban markets also need a continuous evaluation of their campaigns and the feedback it generates, the volume and pace will vary in the rural markets. Brands may need to prepare for a longer duration of campaigns to leverage maximum returns rather than focusing on quick results from multiple campaigns in short intervals.
Rural India offers a challenging yet promising landscape for brands and advertising agencies to hit the right note in the minds of millions. It is no longer possible to ignore their needs. That being so, it is now necessary to dedicate efforts and resources to target small-town India. With patience, the right strategy, and a solid tech-led messaging and media approach, brands can create ad experiences for the digital-savvy rural consumer and reap benefits in a growing market. Get in touch with us to know how you can reach this exciting new market.