Sunday, 11 June 2017

EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING TECHNIQUE – AN EPITOME OF RURAL MARKETING IN INDIA



INTRODUCTION
           After entering into the reorganized economic condition, traditional business concepts and strategies became obsolete and the entire business scenario is facing a new kind of reform in which people are provided with vast opportunities to choose the product or services they want. Technology is the major player which opened the continuum of collecting ideas, gathering knowledge and sharing of knowledge and ideas with people around the world.  Even though technology paves a smooth way to identify, observe and understand the product and service offerings, consumers’ mindset remains stagnant when they are practically approached by the marketers. For consumers “Features” and “Benefits” are no more the deciding factors. The rationality in consumers is slowly dominated by polished emotional elements.  For marketers, it has been a toughest job to identify the emotional state of people to design a marketing strategy. There was a time when the marketers uplifted the features and benefits of their brands in all the promotional activities and gained customers rapidly. But due to societal changes and technological breakthroughs people are no longer interested in hearing the marketers’ shouting loud on the brand’s features and benefits. Most of the marketers have convergent thinking and apply the concept of rule of thumb which will not produce any answers for questions like
i) How to take my brand to the people?
ii) How to make them remember my brand?
iii) How to convert the prospects into customers and then to brand evangelists?
To arrive with effective answers the marketers should be divergent thinkers and should possess perceptual fluency. Because convergent thinkers are more likely to skip the emotional state of people. Now there arises another big question, what is the relationship between emotion and marketing a product or service? Eventually there is a great relationship. Emotions are the greatest factors which make every human to act, react and affect. If a person is emotionally connected with something it will be very hard to forget and get rid of it.  So if a marketer is smart enough to capture the emotional elements of the target customers it will be easier to connect the brand with them. And if the brand is tied up emotionally with the people there is a high chance for the brand to capture a place in their minds. The process of connecting the brand with the target customers is called as experiential marketing.
Most of the marketers say that putting customers first in all aspects of business will create a good customer experience. For example: Timely response to customer inquiries, faster service, round the clock services etc, which are only rational in nature and will not give haunting, evergreen and live brand experience. More than half of the customer experience is subconscious or subliminal and how a customer feels. 

THE RURAL SEGMENT
Almost 83.3% of people in India live in rural areas with betterment of economic and social transformation, which is the only proof that the rural segments show brighter signals to companies and attract most of the business concerns to concentrate on rural market. The rural market is considerably expanding to an extent which created confidence in the marketers to focus more on the rural segment. However the rural market needs separate concentration, examination and identification as it significantly differs from the urban market. Dealing with rural consumers requires good understanding and clear ideas on the total living pattern and buying behavior.

 
Source : (E-Estimate) AC Nielsen, TechSci Research, Dabur Reports.

WHO ARE RURAL CUSTOMERS?
Rural customers have some attributes which are totally different from urban customers.

ON THE BASIS OF BASIC IDENTIFICATION

  • People with low literacy level.
  • Homogeneous in type.
  • Highly traditional in nature which steadily influence the buying and consumption habit.
  •   Agriculture is the main occupation.
  •  Highly routine in nature. I.e. they tend to work even on Sundays.
  •   One fourth of the rural segment is with low per capita income. But increasing steadily.
  •  Have good savings habit, but in an unorganized manner.

ON THE BASIS OF MARKETERS’ PERSPECTIVE

  • With low shopping frequency.
  •   Not brand addicted, but have great a sense of cost effectiveness on products they buy. Hence they are not brand loyalists.
  •  Totally trust on word of mouth of people who previously used a product or consumed a service.
  •   Highly price conscious.
  •  Durability of products matters a lot.
  • Not attracted towards stylized glorification of products or services.

