What marketers need to do to be ahead of the deal hunting customer
What marketers need to do to be aheadof the deal-hunting customer: AnishaMotwaniBy Anisha Motwani on Apr 24, 2013 (1 day 1 hour ago)filed under Advertising, IndiaSnapping up a smart deal is not just about saving money; it’s one moreway to highlight your stature. And this phenomenon is only going to getbigger, says the authorIf you’ve got it, then flaunt it. That seems to be the motto of Indian shoppers. But the question is whatto flaunt; the brand you own or the price at which you owned the brand?Indians have always been known to haggle for prices. It is seen as a skill which is essential to surviveand succeed in this world or at least in India. The famous dhania example of Santosh Desai isactually true across all income segments. But when it comes to branded and expensive items,behaviours change. The rich aunt would flaunt the latest saree bought from Benaras with a certainprice tag. She would also invite you to eat ice-cream made in her recently bought refrigerator. In thepre 90s, buying a refrigerator, owning a house phone, buying a car, travelling in a flight were signifiersof ‘being rich’ and the price tag attached to it was an integral part of the aspiration quotient.
With the growth in the GDP and the spurt in disposable incomes, consumer confidence becameupbeat as they saw visible improvement in their standard of living. The change in economy alsobrought about a change in the way consumers were shopping. They had more disposable money butthey also became smarter in the way they spent. They looked for deals in everything - airline tickets,clothes, cars, consumer durable et al.The desire to own and experience exclusive international brands grew. In the larger family, everyonenow owns a ‘Gucci’ or some other expensive branded items. Owning an international brand is nomore a differentiator or a signature of being rich. While consumers do want to try these brands andflaunt them, the real differentiator lies in the ability to do smart shopping by finding the best availabledeal.As we enter the digital era, the Indian consumers’ desire to find deals has soared. The trend is fuelledwith the advent of e-commerce with all the required information being available 24/7 at the click of abutton. Everything from price comparisons and customer reviews to suggested pairings (shopperswho bought this also bought…) are an integral part of the online purchase process. The debate aboutprices, offerings, services and quality has moved online with millions of consumers joining theconversations. No wonder that the in-store shoppers are researching the prices online before they setout to buy them offline.There can be no better time for this new class of discerning Indian shoppers. ‘Sale’ has become aquarterly phenomenon in the swanky malls. To catch a deal for that expensive perfume, shoes andbags is no more a challenge. Consumers are equipped with the latest gadgets (bought at anotherdeal) and have access to social networking sites where people keep posting about their ‘catch of theday’. While Carrey Bradshaw of Sex and the City would give an arm and leg for owning the latestBlahnik, the Indian shopper will wait for a ‘discount’ and strut those shoes with envying eyes followingher. The better the deal or discount you can get, the smarter you are.The ball for ‘deal hunting’ was set rolling with the dynamic pricing of airline tickets by Air Deccan,India’s first low cost airline. Tickets were available at a low of Rs 500 and people clamored for seats.Predictably, other airlines too started changing their pricing technique and many more people startedflying instead of travelling by train. That was in 2003. In 2013, Air Deccan does not exist and thecompany to which they were sold is almost closing. Yet, the pricing strategy stayed with the likes ofpopular travel portals who today, offer deals not only on air tickets, but also on hotels. This has led tomajor changes in consumer attitudes to discounts and deals. Obviously, consumers love getting gooddeals always, but rather than having to hide one’s haggling, securing the best deal is now beingadmired by friends and family. In fact, it’s now more than just about saving money; it’s the excitement,
the chase, the sense of control, the perceived smartness, and thus, one more way to highlight yourstature. And this phenomenon is only going to get bigger and bigger from here.The lesson for the marketer from consumers basking in the thrill of grabbing a deal, is to ‘Avoidgetting trapped in the commoditization syndrome’ and be involved with ‘him’: Let him feel special, lethim customise and even co-create products.Marketers may follow three simple steps to be ahead of the deal hunting consumer:- Be accessible, be available, be omnipresent: Customers are now equipped with latest technologies.Time is the new currency. So marketers need to be present in all forms of media so that you arethere, wherever your customer is.- Be transparent: Be true to the products that are on deal. The consumer is smart and confident andwill do his research well before he actually buys.- Create an experience: The brand needs to move beyond product and price to create a more holisticexperience including service and post purchase engagement.At some level, the Indian shopper still has a ‘free dhania’ mindset. Only that the phenomenon hasclimbed the ladder and has reached all aspects of his shopping agenda. In a way, the Indianconsumers can be defined as a ‘mosaic of tradition and modernity’.(The author is director and chief marketing officer, Max Life Insurance. Views expressed arepersonal.)