Seamlessly integrating multiple devices is becoming the single most important strategy for retailers, says Ritwik Sharma.
Many Indians may be bypassing the good old desktop and latching on to smartphones to access the Internet, but when it comes to online shopping we still rely on multiple devices before making a purchase.
A recent survey by performance marketing technology company Criteo pointed out how 51 per cent Indians use two or more devices for online shopping.
Given such a scenario, how are companies ensuring an effective marketing presence across platforms?
Online marketplace Snapdeal has benchmarks to gauge marketing effectiveness across platforms.
"Given that a majority of users buy from us on mobile, our spends are tuned towards the mobile platform. We partner with publishers and networks to optimise delivery across web, WAP and app. There is also increased usage of programmatic buying to ensure audience-level targeting, especially on mobile, although the ecosystem for cross-device targeting is still in its nascent stage," says a spokesperson.
Companies keep track of shopping behaviour across different points of the day or week.
The Snapdeal spokesperson points out that earlier weekdays saw high traction when people would shop a lot from workplaces. But with the advent of mobile internet and the developing app ecosystem, the trend has subsided with people shopping heavily through smartphone on weekends as well.
Secondly, device usage also differs with different categories of products. Users have a tendency to surf the web while deciding on buying products in categories like consumer durables and large appliances.
"Using more such information helps us plan media accordingly, in terms of investment across device platforms and channels," says the spokesperson.
Harneet Singh, vice-president, marketing, ShopClues, says the company tries to optmise its marketing spends based on customers -- as part of its "one customer view" philosophy -- rather than on platforms/devices or acquisition channels.
"This basically means that we target the user irrespective of the platform/device she is accessing ShopClues from. We analyse the behaviour of the customer and target her on any of the devices, without trying to optimise the device separately. This cross-device approach helps us significantly optimise our marketing investments and generate higher RoI (return on investment)."
Singh stresses that in order to deliver a strong consumer experience across devices, one has to understand the user behaviour on the device.
The other important factor is personalisation of the pages on various devices depending on the browsing history of a user on different devices.
According to Singh, India being "a mobile-first country for most netizens" is truer for ShopClues, as tier-III and tier-IV cities make a big contribution to its business.
"This does not mean that people don't use desktops/laptops. It just means that 70 per cent of visits on our platform are from mobile devices, which could be the app or the m-site, while the unique visitors could be equally split between desktop and mobile. This has a big implication on the way marketing is done to reach, engage and re-engage with these users. The app and mobile focus and investments go up and so does the RoI. The marketing technology required to be successful also changes with this behaviour of the online users on different devices," he says.
For home services portal UrbanClap, the devices are categorised broadly into Android app and iOS app, and mobile and desktop web with different categories and combinations working for each.
Rahul Deorah, associate vice-president, marketing, UrbanClap, points out that app customers have shown greater stickiness on the platform.
"So, most of our ad dollars go in acquiring app customers. Our acquisition strategy is more app-focused and on the web we've not seen a lot of repeats. So, in web we spend on highly need-based and customised categories such as wedding photographers. We've seen a lot of migration from web to app, but not the reverse," he says, stressing that UrbanClap customers aren't using multiple devices.
He adds the biggest challenge for the company is customer repeat and retention.
"Stickiness of app customers is 10x of web customers. And narrowing that is something we are working towards."
Nidhi Agarwal, founder and CEO, KAARYAH, says the women's fashion portal tracks users on a monthly basis, creates user profiles, analyses their device usage patterns and automates acquisition and retention, and uses machine learning/artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise marketing channels, spends, etc.
"We ensure cross-device measurement and campaign deliveries using popular marketing channels like Facebook and Google AdWords. KAARYAH is implementing an AI-based tool to further enhance automation of customer journey and optimise spends."
Dushyant Sapre, commercial director of Criteo India -- which has worked with the likes of ShopClues and online travel agency Yatra -- says their technology solution has helped the companies to understand customers and their needs, resulting in increase in sales volume.
The Criteo report said 55 per cent Indians browse on multiple devices, with about 74 per cent using desktop and 24 per cent using smartphones as their first devices for browsing.
"The trend observed is that purchases via desktop peak during work hours, while mobile devices dominate during non-office hours. This highlights a clear need for retailers to deepen their understanding of cross-device consumer behaviour trends," says Sapre.