Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different. If you were a truant kid, you lived safe in the knowledge that unless you really messed up, your mom would only run into your teacher at the annual PTA. Today, as a parent yourself you get a daily digest of everything going on in class from that most curious mix of info, gossip and helpful advice—a school WhatsApp group.

When your mom wanted to surprise you with a special cake, she probably looked up the recipe she had carefully cut out of her magazine. Today, you can go from a novice to master baker in three easy steps with baking kits and YouTube. Your neighbour can make money out of her passion for yoga, your maid can wire money back home and your secretary can shop online—peacefully trying out clothes in the office loo far away from the prying eyes of her relatives.

Something’s different about the way women in digital India are behaving. They connect with the world differently. They express themselves differently. And they consume ideas, entertainment and products differently. All of this should make us marketers sit up and take notice of what our bread-and-butter demographic is up to online—and not just around Women’s Day when our soppy digital video tributes to Indian womanhood wring out the last tear from their jaded eyes.

How big is the opportunity of taking women online seriously? There are those who will point out that while the future is already here, it’s not evenly distributed. And this is partly true. Unfortunately, India has some of the most skewed gender ratios for Internet access. Of the people online, only about 35% are female. However if one looks at trends, it is estimated that this will go up to 45% by 2020. That’s about 200 million women online. It’s a huge number—just for comparison, that’s the total number of English-speaking population in India today. And half of these women are expected to shop online.

So, if you’re a marketer trying to reach Indian women this is as good a time as any to put in place a digital plan with a medium- to long-term horizon. In fact, as some savvy advertisers have realised, conditions are ripe to create online destinations and brands for women.

Let’s start with what women are looking for online. The top search categories are apparel, beauty, foods, infant care, arts and entertainment, travel, and finally, finance. These searches are seldom brand specific—women are looking to solve a problem or gather information, and not necessarily aiming to close a purchase. This means the brand that provides her a better experience—pain-free navigation, easily accessible information, and good value—can win her business. Here’s what women consume when they get online:

1) Tell-me-how videos: Beauty, fashion and food are categories where women actively seek out content on styling and cooking. This space is largely owned by independent video bloggers at the moment. Brands can actively collaborate with them or even chose to turn publishers. Be Beautiful is a YouTube channel by Unilever aiming to answer beauty queries of women via videos featuring one of their several beauty offerings. In the food space, Saffola Fit Foodie has put together healthy recipes curated by well-known chefs. Parenting is a big need gap and there is scope for video content that will help first-time mothers manage motherhood. This space is ideal for committed advertisers who have ambitions of owning a space within these larger categories.

2) Online Communities and Groups: Urban women are looking for support and self-expression in like-minded communities. Some of these wield a huge influence on category and brand choices and tap into the local realities of a city or community. Mothers groups like GurgaonMoms or MUMO Mumbai Moms have active and influential members. The Style Stamp is a group where cosmetic, apparel and jewellery products are regularly rated and reviewed by members. Brands could chose to be active participants in these conversations, offering expertise and solutions through influencers.

3) Category Shopping: While e-commerce is still nascent in India, and most attention has been focussed on the big players like Amazon, Myntra and Flipkart, there are sites specific to women’s interest springing up. Whether it is maternity specific sites like firstcry or babyoye or the cosmetics site nykaa, or even the lingerie shop zivame, there appears to be enough money in e-business for women-centric business models to emerge. The above three are of course in addition to social platforms where women are present in large numbers.

So, are you ready to roll up your sleeves and work with these women online for your brand? You’ll need a plan.

The author is a business leader, marketing passionista, and a raconteur of  stories. She is interested in all things digital, is an enabler of  women in leadership. Running and yoga are her meditative escapes and humour her go-to defence. She enjoys travelling and food experiments with her family.

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