OUTLINE OF EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING
Experiential marketing is a tool or strategy which creates live brand experience that allows the consumers to feel the brand and create a thick bond. It is an approach to make the brand reach the consumers through real time two way interactions. Consumers are engaged during the marketing process through any form of (live) events which acts as a platform to interact with the brand. Generally activities are conducted as a motive to create live brand experiences through interactive sensory connections. Consumers are completely focused and engaged in a manner so that a pure form of brand remembrance becomes highly possible. The consumers are made to get emotionally connected with the brand.

EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING FRAMEWORK
Experiential marketing involves in creating an avenue to make the consumers get really closer to the brand through some of the stimulus (Physical or Virtual) which results in positive enquiry. When the consumers get closer to the brand they initially tend to know about the brand (Features and Benefits) but only have assumption and not real experience. Then the perceptual and sensory system of the consumers gets slowly activated through activities and complete knowledge about the brand is perceived. And the end process deals with feedback from the consumers who experienced the brand which results in lead generation.


SCOPE AND APPLICATION
1. As Experiential marketing never enclose any information about the price and technical description about the brand at the initial stage, the rural consumers first tend to experience the brand lively and then decide the value of the brand on their own. So, if the brand really meet or exceed their expectations it can be assumed that the product is worthy for a rural consumer. 
                        Assumption: Marketers can evaluate their brand more effectively.
2. When the rural consumers try the product with some extra activities, they never forget it as the campaign will create real time flaunting experience. When the consumers are engaged effectively they emotionally get closer with the brand and will identify the brand even after decades whenever they see or hear it.
                        Assumption: No special effort is needed to place the brand identity in the minds of rural consumers. Moreover there is a chance that remembering the activity may result in the remembrance of the brand.
3. The reality of the brand (Attributes, Features and Benefits) will be directly experienced by the rural consumers. So, the brand is taken very closer to the consumers without huge investment and effort. All the campaign need is an only good sales personnel team, and great activities.
                        Assumption: Taking the brand very close to the rural consumers effectively with seamless effort.
4. As the brand it taken directly to the rural consumers, they will never hesitate to test it and give feedback. So, the perceptions of the rural consumers can be easily noted at a shorter period of time. There is a possibility to measure the intensity of the “likeable or dislikeable” .
                        Assumption: The brand value can be evaluated more effectively as the feedbacks are given only after pure experience with the brand. This help in developing the brand image and take the brand to the next level or the marketer can clearly understand the pit falls of the performance of the brand.
5. The experience of the rural consumers with the brand will be exclusively different. So the marketer can analyze what type of experience can be provided and how it can be provided with a new appeal.
                        Assumption: Instead of concerned with developing the same benefits for a brand the marketer can think of adding new attributes and create value to the brand.
6. When the rural consumers gain some wonderful experience the message of such events will surely be conveyed and shared with the rest of the people around the vicinity. Brand information will be transformed quickly to others who may turn into prospective consumers.
                        Assumption: The messages are transferred in a rapid phase. The company can save promotional cost up to an extent. More over the reachability of the brand image to a larger geography becomes simple but effective. 

CONCLUSION
If a brand is experience oriented and if the brand is emotionally connected with the consumers then it is always considered as unique, and the brand will surely take a place in the minds of rural consumers. The marketers can focus on long term trends and expand their views on adding more values to the users. The experiential marketing strategy is non conventional in nature. Hence it can be applied to any type of product and service offerings. When a company adopts the experiential marketing strategy it can focus on long term sustainability.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

INTER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IN THE HYPER-COMPETITIVE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT



INTER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IN THE HYPER-COMPETITIVE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
 

INTRODUCTION
We are entering into a new century of business where people want everything different, even the way they feel, express and act has tremendously changed. But the basic human nature remains the same and that is the only evidence that we still possess emotions with which we react and affect. Nothing can change the possession of emotions, but the way it is expressed has been changing from time to time. And this is the time where people started sharing everything digitally. The role played by humans, decades back, is no more alive and there is less space for human interactions which included tactile senses. Social media have occupied most of the spaces of humans, and the emotions and feelings have become illusory in nature. Imagination acts as the driving force for perceiving anything as emotions are understood only with texts, pictures, and clippings or snipping. 

