The rural customer shows distinctive characteristics which make him/her different from urban buyers.
The rural consumer is illiterate and at best has much lesser education than his/her urban counterpart. Generally, the maximum education that one sees among rural areas is till primary school or high school level. Though rural literacy programs have made significant headway, we are still confronted with a customer who is illiterate. This comes in the way of the marketer using print media and handbills to promote the product. Visual displays and phonetics become important in promoting the product in the rural areas. Demonstration on product usage and even on how to use it becomes integral to the marketerâ€™s promotion strategy.
We are giving below a small case of about a decade back. The case is illustrative of how to win the confidence of a rural customer by demonstration and giving them right and useful information.
The sales person of a leading consumer product firm, LN Electricals, once told how he could get his companyâ€™s diesel pump sets accepted in one of the rural areas. Recalling his experience he mentioned that people in this rural area did not believe him and neither the product. Being an agricultural science graduate, he used another trick to sell the product. This time he asked the headman of the village as to how do the farmers in the village protect their crop from pests or insects. He was told that they used some pesticide but they suffered significant losses. The salesperson educated them and demonstrated to them on the benefits of latest pesticides and insecticides which could be used on the crops with least losses. This established his credibility and helped him sell the product that is the Diesel pump set. Demonstration is often important in these markets.
Low Income Levels
Though rural incomes have grown manifold in the last one decade, still an average rural consumer has a much lower income than his/her urban counterpart. Still a large part of this income goes to provide the basic necessities, leaving smaller income to be spent on other consumer goods. This makes the rural consumer much more price sensitive than the urban consumer. The rural demand is for low priced products. Marketers have evolved various strategies to lower their final prices. One such strategy is designing special products as reflected by Hindustan Levers strategy of developing Sunlight detergent power and the other is even reducing the size of the product. Consider the example of toilet soaps where companies have reduced the size of the soap cake to make it affordable by the customer.
Another aspect of this low income is that an average rural customer buys a single unit of the product and not in bulk. One of the market researchers mentioned that an average customer goes to the rural pharmacy grocery shop in the morning, gives 25 p to get one spoon of cough syrup and again in the evening repeats it. The process goes on till he gets cured. He canâ€™t buy the full bottle of cough syrup that may be priced around Rs.15 as he canâ€™t afford it. But he can afford 50 p daily. This has implication for the marketer in the packaging area.
Typically, in a rural area one finds that the principal occupation is farming, trading, crafts, and other odd jobs like plumbing, electric work, etc. One also finds primary health workers and teachers in the rural areas. Since farming, animal husbandry and poultry farming are the principal occupations we find that even here we have different types of farmers. The basis for differentiation is obviously their size and ownership of land. We have big and small farmers and also the farm workers. Though each of them is associated with farming occupations, their consumption patterns differ mainly because of their income levels. For example, a large or a big farmer will have almost everything that an urban consumer will have â€“TV, refrigerator, gas stove, furniture and other home appliances and will be a user of all branded packaged goods. He is an affluent farmer and represents the highest end of the rural income.
In a rural area the reference groups are the primary health workers, doctors, teachers and the panchayat members. One may even observe that the village trader or the grocery shop owner, commonly called the â€œbaniyaâ€? may also be an important influencer in the rural customerâ€™s decision making This is because the trader extends credit to the farmers. Today, another person is also considered as a change agent and that is the rural bankâ€™s officer or manager. A marketer needs to be aware of these influencers who can effect a change in the rural customerâ€™s consumption patterns.
A rural customer is fond of music and folklore. In a state like Maharashtra the rural theater called â€œTamashaâ€? has held sway with the people. Rural folks listen to the brave deeds of their hero Shivaji and several other known and unknown heroes. Likewise, the rural Uttar Pradesh is entertained by â€œNautankiâ€? in which the artists are a part of the audience. Today, television and radio are important forms of media which hold the attention of rural folks. So is the video.
As we mentioned earlier because of a low education level, print media does not have that much of an impact as the audio or the audio visual media does.
In the current scenario most of the reputed manufacturers if consumer goods have not only adopted intelligent strategy of advertising their products on TV commercials but also modified their product packing especially for rural markets. A farmer today can buy a Detergent powders, soap, shampoo, pan masala, cooking ingredients, beverages, and medicines across the counter and other consumer goods at an affordable price on daily basis.