Has Shopping Become More Complicated?

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According to a McKinsey & Company report titled ‘The Great Indian Bazaar: Organized Retail Comes of Age in India’, organized retail in India is expected to increase from 5 per cent of the total market in 2008 to 14 – 18 per cent of the total retail market and reach US$ 450 billion by 2015. Indians are shopping more and are shopping differently. So has shopping become more complicated? No, but the shopper has.

As Indian consumers become more secure of their financial future, their demands are becoming more and more complex. Shopping has become more comprehensive. Consumers these days are spoilt for choice. The entry of foreign brands has induced competition and consumers have become highly value conscious. This explains the explosion of malls, hypermarkets, department stores, and convenience stores.

Increased disposable incomes and the attitudinal change towards shopping becoming an activity involving the whole family, have altered the very nature of shopping, which has become synonymous with entertainment. As a response to this, retailers have changed their strategies and have moved to providing experiences as opposed to products.

Another major development in the urban middle class has been the rise of DIG households. This has led to a significant increase in the delivery segment. Retailers offer free home delivery options to incentivize purchase. Even the local Kirana stores are making shopping increasingly easy to keep up with the modern retail formats.

What is satisfied by delivery [convenience] is also addressed by easy financing. Indian consumers today do not need to have cash in hand to shoppe. A plethora of financing options through easy EMIs and credit cards is encouraging people to buy more and buy easily.

The Indian market continues to be the most promising in the world and retail is making it look more glamorous than ever before!

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Digitizing ’em too? Will insurance agents go hungry now?

Remember the good old days when insurance meant LIC and inevitably one of the uncles/cousins happened to be a “beema karamchari”? Even as LIC held its ground, a plethora of insurance companies swept us off our feet with their sleek advertising and customer orientation. What the heck? Even Sachin [read Tendulkar] was buying insurance. The insurance agents were being wooed and spoilt for choice. [What] To sell or not to sell? that was very much the question. But we hear that a new wave is set to upsurge the insurance landscape yet again. The digital wave!

When I was working on my book on blogging a couple of years ago, I had to dig down real hard to get some examples of insurance companies which were experimenting with online marketing/ branding. All I could come up with were some stray examples like the not so sophisticated network of INGLife- “Pickuradvisor”  and their Asia Pac blog.

What I hear now is that Insurance companies worldwide are likely to invest USD 84 million (about Rs 400 crore) over the next three years to market themselves over mobiles and the Internet. According to a survey by IT consultancy Accenture of senior executives at 125 major insurance companies around the world, “insurers would increasingly shift investment priorities to mobile technologies, digital marketing, including social media such as Facebook and channel integration over the next three years.”

Interestingly, I landed on Naukri.com’s venture in insurance , a platform which claims to make “makes buying insurance easy”. They operate by submitting user requirements to all the leading insurance companies to find their best prices and plans for you.

 

Naukri.com’s foray into insurance

It is interesting how the insurance industry is trying to catch the pulse of the nation by chasing it online. What I am interested in knowing though, is how the agent mafia will be affected by this in-thing!

Digitizing India!

A recent article published by the Times of India on the digitization of Indian police opened up a very interesting area of analysis. The article says that “The digitization of FIRs and all complaints is just the more public face of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), a massive modernization drive meant to take Indian police into the IT era”

The adoption of technology has led to a massive transformation in the operations and marketing of Indian railways already. According to reports, even Doordarshan, India’s public sector broadcaster, has set aside an amount of Rs. 1209 crore of a total approved outlay of Rs. 1369 crores, just for digitization, as per the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012).

The challenge, however, is not the implementation aka digitization of public sector and state organizations but the successful execution and sustainable innovation that any such drive requires. And that requires a massive shift in mindset, to an extent, a sort of modernization of the public sector ethos. Now how prepared we are for that, remains to be answered…

The New Age Bookworm

Came across an interesting article in ET today about the forthcoming launch of “Google Editions”. The digital book industry is expected to churn a revenue of USD 966 million this year from USD 301 million in 2009. The punchline of the report released by Forrester says: “2010 will end with $966 million in eBooks sold to consumers. By 2015, the industry will have nearly tripled to almost $3 billion, a point at which the industry will be forever altered.”

