`Go vernacular’ in promotions: Not for all markets?
By : Sagar Mehta
According to the latest data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), there are over 968 million mobile phone subscriptions. Indians who list English as their primary, second or third language, as per the Census of 2011, numbers a mere 125 million. This would imply that there is a massive market for local language texting in India.
The SMS has been dubbed as `the cheapest, quickest, easiest form of peer-to-peer mobile communication’. It is easy to assume that communication in ‘vernacular languages’ through SMS in India might be a big thing. However, this assumption is far from reality.
Flytxt recently conducted an analysis to understand efficacy of using regional languages over English while promoting telecom products through SMS channel. Product uptake by customers who were communicated to in English was compared to the product uptake by customers who were communicated to in local language.
Vernacular language support by handsets, languages preferred by the customer handset capability to decipher vernacular language, preferred language at customer support apart from a few other conditions were taken into consideration before targeting customers.
Region wise distribution of conversions following campaigns in vernacular languages
It was observed that communication in vernacular language had a bigger impact in circles like UP, Rajasthan, Orissa, Bihar & Andhra Pradesh. It should be noted that these circles have had literacy levels lower than the national average.
In contrast, circles with higher literacy levels – Gujarat, Maharashtra (including Mumbai), Tamil Nadu and Kerala had less impactful campaigns in vernacular language. Users were able to take notice of the telecom product offerings from the SMSs even if they were not completely comfortable with English.
India has always had a huge variance in literacy levels across its states. While literacy rate is not exactly an indicator of knowledge of English language, the details above suggest that the performance of campaigns in vernacular language has been significantly better in regions having lower literacy rates than the ones with higher literacy rates.
SMS communication has seen significant growth despite a stiff competition from other communication channels – from email and instant messaging to over-the-top content messaging apps. The biggest strength of SMS is its ubiquity. It is reachable to anybody with a mobile number and is not reliant on high speed internet.
Also, a large number of handsets in India today are embedded with predictive text software in vernacular languages. Hence, SMS Communication in vernacular language was considered to be an important tool for driving telecom product uptakes, until a few years back. However, the Flytxt analysis clearly states that it’s not the case anymore.