Are marketers ready to adapt with the shifting mobile consumer base?
By : Prabhat Ranjan
Deputy Manager – MIS and Data Analyst
India’s mobile consumer base has reached the one billion mark (second only to China), according to a recent study by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. India currently has a smartphone user base of over 300 million and the number is likely to grow in the following years. In 2013, there were approximately 170 million internet users in India. This number has grown to 580 million – a whopping 30 percent, year on year. Even the rural India internet user base is expecting staggering growth and is estimated to touch 280 million by 2018.
Source: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)
The likely key drivers to the internet usage growth include high smartphone penetration, expansion to smaller towns/rural India, increase in affordability due to lower cost, data-enabled handsets and an overall increase in awareness around the potential of internet and the services thereof. The growth in data usage and access to affordable data packs on mobile will drive millions of Indians to do business, get social and participate in governance through their hand-held devices. This growth will also usher in a change in the user ecosystem.
Another tectonic shift
As the mobile internet user universe continues to expand, there will be a considerable shift in the user demographics like age, gender and also geography. Female audiences belonging to the rural communities will have greater exposure to the mobile internet experience.
So far, the growth of the internet user has largely been driven by the Indian youth who have been at the forefront of adopting the online and mobile-centric lifestyle. Even as these young evangelists grow older, they will continue to be active users, boosting the ranks of internet users aged over 25 years. As per the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) report, by the end of 2018, users under the age of 25 years will account for 54 per cent of the total number of netizens in urban India, up from 40 per cent in 2013. With older Internet users having more disposable income, they will be more likely to transact online creating business opportunities for e-commerce players and other service providers.
Source: Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI)
Reaching to ‘connected women’
India’s internet users over the previous years is clearly and quite overwhelmingly skewed in favour of males with females accounting for a meagre 25 per cent of the total user base in 2013.However, this vital aspect of the demographics playbook will also change dramatically, with women expected to constitute almost 33 per cent of the overall online population by 2018.
Considering that women control 44 per cent of the total household spend in India, the increasing parity in gender ratios will have a major bearing on the Internet economy – in terms of marketing campaigns and other services directed at women. Companies that cater to products in the categories of groceries, health, well-being & hygiene among others will want to engage with this audience.
New segments logging in
The Internet class of 2018 will be more from the rural sectors, older, more mobile with lesser gender disparity than their predecessors. This class will open up significant growth opportunities for manufacturers and service providers alike, which can leverage the wider, targeted and more cost-optimal online channels effectively to cater to an increasingly Internet savvy customer base who is a part of this tectonic shift.
While there are endless possibilities and the future looks bright, a lot of things need to be taken care of. The most crucial link is the wide availability of high-speed internet and low-cost devices in the far-reaching rural areas of the country coupled with providing internet education and training to the masses.
Adapt to tap new opportunities
Internet usage in the rural areas of India and among women is on the rise. While e-commerce industry is still in its infancy in rural markets, it is increasing at a rapid pace. The digital medium has a significant influence on the purchasing decisions of the users. India’s marketers need to take all these factors into account and plan now for a bigger, dynamic and an even more complex digital marketplace.
While the choices for users in Indian metros are reaching a near saturation point, it is time to reach out to rural users which have almost always faced a dearth of premium services and an overall lack of availability of wide choices at their disposal. These customers who are undergoing an identity makeover have the money power and are definitely entitled to premium services such as online entertainment, state of the art ad tech and fin tech services , and even the ‘new retailing’ which is a convergence of online and offline retail, all of it at par with what their predecessors have almost always got.