Little wonder then that publishers are so excited about the iPad. Many publishers are already thinking of converting the now-already old fashioned Ebooks to application rich texts. Penguin Books CEO John Makinson says : “We will be embedding audio, video and streaming in to everything we do. The ePub format, which is the standard for eBooks at the present, is designed to support traditional narrative text, but not this cool stuff that we’re now talking about. “So for the time being at least we’ll be creating a lot of our content as applications, for sale on app stores and HTML, rather than in eBooks. The definition of the book itself is up for grabs.”

Guess the world as we read it, is about to change.

Social Media: Beating the Hard Times

According to a recent report by Brand Finance, the recent economic recession has wiped $67 billion off the brand value of Top 100 Global brands. As organizations struggle to maximize ROI on their advertising budgets, this could well be the year when we witness digital and new media coming into the mainstream of the marketing and advertising strategy of corporations.

In most cases, online media is far more measurable in so far as user behavior and sales can be traced back to the original act of click throughs. Having said that, one is skeptical about the blind enthusiasm that some internet advertising enthusiasts- (Read SEM firms)- have been displaying at the cost of more traditional forms of media. One of the dangers of such evangelism is that it misses out on certain nuances of internet and digital media per se.

To begin with, internet aka banner advertising and pay per performance models are designed more from a sales orientation. But there is more to digital media than sales. One of the biggest benefits that it offers is in the form of engagement and thereby long term brand building. This engagement with the target audience can be through blogging, photo sharing, and Audio-video viral campaigns, to name a few. While the immediate objective need not necessarily be increased topline growth, social media can help organizations create strategic brand advantage.

One of the other challenges that marketers are likely to face in such times is the sales promotion doom loop. Social media engagement can help marketers get out of this reductive spiral by helping create brand equity through sharper positioning and targeting of customers. One can identify buyer behavior and activity on social networks, target niche bloggers and forums and initiate a more meaningful dialogue with the customers. According to a recent research by Forrester, evolved marketers are likely to use social media to motivate consideration through discussion boards. The research has also come up with findings which reveal that niche communities like Proctor & Gamble’s BeingGirl.com result in far greater ROI than similarly priced campaigns in mainstream media. In our own backyard, we have already witnessed the success of initiatives like Sunsilk’s GangofGirls community and the more recent gaming application of Marico on Orkut.

Similarly, blogging can be leveraged to create brand equity through thematic thought leadership blogs, of which Infosys’ blogs happen to be the best example from India. Other interesting ways in which Indian companies are using this media for stakeholder engagement is blogs that showcase organizational culture and its management ethos. From FritoLays and Tata Interactive Systems to Mahindra and Wipro, Indian corporates are getting onto the blogwagon. The who’s who of India Inc., like Rajeev Karwal, Vineet Nayyar, Sanjeev Bikhchandani and Ajit Balakrishnan have started leveraging the medium of blogs to establish strong personal brands which thereby consolidate the market position of their own organizations and stand them in good stead in turbulent times.

The year ahead will be interesting to watch out for. In their research, “India Online 2008”, JuxtConsult shows that 81% of the Indian internet users interact using one or more of the social media platforms. Another interesting trend that it reported was that 80% of these regular internet users also shop online! Based on industry surveys and sentiment, looks like “innovation” will rule the roost with most companies going after highly targeted audience for most of their marketing campaigns- what with the more sophisticated marketers endorsing engagement too!

India’s first book on “Corporate Blogging in India” launched today

It seems like it has been a really really long time since a colleague had asked me, “You don’t know blogs?”. What started as a layman’s fascination with creating content and then finally seeing it appear on the push of a button has culminated in a book  🙂 Yuppie. My first book and India’s too on Corporate Blogging!

Co-authored by India’s leading CEO blogger, Mr. Rajeev Karwal, the book will be launched today at the Oxford Bookstore, Barakhamaba Road, New Delhi. corporate_blogging_in_india_invites1