Three Ways Digital Marketing Can Up the Indian Rural Banking Game
By Arijit Banerjee
India’s urban-rural internet divide is set to come to an end soon. According to a Boston Consulting Group report, by 2020, 50% of India’s internet users will be from rural areas. Currently, rural India contributes to over 60% of the country’s GDP and with the staggering increase in internet usage,there is expected to be a significant uptick in digital commerce. But are rural Indians ready to go digital? Apparently, yes.
According to Accenture Rural Marketing Research, 50% of respondents expressed their willingness to use digital channels, while 38% say they could be motivated if they were trained to use digital media. It’s clear that banks cannot afford to ignore the digital opportunity that rural India presents. Digital marketing can play a pivotal role in helping banks identify the needs and pain points of rural customers to provide them with products/services when, where, and how they want.
Let’s explore three key ways in which digital marketing can change the rural banking game:
#1 Improving reach through email marketing: Digital literacy rates in rural India are witnessing a strong uptick due to government-driven program such as PMGDISHA that are aimed at imparting digital literacy to rural citizens. Under the scheme, candidates will be trained on the use of computers, smartphones and tablets for sending and receiving emails and browsing the Internet. This makes email marketing a must-use channel for banks looking to strengthen their rural operations. Direct mailers targeted at educating the rural population about basic financial services, their usage, and benefits can play a huge role in encouraging adoption of digital finance. Interactive videos that show how to operate an ATM, make a deposit, etc. can also be embedded in emails to drive greater information retention. It’s important to design and optimise email campaigns for mobile as smartphones are most commonly used by the Indian rural population to access digital media.
#2 Engaging customers through mobile advertising: India’s rural population is nearly 2X that of urban. With development picking up speed in rural India, coupled with increase in rural purchasing power, this consumer segment has a tremendous potential to bloom into a robust commercial opportunity. But rural customers are a heterogeneous lot with varying needs and understanding of digital media. Effective digital marketing strategies should focus on right sizing and customer segmentation to improve ROI of marketing campaigns. As rural marketing is largely mobile-driven, optimising advertising campaigns for mobile search, local languages, responsive layout, easy navigation, and user-friendly content should be key focal points. Brands should also focus on promoting other value-added services such as weather data and prices of commodities that matter to rural folks. ICICI bank’s Mera iMobile, India’s first mobile banking app specifically designed for rural customers, provides 135 banking services in over 11 Indian languages, in addition to value-added information such as mandi prices.
#3 Developing a personal connect through social media: Rural India has surpassed its urban counterpart in terms of growth in social media usage – rural regions witnessed 100% growth in the recent past, compared to 35% in urban areas. Social media marketing is therefore critical to banks in deepening customer connect by projecting a human image. Monitoring real time social media conversations and leveraging techniques such as sentiment analysis can help marketers identify gaps and pain points of rural population and devise personalised campaigns to address them. Yes Bank’s hugely popular Digital Diya campaign that was promoted aggressively through its website and social media properties around Diwali 2017 was anexcellent move in this direction. The campaign aimed to impart financial literacy to 50 villages by highlighting the lives of India’s rural population. For every digital diya lit by visiting YES bank’s website, the bank contributed an equal amount of funds towards spreading digital financial literacy.
Digital marketing critical to financial inclusion initiatives
The Indian Government is heavily relying on microfinance i.e. the provision of thrift, credit, and other financial services and products of very small amounts, primarily to the rural population, to reach its financial inclusion goals. Similarly, the Reserve Bank of India is targeting 90% financial inclusion by 2021.Rural is the new financial battleground and as MFIs and traditional banks compete head-on, digital marketing will prove to be a key differentiator in capturing market share. Forward-looking financial institutions must invest in building digital marketing capabilities by up skilling their workforce to create dynamic banking leaders that modern India needs.