Mind your Marketing

Millennials are on the go, they have low attention spans

| Updated on December 12, 2019

Kashyap Vadapalli, Chief Marketing Officer and Business Head, Pepperfry.com

This week, we are in conversation with Kashyap Vadapalli, Chief Marketing Officer and Business Head, Pepperfry.com. Kashyap is an MBA from IIM Calcutta and holds a B.E. from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra. He started his career in Sales and Marketing with Cadbury India and has handled roles in Marketing and Business Development in Tata Interactive Systems USA and Google India.


Have millennials and GenZ transformed the way businesses approach marketing?

I think the big difference in the way millennials and GenZ operate is in terms of how they consume information, how they take their decisions. And how it is different from the previous marketing groups, is the fact that they are very data-driven. They get their information from digital channels, from the internet – they have multiple sources of information. So, when you're talking to them, you need to ensure that you're using the media that they're familiar with – the various social networks, news apps or anything that is there on digital. The moment something is on digital, attention spans are smaller, and people tend to consume selective information. If you're talking to millennials, you can't have this large story that you're telling in a large format. Earlier generations were relaxed, and they would consume that kind of content. Millennials are on the go, they have low attention spans, they want content that is highly relevant to them. So, highly personalised, bite-sized information is what you need to put out there to capture their attention.


What are the best ways to connect with and sell to this audience?

Millennials and GenZ have grown up in an era where there has been an information asymmetry that has happened in the favour of consumers. They have a lot of knowledge because they're consuming global content; everybody's out there publishing stuff. So, they have lots of access to sources of truth. When you talk to them, you have to talk to them like an equal, you can't preach down to them saying, “Hey, you know, I'm the brand, I'm the manufacturer, I know what is good for you, so, take my product.” You have to, have a very different tone and voice. 




It needs to be interesting and engaging. That is a nuance, that is extremely important when it comes to millennials. Also, you need to integrate it into what they're already watching. For example, a lot of our push, over the last 18 months, has been towards content marketing, where we are working with established content platforms, content formats, like web series, and small video formats. And we're integrating Pepperfry into those formats, rather than, trying to treat it like a piece of marketing communication. We're trying to weave into the stories that they're already interested in.


What are the specific technologies that have driven these changes?

The ability to micro-target consumers that all the large digital marketing platforms give us. 

For example, we know the age of the people who are going to watch a certain piece of content, and where they're located. We also know, based on their shopping trends, the kinds of products that they're interested in. When you have access not at a personal, individual level but an anonymised level, you have access to the details of what the person likes and sees, we are able to micro-target. The biggest advantage is the fact that (and it is a double-edged sword) we are able to track users and their behaviour across the internet and that will give us a wealth of information on creating the consumer profiles and personas. Based on that, we are able to target them with the right message at the right time. 


Obviously, one has to be careful not to be intrusive, in terms of not accessing personal information. But I think as long as you're on the right side of that, the ability to track users and micro-target them is the big technological advantage that is there.



What do you need to win in the marketplace - better technology or better ideas? 

You don't really have a choice. Technology is available for everybody to access, somebody might access it today, and somebody might access it five days from now. Technology is a level playing field now. So, for your brand and offer to stand out, and for the consumer to appreciate your offering better, you need to have that unique idea, which will stand out in their perspective. But they both go hand-in-hand – technology and the idea. You can't have a great idea and not adopt technology. If you try to have a great idea and you just stick to traditional media, you won't be able to target them smarter, in a smarter fashion. So, you need to have both of them going hand-in-hand.


What makes customer experiences the differentiator of the future?

Earlier, consumers would be satisfied getting a product. They almost would feel grateful that they have access to this product. Since the markets were not well-developed, they didn't have many choices. Today, people have a lot of choices. Whether it is furniture, automobiles, mobile phones, I can buy from multiple players. The products have also become highly democratised, the features have become largely equal. So, how does a consumer choose when there is access to multiple brands? The consumer will choose on the basis of how you make them feel. Are you a brand with a purpose, and therefore the consumers feel good about buying your products? Or are you a brand with a conscience, and therefore, make the consumers feel better? Or are you a brand that cares not just about the product, but the entire experience around it? In terms of how do you find it, what is the moment of truth interaction? 


For us, we realised that when furniture is delivered, it is the small things that count. Once you install a piece of furniture, there is obviously going to be a lot of debris from the packaging material, etc. cleaning it away, borrowing cleaning tools from the house and leaving a clean space is such an important part of the experience. How you make the consumer feel is going to be more important, because a lot of product parity is being established in the market.


How do you bridge the gap between expectation and experience? 

