What makes our younger Indian consumers different? Are they any less loyal than consumers in other countries? How should Indian brands appeal to the needs of our newly digital consumers? These are the sorts of questions we recently explored in our Aimia Loyalty Lens online survey conducted across 24,335 respondents in 10 countries including 2,849 here in India.
First and foremost, we found a good 51% of our online users in India describe themselves as “early adopters” of technology, meaning they would be the first person in their group of friends to purchase new technology or try something new. This is interesting. 50% said they are active on social media communities, 60% said they use smartphone apps to make purchases online, and 52% said they use company websites to look for deals and coupons. We also found that 59% are downloading or using coupons on their smartphones and tablets, and a whopping 30% showed interest in using digital wallets. And, as it relates to how Indians interact with loyalty programs through new age digital, a good third earning and redeeming loyalty currencies through apps and social. All in all, it is clear our consumers are digitally savvy and actively engaging brands online.
We then looked at which industry categories Indians feel more loyalty to brands within. Banks and financial services enjoy the highest level of loyalty with 50% saying they are most loyal to this category. Mobile network operators came in second at 40%, and technology brands followed at 36%. Categories such as supermarkets, restaurants and pharmacies rated low. When we looked into why some categories dominated, our respondents cited reputation as the main reason for remaining loyal to specific banks, getting loyalty rewards as the main reason for remaining with credit cards, price as the main reason for remaining with supermarkets and airlines; and quality as the main reason for remaining with fuel retailers and hotels. And when we looked even deeper into the why we uncovered that it all translates to trust and relevance. Indians trust financial services companies the most with their personal data, and find their communications the most relevant.
On the subject or data privacy and sharing, we found 56% Indians are more concerned with their data privacy than they were a year ago, and 21% have actually closed accounts or subscriptions due to such concerns. But on the flip side, we also found that 74% of them, compared to just 55% internationally, are willing to share their personal data if the data is used judiciously for the purpose of providing them relevant offers and discounts. Further illustrating the openness of Indians to brands, many more Indians than the international average said they would be willing to share their online purchase data. Two thirds said they would use Facebook login to register into a loyalty program. A vast majority would like to know more about the information collected on them, would like to exert greater control over this data sitting with companies, and do not want to be pushed information and offers from a brand unless they have expressly opted into a related program. The inference is clear. Tell customers what you are collecting and why, and then use that data just for the purpose you said you would collect it.
Now to the subject of people’s expectations of and interactions with loyalty programs in our market. We found cashback as the most preferred reward in bank and credit card programs, exclusive discounts and offers as most preferred in hotel and supermarket programs, and loyalty currency as the strong preference from airlines. When asked about how they would like to be identified by their loyalty program, an equal number said through physical card and through a mobile number. We also asked them about whether they would like to be rewarded for non-transactional interactions with the brand, such as commenting on Facebook, tweeting, browsing in the store, participating in surveys, etc. and 69% would be likely to engage in programs that reward such interactions. Finally, 70% showed interest in participating in a broad based coalition loyalty program in which a single kitty of points, earned rapidly across various categories, can more frequently help them attain rewards and recognition benefits.
To sum up the survey’s findings, our Indian consumers are especially digitally savvy, and highly engaged with brands and loyalty programs online. More advanced industry categories such as financial services stand out in the trust and loyalty they have earned from consumers, in part due to their securing customer data and being especially judicious in how the data is used for direct marketing purposes. Indians are concerned about how their personal data is used by companies, and want explicit control over how their data is used and not used. But at the same time Indians, compared to other nationalities, are especially open to sharing data and entering into a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship with brands. Our consumers are demanding that brands innovate in how they reward loyalty, and they will reward brands that are transparent, offer added value and build real relationships with them
About the author: Vikas Choudhury is COO & CFO India of Aimia Inc., the global leader in loyalty management. Prior to Aimia India, he founded and sold a Red Herring Top Asia 100 enterprise performance management and data analytics business, ran a luxury home store retailer and led a surveillance systems company. Vikas has been a co-founding angel investor in Mumbai Angels. Vikas started his career with Arthur Andersen and CSC in USA. Vikas is an alumnus of Harvard Business School and University of Pittsburgh.