Despite the spread of mobile internet, large segments of the rural population around the world still lack consistent, affordable, high-speed internet access.
This is likely to change in the coming years through some combination of 5G and satellite internet. While most of the focus on 5G is for the incredibly high speeds it will offer in urban areas, low band 5G can cover hundreds of square kilometers from a single tower, at a speed a bit better than 4G. Satellite internet will access constellations of low orbit satellites, such as Elon Musk’s Starlink or Amazon’s Kuiper, to provide high-speed internet to anyone with a view of the sky. Both will be expensive initially, but the scale, competition, and innovation will drive down the cost. India alone will see hundreds of millions of new internet users.
Why is this exciting news for D2C brands? D2C brands excel in identifying narrow audience segments and delivering highly relevant products and services. Take India for example, with a wide range of cultures and languages. The new rural internet audience is not a single cohesive population, but thousands of unique segments of people, with different interests and needs.
What are some of those needs that can be met by expanded internet?
Both formal education like schooling, university degrees and courses, but also the informal information sources on the internet that urban populations now take for granted. Being able to quickly access Wikipedia or online explainers and news sites lets us tap into an enormous source of data at will. The requirements of many of the new internet population will be different from the established audience, and nimble edtech providers who can integrate voice, video and vernacular languages will see great traction.
Many rural populations lack access to doctors and specialists and may embrace health-tech apps that offer medical information and teleconsultations. Providing accurate, culturally sensitive information in local languages, as well as medicine delivery, is a significant opportunity.
Much of the new internet audience will be value buyers. This segment has traditionally focused on price over brand and will switch brands to hunt for a bargain, with offline behavior translating online. Trust signals are critical for D2C brands in the value space as well as a focus on overcoming the lack of brand loyalty. Beyond the big marketplaces, brands like Lenskart that provide innovative essentials at value pricing will see real opportunity.
Agile products based on needs
The greatest strength of D2C brands is the ability to identify unmet needs, and quickly cycle through product development, marketing and supply chain setup. This presents both challenges and opportunities. The challenges are capturing the pulse of new audiences to identify the right offering, innovatively marketing digitally to a new digital audience, and developing supply chains that connect to remote locations.
The opportunity for D2C brands is a first-mover advantage, with an enormous app-first audience!
Written by Chris Higgins, Senior Vice President Marketing at Netcore Cloud