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Redefining Loyalty For A Rural Customer

Developing a holistic understanding of the customers is imperative to customize customer engagement strategies at scale

Photo Credit : Shutterstock


Living in the urban jungle, I love to get away to the mountains or serene beaches to keep my sanity. One such trip took me to Mawlynnong, a village that won the cleanest village award in Asia, 100 kilometers from Shillong. Thanks to Airbnb, we easily found a place to stay. The weather was slightly cold and as we sat around the bonfire, the host pulled out his phone to stream his favorite Bollywood songs. No buffering, no challenges with connectivity. That’s when I realized that Bharat has come a long way in terms of accessibility to digital infrastructure.  Combine this with better roads, rail and air connectivity, one sees the impact Bharat is having on Indian economy. In fact, a January 2019 report by Deloitte and FICCI pegs the impact of the Indian rural households to the GDP as approximately 50 percent. 

Personal consumption in the rural areas is growing. In 2018, the annual consumption growth stood at 9.7%. There is a huge growing consumer base for every single brand in the Indian market. Telecom companies have taken advantage of this and have gone beyond just being the providers of connectivity to providers of content to reduce the churn and keep their customers loyal. 

While rural markets have played a key role in establishing FMCG brands such as Dabur and Colgate, the growing consumer demand for convenience and easy accessibility has been one of the reasons new-age businesses such as, food ordering and delivery platform, Swiggy are expanding in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Many brands have understood the power of the rural customer in helping build a robust market share. 

Understanding rural customer

Rural consumers are evolving with increased accessibility. Rural internet users will constitute about half of all Indian internet users in 2020, according to “The rising connected consumer in rural India” by BCG. That’s about 300 million users. And, as always, it will be a mistake to treat them as a homogenous group. 

The approach to winning over the loyalty of rural consumers is not very different from that of urban consumers but there exist many complexities. The dimensions of age group and affluence of the target consumers, their language and the degree of digital influence for that specific category of the product or services needed to influence a brand’s consumer engagement strategy.  All of this starts from better understanding of the consumers online and offline behaviors.  

Technology and Data

Needless to say, technology plays a key role here in collecting and analyzing consumer data. Retailers such as Future group have realized the importance of understanding consumer behavior and are heavily investing in technologies that will analyze customers’ data at a micro level. 

To get consumers to stick with you, content and context are both important. The only way to understand your customers’ context is to pay attention to how they are interacting with not only your brand but also your competitor brands. Developing a holistic understanding of the customers is imperative to customize customer engagement strategies at scale. And the only way to have a large loyal customer base is to win them over one at a time.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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customers retail rural areas

Prabhu Kannan

The author is Vice President, Marketing Technology at Epsilon

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