Just a couple of decades ago, entire villages would have been lucky to have a working landline nearby. Today, residents of those same rural communities are texting their friends on WhatsApp every day. As life goes digital, tier 2 and 3 cities won’t be left behind.
There has been a general increase in the income of consumers living away from metros. This, coupled with vastly lower cellphone and data prices in the last two years, has made it easier to access the internet.
Long after our metros have become saturated with users, swathes of rural consumers are coming online for the very first time. They are now exposed to connectivity, content and choices, and it would be foolish for brands and marketers to ignore this untapped digital goldmine.
Not all Indians are the same, but what does that mean?
We can’t just shift our attention from the cities to the villages and expect everything to fit. What works in South Delhi won’t work in Sawantwadi. Aside from the vast differences in average income and lifestyle choices, there is the language barrier.
According to a Google KPMG report in 2017, India will have 745 million internet users by 2021, but only 199 million will read English content. To demonstrate that further, only 42% of Indian internet users in 2016 were consuming English content. By 2021, that ratio will drop to around 27%.
How can brands bridge the gap?
If marketers want to exploit the opportunities in tier 2 and 3 cities, they are going to have to lean more on regional content and languages. But that means first understanding the factors that determine consumer behaviour in these regions.
And that is just language. The platform is also an important tile in the mosaic. Brands are starting to understand that these newer netizens place a great deal of value in traditional cable connections and social media, and are customising communication accordingly. It is why Facebook has been stepping up its hyperlocal campaigns reaching out to smaller cities.
Targeting consumers with vernacular content
Regional content plays a very important role when it comes to consumer behaviour in small towns and cities. When marketers can embrace vernacular content, users can explore the medium in a more organic way rather than having the choice forced on them.
Regional content accessed online can be classified into:
- Information and learning
- Ecommerce and utility
- Social media and messaging
Here, smaller text pieces and snackable videos are preferred for effortless consumption. News aggregators like DailyHunt, NewsPoint and InShorts have high appeal, not just because they fit this mould but also thanks to their variety, regional focus and easy navigation.
Vernacular content is still in an exploratory stage, including but not without results. TikTok was exceedingly popular in tier 2 and 3 cities until its ban, and streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar and Prime Video are investing in regional content. YouTube has seen growth in these regions as well, especially with respect to entertainment avenues like T-Series.
Vocal for Local
Another easy entry point for marketers is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign, which pushes for Indians to buy FMCG products locally and for Indian brands to bring themselves level with international counterparts.
It is a great time for marketers to engage with consumers on a hyperlocal scale, using vernacular ads and social media.
All these gears need to fit together for a brand to create traction in the growing digital space. Leave one piece out and you are going to be left spinning your wheels in the dust.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
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