It is extremely important that you're setting the right expectations upfront. And often, especially in a highly complex category, let's say like furniture, often there will be a mismatch. You can promise, hundred per cent on-time deliveries with not a single scratch on the piece of product when it is delivered. But it won't happen every time. In those situations, you have to be genuine, you have to accept your error, you have to go back and try to fix it for the consumer. Tell the truth upfront, you will make mistakes; sometimes the experience and the expectation won't match. We might fall short. But our attitude should be of honesty to go out and fix it. And, I think, consumers will recognise it.


What does it take for brands to stay competitive in today's dynamic economy and market?

One of the things that remain extremely important is that a brand can't be static. If you define your brand as standing for something, you need to keep evolving very quickly. And today, that cycle is two to three years. I don't think you can really get the benefits of a brand's positioning for more than 2-3 years, because new customers are entering the fold. Consumers mentally tend to shift because their experiences are changing so often. The media that they consume, the travel that they do, nobody is the same person they were two or three years ago. If you switch back a generation, people were similar from the age of 31 to 39, but today it is not that brands need to keep evolving, they need to move with the times in terms of keeping up with expectations. A conscious focus on keeping track, of where the consumer is, what the new expectations are, and being able to deliver to that is what will help brands stay relevant.


What are the three secrets to successful branding?

For me, the starting point of a successful brand is basically figuring out the customers’ biggest pain point, or the biggest opportunity for joy. In any product that somebody is buying, there will be multiple reasons they're buying the product, but there will be one important reason. Identifying that and figuring out how your brand fulfils that is number one. For us, we can sell furniture on the basis of fantastic designs, variety, value or service. Once you buy it, if there are a set of promises made in terms of delivery timelines, assembly timelines and quality of assembly, we meet those. 


Second is creating a distinctive brand asset. Brand asset can be a very stylish logo, or it could be a tagline. 'Happy furniture to you' is a tagline that is very memorable. I think people register it right upfront because it is such a common line 'Happy birthday to you'. And even Pepperfry, as a name is very distinctive. When you are able to create a distinctive brand asset, like a distinctive brand name and a tagline, and you bring them together, you're bringing up the opportunity for both noticeability and memorability. 


Third that is most important is identifying the right media. A lot of questions are around how to take the brand to market. The real solution lies in, where is your audience? And does your media follow your audience? 


Can a one-size-fits-all approach work in a differentiated market such as India?

Obviously not, which is why we are a platform today. We are a marketplace offering, where small manufacturers doing art-oriented products sell handicraft on the site. At the same time, we have mass manufacturers who are doing fairly standard stuff at an extremely low cost. So, we're dealing with both the high end of the market and the mass. We have hundreds of thousands of merchants who are selling on our site. The reason we have that set-up is because, from an offering perspective, it is impossible to create one offering that will serve a large market like India. Every merchant is an offering for us. And every merchant brings his unique designs and price points. Therefore, you need to have that wide perspective.


Even in terms of go-to market, for example, there are huge nuances in terms of how different parts of India react in terms of the type of designs that they are looking for.  And, therefore, you need to adapt your offering to each of the geographical areas. So, a one-size-fits-all works only if you're targeting a very narrow geography or consumer segment. But if you want to capture a larger share of the pie, like we do, you need to have an approach both from a product and service perspective, which is much wider.


Why and how should brands think local?

Every region has its own nuances in terms of how they approach any product or service. And there are decision points that are more important for some versus others. There are certain areas where it is extremely important that the furniture is very understated and the important thing about it is the durability. In some other areas of the country, it is important that the furniture is a little bit flashier. The important thing there is the amount of flash that it brings to the table. They're willing to change it after three to five years. So, they're not really concerned about durability, but the trendiness or the design becomes more important. For us, it has been a discovery process in terms of understanding which market reacts differently and then fine-tune our services. But given that we are an online company, primarily, we're able to show everybody everything. 


It is not only about your advertisements, creating an ad in Hindi and dubbing it into Telugu or Tamil. It is about understanding if those markets require a different product.


How does your brand approach the Southern market when it comes to branding and consumer engagement?

Bengaluru is our largest market. Hyderabad and Chennai are markets number four and five for us. So, among the top five markets, three are from the South. It is primarily because of the nature in which the Southern market, especially Bengaluru, Hyderabad and parts of Chennai, have evolved in terms of technology-savvy consumers. Consumers, who potentially have had a lot of global exposure because of their jobs, primarily in the technology field. They're much more comfortable with online buying. They're comfortable with receiving an online service. So, for us, South is an extremely important market for these reasons. 


What is unique about the South Indian market? Do you see any difference in consumer behaviour from the North in your category? 

They are a much quicker and faster adopter of technology. We also get much better ROI from the South, digital marketing efforts and from digital branding efforts in the South. So, that is really the big difference that is there.


This article is part of a brand initiative by The Hindu BusinessLine to profile marketing professionals from across India.


Published on December 12, 2019

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