SOCIAL MEDIA AND BUSINESS
For a business, social media play a vital role for promoting the product or service offerings. Most of the business concerns are highly considering and concentrating on social media while developing marketing strategies and even started allocating resource to be alive in social medias. From the stage of taking a brand to people (promotional activities) and getting feedback after consumption is no more a hectic job as it is highly possible through social media. Grabbing the attention of people is much easier through social media, but at the same time social media also act as a severe dose for those who do not understand it before getting inside it.
                                                               



 The communicator: Social media platforms are merely the substitutes for word of mouth as it is growing rapidly in developing countries. Ideas and opinions once shared through social media are viewed by casual participation of people who are connected on a global scale and no doubt that suggestions and replies can be received from any part of the globe.
The decision maker: Millions of people review products and services through social media which are mostly trusted by million others. And the consequence is, millions of people started looking at social media for reviews before buying any product or service. Hence social media immensely enhance the buying decisions of public.
The influencer: Nevertheless of customers, there are people who just carry on the message to the entire world called as “potential messengers”. These potential messengers are active people on social media who share information most frequently. They are the most trusted people online. They are people who have interest in specific fields and they talk about their field to all those who are connected with them.
Clear market insight: The true habit of any person can be viewed in social media as they share their favourites and past experience they had with a product or services. So the likes and dislikes of people become transparent for business. Targeting becomes easier and high reachability turns simpler.
Lead generator: Social media generally have high impact on the community who use it most frequently. When people are highly comfortable with a business which is inside the social media circle may turn into customers sooner or later. Lead generation becomes possible when people trust a business only when they receive positive comments and suggestions. Social media is such a platform through which business concerns can generate customers.

SOCIAL MEDIA METRICS
Social media metrics is the most modern method used to determine the impact of social media in a business. The variables and parameters to be considered depends upon the nature of business and the nature of product and service offerings.
 It analyses items like,
·         Number of Participants in a particular network.
·         Time spent on a particular network.
·         Total number of interactions made with other participants.
·         Level or frequency of engagement.
·         Volume of suggestions, comments etc.
·         Source of reference.
·         Rate of interaction.

Table showing the Frequency of Social Media Metrics Used by Companies



*Source : Forbes / CMO Network

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
It involves the sum of all experiences the customer has with a business concern over a period of time.  For a business, customer experience is the process of engaging the customers and making them feel the brand through interactive sensory connections and activities. This in turn will create emotional connection with the brand. Emotions are the greatest influencers which make every human to act, react and affect. If a person is emotionally connected with something it will be very hard to forget and get rid of it.  So if a marketer is smart enough to capture the emotional elements of the target customers it will be easier to connect the brand with them. And if the brand is tied up emotionally with the people there is a high chance for the brand to capture a place in their minds. The process of connecting the brand with the target customers is called as experiential marketing.
Modern business concerns focus much on customer experience rather than customer satisfaction or customer delight. As the consequence customers are emotionally connected with the brand. It starts with attraction till usage of a product or service and continues till sharing the experience with others. So, there is a strong bond between “Emotion, Experience and sharing the experience”. If there is a positive perception on the shared views, then end result will be better in terms of sales and revenue generation and vice versa.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AND SOCIAL MEDIA
During the early 90’s, a customer who had bad experience with a product or service will share the experience with the family or friends who are near. So, it is obvious that the chance of spreading of the experience to a huge number of people will be 0.5%. But, in the contemporary business world the emergence of social media have made the possibility of reachability of bad experience to more than 75% of social media users. So there is a chance of telling the experience to everybody the customer knows. How is this possible?
  • ·         There are more than 3 Billion Google searches a day.
  • ·         More than 145 Million tweets posted and shared per day.
  • ·         There are more than 800 Million active Facebook users.
  • ·         70% of online consumers trust opinion of people who are online.
  • ·         90% of online consumers trust recommendations from people they know through product or service reviews after usage.
  • ·         86% of customers quit doing business with the company because of bad customer experience. And most of them quit because they frequently receive updates about bad experience of the people who are in social media.
*Source: Harris interactive, Customer experience impact report.

