When you’re hungry and looking for a restaurant to grab a quick meal, you want to see online search results that show food outlets near you. Even a list of the best restaurants in town cannot serve your purpose if they’re not close to you. When it comes to customer satisfaction, it is always local over global. This is why marketers must focus their attention on hyperlocal marketing efforts.
Hyperlocal marketing targets potential customers in a specific location or geography. This marketing strategy is typically employed by local businesses that intend to engage prospective customers in the vicinity and increase foot traffic. In the digital age, hyperlocal marketing is being widely used by search engines to help customers identify products and services in their locality.
Hyperlocal marketing has its advantages, such as cost-effectiveness and higher recall value. When you narrow down to the right target audience, you save a large chunk of your marketing budget that would otherwise be used on an irrelevant segment. Conversion rates are also higher when you engage with the customer at the local or regional level by interacting with them in the local language or by offering products/services that are locally available and therefore delivered faster.
To discuss some winning hyperlocal marketing strategies in the digital world, we invited Umang Bedi, co-founder of VerSe innovation and the mind behind immensely popular apps Daily Hunt, Josh, and Public Vibe. This fireside chat was part of our #GROWTH Summit India 2022 and moderated by Yash Reddy, Chief Business Officer at MoEngage.
The discussion uncovered pathbreaking insights on how VerSe innovation, through its apps, has been driving hyper-local content in the country.
Here’s what marketers can learn from the success of Daily Hunt, Josh, and Public Vibe:
For a long time, the internet in India was primarily consumed by English-speaking folks. This changed after 2016, with the demand for content in local languages exploding. VerSe started out intending to democratize content for India’s 1.4 billion strong user base.
From being a news aggregator to creating a family of apps with a massive content creator ecosystem, VerSe has gone hyperlocal to meet the rising demand for content in local languages. However, before embarking on this tremendous growth journey, the first requirement was preparing a clear strategy. It was essential to restrict to a few activities while saying no to others.
For example, VerSe always wanted to focus on creating flywheels and monetization from day 1. The aim was to provide an excellent experience to customers, and a value add to partners and advertisers. So, while the initial journey was simply a news app that aggregated news from a few hundred newspapers in 10-12 local languages, the focus remained on growing it using verified news content and staying away from unverified content.
In the context of hyperlocal marketing, Umang says there is a need to correctly segment potential customers based on their geographical location and purchasing power. The average GDP per capita for a massive market like India is only about INR 2000. However, this is not evenly distributed.
VerSe’s point of view of delivering hyperlocal content meant dividing India into three segments. A small category of consumers who speak English and are E-commerce shoppers, a more considerable segment that lives in Tier 2 and 3 towns, and the largest segment which stays in Tier 4 and rural regions. It is essential to understand the monetizable percentage of the target audience. In light of this, the apps branched out into more genres of content and evolved into a marketplace that helps match demand for certain types of content with the right supply by bringing in content creators.
Umang added that it was important to understand that a large part of the audience does not care about what’s happening in the rest of the country as much as they care about what’s happening around them, in their locality, district and constituency.
Unlike other content publishers, Daily Hunt does not redirect to the publisher website but is native while offering content in various formats. VerSe built personalization models using content graphs and not social graphs. They did not believe in toying with customer data, so much so that they do not require people to sign in to consume the content. Creating the content graph includes identifying the type of content users are consuming, the publisher, the time, source, date, and format. This information helps create a content graph and stereotype a user by what they watch or read through the day. For example, one can identify the content graph of a user who reads astrology in the morning prior to reading the news headlines, then going to the business and finance by noon, and later in the evening, consuming sports and entertainment sections. Thus, the AI matches the supply with the demand of a stereotyped user category and then provides relevant content at a very low bandwidth across devices.
Josh and PublicVibe work with thousands of creators who provide content for various segments. Here, Umang stressed on creating a supportive ecosystem for creators by paying them right. Eventually, the marketplace would have lots of creators and consumers, with AI matching supply with demand and releasing inventory for advertising, which is again matched with consumers.
You may track growth of daily active users, time spent by a daily active user, and so on. If there is a user who spends x minutes on the platform and gives you y revenue, then perhaps byengaging better and retaining them can increase the time spent by them, thus enhancing the overall revenue. There are many growth metrics, but sticking with the relevant ones can help drive business.
It’s time to bust a few myths! The per capita spend is higher in metros, the aggregate purchasing power of masses in Tier 2/3 cities is higher. While content was earlier largely created and consumed in English, this rise in per capita spend in the non-metro areas has given rise to the need for more hyperlocalisation of content and offerings. As marketers, you must let go of your biases and enhance your understanding of the target audience. With emphasis on hyperlocal content increasing (Zomato recently added several new regional languages on its app), marketers will have to keep their ears to the ground in this rapidly evolving content landscape in the smaller towns and cities.
This isn’t new for a marketer. Preferences, cultures, food habits, languages, dialects, and so on, change with every location. It is important to know who you are serving by understanding the smallest of differences. For instance, in UP, getting government jobs is a coveted dream of those in the 25-30 years age bracket. Many scroll through news headlines for preparing for the general knowledge section of the entrance exams. This was a meaningful insight for VerSe who focused on this segment to deliver a particular type of content.
Creators are the fulcrum of a content marketplace. VerSe focuses on decentralization and helps creators monetize and earn money. Launching Josh gave VerSe the ability to reach a younger audience whose aspirations could be matched to reality, like Instagram, but its local version. Josh has creators from 500 cities in India, who are trained and taken through the experience of the entire value chain. Providing your community with necessary resources can take your brand to new heights.
While VerSe is a data-led company, Umang stresses on the importance of observing users more closely and not just relying on data. Understanding how a customer is using the product is helpful. It is also important to understand why a user is spending more or less time on the app. Data is surely important, but what is more important is how you use it.
Super apps like Daily Hunt, Josh, and PublicVibe have taken hyper-local marketing to the next level. The marketing community has a lot to learn from their growth journeys when it comes to implementing hyperlocal strategies.