game changer

April 1, 2019

India is inching closer to becoming a trillion dollar, digital economy. Digital infrastructure and access to technology are both rapidly expanding in the country. And with an unprecedented data explosion powered by 4G technology and the availability of cheaper smartphones, it comes as no surprise that mobile is the primary driver of digital adoption; 90 percent of Indians will own a mobile phone by 2022, and 60 percent will use a smartphone by 2025.2

The distinctive feature of India’s mobile transformation is that the face of the Indian mobile user is changing, and how. Bharat—comprising tier II and tier III cities and rural India—is bringing an ever-increasing number of first-time internet users online. The digital user base is shifting away from the familiar persona of an urban millennial, making way for a new, digital India that is far more diverse. In 2013, the digital population in rural areas was only 29 percent, which rose to nearly 50 percent in 2018.3 The average user is also now older—only 40 percent users were over the age of 25 in 2013, while it was 54 percent in 2018. The user base is also getting more gender-balanced with 1.9 men for every woman presently as against 2.6 men for every woman in 2013. This indicates a comprehensive shift in the demographics of the average Indian mobile user, slowly cementing mobile as the primary platform for the consumer.

a mobile-enabled experience economy

India is metamorphosing into an experience economy where the consumer has the tendency to prioritize experiences over products. For consumers, whether it is listening to playlists on their favorite music app or watching content on demand, curated especially for them, the idea of consuming an experience is now mainstream. It comes as no surprise then that incumbent industries such as banking and finance have also jumped into the experience bandwagon, committed to creating exceptional consumer experiences. The experience economy has its foundations in mobile with the convenience that is on offer. For instance, when it comes to shopping, one in three purchases is made on mobile.4 And consumers are turning to mobiles for their entire shopping journey—be it researching products, comparing prices, finding discounts, or actually making the purchase. This mandates brands to create exceptional experiences for customers by developing a deep understanding of them and taking efforts towards implementing a multi-channel approach to personalize customer engagement.

the mobile and consumer behavior

The mobile device influences almost all spheres of the consumer’s life. An average consumer spends close to four hours on her smartphone every day, almost 37 percent higher than TV.5 One of the primary reasons for this is that a mobile user is an always-on consumer. Always-on consumers use their mobile devices to check emails, engage on social media, play games, watch videos, listen to music, purchase products, and surf anytime they want. Hence, for the marketer, communicating with the user in real-time and providing a convenient way of engaging with her,
is imperative.

Secondly, in today’s world, consumers are spoilt for choice with limited time to search for the right fit. Hence, they have a high affinity towards brands, which deliver personalized experiences that hit the mark and save them precious time. The power of personalization through mobile starts and ends with data. Brands recognize the need to collect and utilize customer data in order to enhance personalization. Today’s consumers also desire a seamless experience across multiple channels. The expectation of a seamless experience across a fragmented ecosystem/touchpoints has risen drastically. Consumers utilize more devices than ever before, which means between mobile, desktop, and in-store, marketers must deliver a customer journey that merges all stages of their experience.

what does this mean for the marketer?

Today, 90 percent of the consumer’s time spent on mobile is on apps.6 In light of this unprecedented surge of mobile, it is extremely important for marketers to step up and make the most of the new marketing opportunities and advertising avenues.

leveraging mobile gaming as a marketing avenue

The mobile gaming industry in India consists of 250 million gamers as of 2018.7 Users also spend longer sessions on an average on gaming apps compared to other apps. And quite naturally, the majority of gamers (close to 90 percent) are non-paying ones. This means that the gaming industry is generating revenue and is being supported by ads. Additionally, the growing popularity of rewarded video ads in gaming is a huge—and an undoubtedly fascinating—advertising avenue for marketers.

