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How Analytics Can Help You Succeed with the “Next Billion Users”

Karl Marx once said, “religion is the opium of the masses”. Today, it can well be said that the Internet, not, religion is the opium of the masses.

Today, research shows there are 4.39 active billion internet users – that’s 57% of the total global population. This number has accelerated since 2018, with almost 366 million new users coming online. Reports suggest that the number of internet users is growing at a rate of 11 new users per second! There has also been a rise in the number of mobile internet users standing at 3.986 billion. That’s 52% of the total population.

While a large chunk of this user base is from developed nations, companies like Google and Facebook are targeting the ‘next billion users’ for their new source of growth.

Smartphone proliferation and more affordable data plans are bringing the next million users from emerging and frontier markets on the Internet. According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends reports, “India surpassed the US to become the second-largest market in the world, after China, in 2016. It also leaped from 277 million users in 2016 to 355 million in 2017.” This means that a country like India has more internet users than the entire population of the U.S.! Clearly, the business opportunity in such emerging markets is huge.

So, for companies developing products and solutions, where does analytics come into play here?

Context and user behavior

First things first. You need to wrangle data to bring order to chaos. What is the chaos you ask?
We live in urgent times where we are under constant pressure to rush decisions. This environment becomes more chaotic when you are awash with data coming from too many sources. This urgency coupled with the massive sea of data usually washes us ashore each time we venture into it. So, what can you do?
The first step would be to take a step back and assess ‘how can this data help me’, ‘what do I want to achieve with this data’, ‘where do I start’? Ask yourself what problem you want to solve, identify the lowest hanging fruit and then begin your data journey. Isn’t it like the Rubiks cube? You can only solve the whole puzzle when you know how each moving part works to contribute to the big picture.

Complex does not mean difficult

One of the most interesting things to note about these emerging markets is that these are ‘mobile-first’ countries. This means that the majority of the users have experienced the internet for the first time only from their smartphones. While the needs of the users of these markets might be less unique than you would estimate, most of the solutions designed for these markets have to be mobile-first and, often, mobile-only.
User behavior analytics emerges as a vital tool to understand the baseline of normal activities of the individual user. For example, some of the users might be more prone to sharing content offline by using apps such as ShareIt. While beautifully engineered products are what the more mature markets love, these emerging markets might not be receptive to such products if they are not simple to use or don’t work well on mobile phones.
User behavior analytics also throws light on the usage context and brings user needs and constraints to the front. This helps in building products that are relevant for their users by validating assumptions around the product.

Localized content

Most of the users in the NBU market are more comfortable using local language as their interface. This segment clearly has multiple language needs. Since most operating systems are set in English, the users are navigating using their second or third language. The keyboard UI also gets dramatically complex since the languages in these markets have more characters as compared to the Latin alphabet. You also need to use culturally relevant iconography with text to aid comprehension.
Given this is a huge spectrum of users with varying needs, you need to take into consideration every aspect that impacts the user, the order in which the CSS is written, how the styles should be delivered, etc. And how can you be sure of your assumptions? You guessed it right – with analytics.

Create relevant products

When it comes to this demographic, you are dealing with a diverse user base. Given there is no typical user, the products need to be built with a great deal of empathy. For example, 80% of users with disabilities live in emerging markets.
They might have slow or intermittent access. Their mobile phones might not be operating on the latest OS. They might have limited onboard memory and might prefer using ‘voice’ to get things done. Products created for these markets have to be optimized for speed. You need to analyze navigation in challenging environments. You need to understand which UI patterns will be accepted. You need to identify which interfaces will be more engaging than others. You also need to understand how the users will be using the product and where the product finds relevance in the life of the user.
Answers to all these questions and more can be found in a contextual manner using analytics to create products that are relevant and see high adoption.

Geo-specific advertising

You cannot go to battle unprepared. The Next Billion Users is a huge battleground and approaching it with preparation for all marketing activities makes sense. Leveraging analytics is the only way forward. Otherwise, your initiatives will be shooting in the dark.
With geo-targeting capabilities, you can maximize on the potential of mobile by serving location-targeted advertisements. Since this also serves significant insights into customer behavior and preferences, it makes it easier to personalize campaigns and creatives. It also makes it simpler to optimize the campaign for different locations or to location-specific demographics.
The Next Billion Users are the future marketplace. There is a great potential to create innovative solutions to solve their problems and challenges leveraging technology. However, the key to decision making lies with analytics – with analytics, data replaces assumptions.
And when you design solutions for challenging environments, you also create products that can work better globally as well.