Victoria Greene is an e-commerce marketing expert and freelance writer who understands the value of targeted market research. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.
Published in June 2018
We live in an increasingly-interconnected world, and the unstoppable march of technology continues to open up business avenues that would have seemed insurmountably challenging just a handful of years ago.
As a result, forward-thinking enterprises (particularly those in the e-commerce sector) are looking out across the globe for new opportunities and markets to embrace — and they’re finding incredible potential in rapidly-growing economies.
One such economy is that of India, and it’s a prospect that’s hard to ignore. After all, its population is predicted to top that of China (the current leader) by 2024, and its growing level of internet use will see the value of its e-commerce market exceed $50 billion by the end of 2018.
But with new markets come new challenges, and businesses must adapt to fit their circumstances. If you plan to expand an online store into the Indian e-commerce market, you need to adjust your marketing accordingly.
Let’s look at what you should consider.
Cultural and Economic Diversity Are Linked
It’s common for people to unknowingly assume that there is some kind of monolithic Indian culture, but it couldn’t be further from the case. In truth, there’s a huge degree of cultural variation across the numerous regions of India, and you’ll see a big difference in the preferences of the consumers living within them.
Think of an economy with abundance but a significant disparity between the big cities and the rural communities. Those living in cities will earn fairly well, have great access to luxury goods, and be more optimistic about future financial prospects, while those living in rural areas will be relatively frugal, concerned about money, and attached to traditional cultural norms.
The lesson here is that a good advertising campaign will need to take user segmentation very seriously. Target the wrong consumer types with the wrong ads and you’ll see exceptionally underwhelming results, but get it right and you’ll be in good stead.
Up-selling Is Viable In Rural Areas
We’ve looked at how the difference in circumstances and affluence affect the spending habits of Indian consumers, but it’s worthwhile to consider that the have-nots are eager to adopt the purchasing habits of the haves given the opportunity.
“Our survey suggests that 30% of consumers in India are willing to spend more on products that they perceive are “better”—a much higher percentage than is found in more developed markets such as the US, Germany, and the UK.” (source here).
As the consumers of the most upmarket areas offer up large sums of money to get hold of deluxe products, their worse-off compatriots can be convinced to spend more to acquire ‘better’ products in an effort to join that part of society.
In that vein, try to work upselling into your marketing strategy. Always give an option to upgrade, get the next product up; it will potentially help your sales in poorer regions. Just be mindful not to push it too far, as budgets can rarely be stretched all that much. Try employing some of the tactics recommended by Kissmetrics.
Time And Convenience Are Valued Very Highly
According to a survey done between 2014 and 2016, convenience is now rated as the main factor affecting purchasing choices in India, overtaking price and signalling a huge shift in consumer preferences. The more people buy things online, the more they will find lengthy purchasing processes hard to tolerate, and choose availability and reliable delivery over cheap but questionably-trustworthy sites.
A major contributing factor to this is that India has fairly high levels of workplace stress (14th on this list, notably), and stressed workers are in far more of a hurry to get everyday tasks done quickly so that they may make the most of their free time.
The lesson to learn from this is that a poor user interface design or inconvenient marketing structure will likely produce poor results— even more so than could be expected in a market of more relaxed workers. Is your website mobile-friendly? If Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test flags up issues, you should invest in some design work before you proceed.
There Are Many Regional Holidays
Given the sheer size and variety of the population, and the great number of regions, it shouldn’t be too surprising that there are numerous public holidays, mainly of a religious nature, both national and regional— but the actual lineup is still quite surprising if you’re used to a more stripped-down secular array, with not many fewer than 200 holidays if you account for both varieties (as compared to just 13 or so for the United States).
Does this mean that very little work gets done? No, of course not; a large majority of the holidays listed are of the regional variety. But it does make regional selling and promotion enormously more complex.
Whether you view that as positive or negative will depend on how able and willing you are to turn it to your advantage. You could use location-based automation triggers to distribute promotional emails based on specific holidays and festivals, for instance. And there’s plenty of opportunity to create customized landing pages and product selections for different audiences, especially if you opt for a scalable online store like Shopify that will rapidly adapt to meet demand on a global scale.
Locally-Sourced Products Are Prized
There’s a tendency in the western world to imagine that less-developed parts of the world are so transfixed by their technologies and cultural advances that they will flock towards imported goods, be they electronics devices, foodstuffs, or items of clothing. And perhaps this was once the case, but it’s far more questionable today, with 60% of Indians surveyed being willing to pay a premium for Indian-made goods.
This resurgent interest in area traditions (and pride in cultural heritage at a commercial level) is generating sales in locally-sourced products that are more eco-friendly and— for lack of a better term—respectful of history. It’s really much the same as the trend in many other countries towards commerce with an openly ethical stance.
What this means for your advertising is that you need to do plenty of research and avoid assumptions that products from more-established markets will automatically succeed. You will also want to reflect cultural trends in the copy you write for your products and ads.
With the massive growth of the Indian market, there’s certainly a huge opportunity there for an enterprising e-commerce store to branch out, establish a foothold, and take advantage of the flowing currency— but, as we’ve seen, it isn’t as simple as running a few ads and watching the profits soar.
To effectively sell to Indian consumers, you need to understand their routines, their wants and needs, their aspirations, their pain points, and especially their cultural leanings. Do that and you’ll reap the benefits.
If you need more help planning your entry & expansion into India through e-commerce, Maier+Vidorno’s comprehensive E-commerce Solution can get you moving in the right direction. Good luck!