One size doesn’t fit all, any longer

Rajendra Khare | Updated on January 20, 2018

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The unpredictable Indian consumer is forcing marketers to offer products suited to every whim and fancy

With an unvarying range of products/services/messages, you can only woo some people for some time. On the other hand, with a diverse range of products/services/messages, you can woo all the people all the time.

The new marketing formula to win loyal consumers is to get on to the all-for-all platform. That is, woo all the people all the time. This is possible only with diverse offerings because their needs are different. We will see here how products are forced to become dynamic.

Break those entry barriers

Every category of product or service is wooing the humongous mass that comprises the Indian consumer base. While an e-commerce site is seeing gold in cow poop, virtually unknown brands of men’s underwear are getting superstars to show off their six-pack abs, a yogi is luring youth with biskoots and non-transfat foods while two hip Bollywood stars are dumbing down the advantages of using a travel website and a doctor is secretly wishing to shop for shoes online with his patient’s help.

The rules are meant to be broken. There are no entry barriers in the Indian market anymore. Whether in selling, endorsing, pricing, or buying, an e-commerce site has as much chance of wooing a customer as a century-old multinational company with a large distributor network. Because a middle-class working couple can holiday on a cruise (holidays can be bought on EMIs), while a 50-something CEO zips around the city on his fancy motorbike. Women are taking to solo travel and men are taking care of babies. There are no rules anymore and diversity is in the air.

Dealing with whims and fancies

Not only are consumers changing, they are fickle too. The trick is to follow the consumers, whether it’s to the interiors of Tamil Nadu or the hills of Garhwal. The sellers can’t be far behind, or they will find themselves left behind. Whether online or offline, they are, of course grappling with the diverse and complex nature of the Indian consumer by coming up with interesting solutions.

They are categorising the needs and the solutions into comfort zones and experimental zones. For instance, food is definitely a comfort zone, but takes on shades of experimentation when an individual or the family decides to eat out. Again, this does not follow a pattern because not all consumers want to eat a Greek salad or a Japanese sushi. So, the marketer has to constantly gauge and monitor the consumer’s quest for diversity.

So it is with apparel. We believe that the comfort zone for Indian women is the sari or the salwar kameez. But, again, this is for some women for some time and may be for some women all the time.

Unlike other cultures, where women have a more or less standard dress code, Indian women keep flipping many coins. At a wedding held recently in Bengaluru, the stated dress code was Moroccan.

So traditional Indian women were shopping for long flowing gowns and turbans! Wait!

The diversity element did not end there. For the sangeet ceremony, the dress code was North Indian and lo and behold, we saw colourful salwar kameezes and patialas. And for the wedding itself, the same women turned up in traditional south Indian Kanjivaram sarees.

So where does this leave the marketer? If they assume that a North Indian woman would not be seen in a traditional South Indian sari, they are mistaken. Or a South Indian woman would definitely not like to be seen in a gown or with a turban, please think again. More than ever before, buyers now are willing to get out of their comfort zones for a new experience.

The comfort zone theory works further. Pizzas long ago decided to Indianise their toppings, and noodles got the Indian masala.

Here it is the flavour that is the comfort zone, and the dish that falls into the untried zone.

So, the consumer is willing to go that far and no further. Therefore companies should recognise both these lifestyle zones and tweak the diversity factor accordingly.

Let’s take another example. Villas, supposed to be elite housing options, are being built for buyers across all price categories, and cars are available from ₹2.25 lakh onwards. Here price is the comfort zone as people seek lifestyle changes.

As consumers are breaking all barriers, it’s time for marketers to go all out to woo their consumers. What better way than by breaking out of their old habit of ‘one size fits all,’ because diversity is in the air!

Rajendra Khare is Founder, Chairman and Managing Director, SureWaves Media Tech

Published on May 05, 2016

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