The face of the Indian gamer is evolving, with women outplaying men in gaming. Women engage with gaming apps more than any other app category—43 percent of all gaming apps are used by women, compared to 27 percent of non-gaming apps. Moreover, over 50 percent of gamers are over 24 years of age. This opens up different demographic sets that marketers can reach out to through this platform. The range of brands that can tap into the mobile gaming market is limitless.

redefining shopping experiences using mobile

Similarly, mobile is cementing its place as the choice of medium for shopping, even among rural consumers in India. Retail mcommerce sales in India are expected to be close to $40 billion in 2021, almost twice as that in 2018.8 For a marketer, advertisement on mobile is hence extremely crucial as it impacts the entire purchase journey of a consumer—be it awareness, consideration, or sale.

enhancing the user experience with video

Mobile video is emerging as one of the most successful media for conveying a message, in India. The surge of high-speed data and smartphone usage coupled with the short attention span of consumers defines its growth. The number of smartphone video viewers in 2018 stands at 104 million in India—and by 2022, is expected to increase to 225 million.10 A highly social and shared activity of television viewing is transforming into a personal video viewing habit on the smartphone, and evidently goes even beyond the tier 1 cities. Mobile video—customizable to consumers’ form factor, highly interactive with various formats such as 360 degree and playable videos—provides an array of experiences to the user. Video ads enable better measurement, through their click through rates as well as viewability metrics. They are 3x more engaging than other ad formats.

engaging with the ‘always-on’ consumer

In this highly interconnected world, consumers seamlessly navigate between offline, online, and mobile channels, generating an average of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.11 While marketers have access to an abundance of data and information about their customers, the data from multiple sources is rarely in sync with each other, is mostly fragmented, and does not give complete insights into the customer. How then can marketers deliver superior experiences personalized to the individual’s behavior and preferences, and maximise RoI from their marketing spends?

In order to solve this, marketers are investing in customer data platforms (CDPs) to achieve a more unified view of their customers. CMOs are taking significant strides in breaking down data and tech silos to truly understand and build a valuable relationship with customers across all touchpoints and interactions.

Additionally, since consumers expect brands to understand their preferences and customize experiences to their needs, marketers will need to adopt the mantra, ‘personalization! personalization! personalization’! According to Gartner’s 2018 State of Personalization Survey, 87 percent of marketing leaders presently personalize their marketing campaigns and communication, and more than half have increased their personalization investment since 2017. Personalization requires an intimate knowledge of customer journeys; helpful, relevant content that drives action; and technology and platforms that help deliver, measure, and optimize experiences. When done right, personalization can drive real consumer trust, and in turn, increase revenues. Research by McKinsey found that personalization can deliver five to eight times the RoI on marketing spend and can lift sales by 10 percent or more.12

Last, but not the least, marketers will need to constantly innovate and invest in emerging technologies to truly reap the benefits of a connected world. Deep technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are changing the landscape of the marketing industry. AI can help marketers to profile their consumers, understand their preferences, and find out exactly what motivates them, thereby enabling extremely personalized targeting. Another important application of AI is towards ad fraud prevention. AI and ML can help create algorithms that detect anomalies, and soon enough learn complex patterns and detect new types of fraud. Additionally, with the use of AI, ML, and neural networks, brands can optimize ad creatives and make them most effective. For creative designers, it is a revolutionary tool that will give them impulses based on complex consumer data, in a way augmenting their creativity. These tools will crunch data for historical ads and perform predictive analytics to determine creatives that will generate the maximum RoI.

AI and ML will surely replace manual effort but what they will do more significantly is unleash the true strategic and creative potential of marketers and advertisers. For this to happen, they need to be ready and adaptive to these new technologies and bridge gaps in knowing and understanding them fully.


2019 will be the year when mobile strengthens the relationship between brands and the experience-hungry consumer. Marketers will strive to build a single, unified view of the customer through efforts on data management, cross-channel marketing activation, and automation and accurate measurement. The application of AI and ML will unleash the true strategic and creative potential of marketers. As a result, consumers will benefit from personalized experiences and brands can finally arrive at metrics such as business impact and RoI. However, data privacy and trust stand as crucial rail guards to marketers
in their pursuit of the holy grail of understanding
the customer.



2 Imagining Trillion Dollar Digital India, IBM & Kalaari Capital, April 2018

3 Digital Opportunity: Indian media and entertainment, EY and vdonxt

4 The Indian Festive Season Guide For Marketers, InMobi, 2018

5 InMobi Yearbook 2018 – Shifting Terrain: The Mobile Media Landscape in India

6 AppAnnie

7 The Power of Mobile Gaming in India, MMA, POKKT and Kantar IMRB, 2018

8 eMarketer

9 InMobi Festive Season Insights 2018

10 Smartphone Video Viewers in India, eMarketer