A repeatedly delighted customer will surely feel great and will probably never forget the experience and eventually an unsatisfied customer will also never forget the experience he/she had with the brand or concern. And social media has become the most trusted avenue to share and receive opinion from the known and unknown people. Now the business concern has to seriously consider taking advantage over the “Online experience sharing habit” of people or there is a chance to get blown out of the competition. Social medias may distress a business when,
·         There is no solution for customer feedback – posting the snapshots of the conversation.
·         The customer shares the experience (Positive and Negative) in social media –Writing a post.
·         Receiving suggestions from active social media participants.
·         Sharing of a friend’s experience with all the others present in social media.
·         Commenting for a shared experience.
·         Posting pictures or videos of experience.
·         There is no or no timely reply from the business.

SOCIAL DIMENSION FOR A BUSINESS
Adopting and using social media for business is a great way to make customers feel friendlier and the direct way to maintain great relationship. Direct interaction becomes possible through posting useful and most interesting contents. Instant feedback and solution turns easy. The company can frequently update the customers with latest news and events. Hence it is vital for a company to enter into the social media platform.

Inside the social media platform
·         Being active – Frequently interact with the customers and followers. Ensure that the company is always available for its people. Do not just open a page in Facebook or create an account in Twitter and be omnipresent but idle. Move on for the paid facilities in social media and avail the promotional facilities to reach the mass.
·          Being really social – Do never talk only about the business of a company or the features or benefits offered. Share information more than that. Try to make them feel that the company is not only focusing to do business with them.
·         Interaction – Do not only promote products and services, instead share useful information with the customers. Create a sense that the company really cares for the customers. Have casual interactions so that the customers may come closer to our business. Respect the emotional elements of people while interacting, as it is the driving force to attract them towards our business.
·          Educate visitors – Always educate the visitors about things the company knows. No matter if it is beyond the company’s products or services. This will ensure customers that the company survives to create value.
·         Always be available - Never stay away for a long period of time or never be idle. Immediate response and reply will surely create a better customer experience.
·         Consider comments – Always look for bad comments in social media as there arise a chance to understand the real expectations of the people. Reply to comments as immediately as possible in a positive way. And do not forget to compliment the good or positive comments.
Social media as strategy
·         Social media metrics – The Company should create the social media metrics more effectively and update it frequently. This will help the company to analyze the current performance of the company. 
·         Online team – A separate team of professionals who are good in customer relation and social media may be assigned to be active in social media with. This team should possess the knowledge of the social media interaction, company’s offerings and the customer base. This team should be responsible for publicity spread and controlling of publicity spread.
·         Social media marketing team – An exclusive set of professionals who are good in promotional activities may be engaged to create content for marketing through social media. Sales pitches should be noted down and communicated to the marketing team. This team should also plan for social media campaigns which is properly scheduled and implemented.
·         Control over contents – One of the greatest characteristics of social media is that, multiple users will interact with single piece of content. Reposts, Likes, Comments are the form of interactions which frames the social media success. People respond to content in either ways “Positive or Negative”, so it is very important to create contents and materials very carefully with the objective of receiving positive response.
·         Separate sales chart – Create separate sales chart for sales done through social media leads so that it will be easy for the company to measure the effectiveness of the performance of the social media team.
·         Customer experience analytics – This is done to measure the customer experience through journey mapping and blueprinting. Journey mapping helps to track the beginning and end point of the customers’ interactions. Blueprinting helps to identify the checkpoints where customers had bad experience.