Personalization most important pillar of mobile user experience

India Digital Review

India Digital Review’s Romit Bhattacharyya caught up with Bedi for a candid chat on digital marketing, the importance of social media in this space, IndiaMART’s game plan to consolidate its mobile traction, among a host of other things.

Sumit IndiaMART

Q. You recently said IndiaMART clocked a whopping 60% business from mobile. What will you attribute this traction to?

The growth in mobile devices, driven by the launch of low-cost smartphones coupled with the drop in cost of data plans has fundamentally changed the way consumers interact with platforms like us. Now, with 200 million mobile internet users and with 150 million of them on their smartphones for over 2 hours every day, Indian market presents an unprecedented opportunity. In Urban India, Mobile Internet user base has grown at a rate of 65% over last year resulting in mobile becoming the dominant platform for all the online marketplaces.

Q. In light of this development, how do you plan to take forward your mobile-first strategy?

Our approach is ‘consumer-first’ and that will never change. When mobile was just taking off in 2012-13, we launched our HTML site and started working on the Android app. Today, our mobile site is one of the fastest and our app is among the top business apps present across all the platforms – Android, iOS, Windows, Blackberry – nearing 3 million downloads.

Going forward, there will be an increased focus on personalization, which has become the most important pillar of mobile user experience. Mobile technology has brought personalization to the fore and brands need to give consumers content tailored to their interests, needs, and location to make the most of this technology. We are now investing heavily on offering personalized content and recommendations, along with location-based personalization for our buyers. We have just launched our latest version for Android with new UI, and the initial response is very encouraging.

For suppliers, the mobile platform will act as a combination of CRM & CMS tool, helping them manage their business with complete ease.

Q. How fruitful do you think is digital marketing in a country like India?

The already-online audience is the low hanging fruit for us. That is where digital marketing really helps. IndiaMART’s markeplace offers 3 crore products across 50-plus industries. So, we want to be the first brand in front of anyone who is looking for these products online. Apart from that, it helps us in building our brand among specific segments. Digital offers unparalleled targeting options for marketers whichever TG they are looking for. Example – Small business owners have higher affinity for news portals (especially vernacular ones), financial information sites, while gaming sites/apps have mostly users in the 15-24 age bracket.

Q. What are the main challenges you face in reaching out and engaging with the digital audience?

The ad inventory needs to be less intrusive for the user, especially on the small screens. With interstitials, forced slide-shows, page takeover ads and auto-start videos, advertisers are offered many options. But for the user, it can create an awkward experience and might eventually become a blind spot.

Digital, without doubt, remains the most measurable form of mass media and with the right metrics, it can provide marketers with much more insights than any other media. But due to excess ad inventory, wrong tactics by publishers and marketers to force feed ads down users’ throats, digital still has a long way to go.

Q. What is your total budget for marketing and promotions? How much of it is for digital?

This year, it will be around 35-40 crore, out of which 50% is on digital.

Q. How do you maximise the ROI on your marketing spends?

First step is to understand the media habits of our TG through online surveys and in-depth interviews. Second step is to look at the right metric(s) for each medium where we invest. For example, on the digital platform, it’s always an ongoing exercise to bring down the cost of acquisition/conversion, whether it is search engine marketing, driving app downloads, email marketing or display campaigns. Similarly, for social media, we look at cost per engagement as a key metric, apart from reach in the right audience set.

For all the offline campaigns, we measure ROI through jump in direct traffic, lift in the organic search traffic coming through brand keywords, and the brand health score post the campaign. We optimize our spends across media, so we pull the plug when any platform doesn’t meet our ROI expectations.

Q. How do you integrate your online and offline marketing efforts?

Here again we stick to our ‘çonsumer-first’ approach. In today’s world, no man is an island and neither should be a marketing campaign. It will make no sense if people visit you on Facebook or Twitter and everything about the brand is unrecognizable, from the ad they saw on TV or the spot they heard on the radio. This disconnect could turn people off, or even cause you to miss out on chances to engage with potential customers who encountered you on another channel.

All our offline bursts are planned in tandem with the digital platform, wherein we use our social media channels to build the buzz before our mass launch. This ensures that our message is consistent in front of our TG and even complementary wherever required or possible. The customer’s mind should perceive one seamless and coherent brand story. For example, we launched our campaign with Irrfan (Khan) first on YouTube, a week before going live on television. This not only helped build up buzz among the audience, but also gave us early feedback for the campaign.

Q. How much importance do you give to social media platform when it comes to marketing?

I believe brands who engage on social media channels enjoy higher loyalty from their customers and also the employees. It can surely help marketers build a brand and boost its credibility. But, one needs to be extremely cautious about the content strategy on social media channels and invest in building engaging content.

We use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram primarily for storytelling, whether it’s about our customer success stories, our ground events or even organisation culture. I think it really helps us ‘humanise’ our brand. We celebrated the milestone of reaching 1 lac premium customers (suppliers) with a social media campaign this quarter (#IBelieveinIM), and this will be now followed up with 10 stories next month, featuring real customers sharing their reasons to believe in IndiaMART.

Q. What kind of analytics or social media tools do you use?

We use hootsuite for social media management and social searcher/keyhole to keep an eye on the mentions we are getting across channels. Besides, Facebook insights is getting better every year, and helps us understand what our users like or dislike.

Q. What are some of the key marketing initiatives that you are most excited about?

IndiaMART is on an exciting growth path and we have to ensure that the brand story is in line with that. Though we had an early mover advantage, our salience was limited to a small base. Therefore, we started with awareness-driven mass campaigns last year. We will now take the conversation forward and highlight the impact our brand creates for the consumers. Our communication will focus on the emotional benefits rather than the functional ones, because brands that have a superior emotional benefit build a stronger relationship with consumers to a point where those brands have a higher market share, higher growth, more success and in the long-term, more profitability.