Digital EMI/pay later platform ZestMoney is betting big on its marketing initiatives and reveals how those initiatives will aid in its efforts to build a brand that adds value to the customers. “We take pride that ZestMoney has been at the forefront of scaling digital EMI in India,” says Aishvarya Murali, Head of Marketing, ZestMoney.
In an interaction with e4m, Murali shares insights on their campaign #GameNeverOver, the company’s future marketing initiatives and much more.
Please tell us about the insight behind your recent campaigns. What has the objective been while curating them?
The core philosophy behind our latest campaign #GameNeverOver is a basic human insight that everyone aspires for a better life. In real life, upgrading to a better life is a subjective and continuous process – be it for buying a new laptop or upskilling themselves or booking their first international trip.
Digital EMIs are playing an important role in furthering access to credit, especially for consumers seeking to upgrade to a better life. We take pride that ZestMoney has been at the forefront of scaling digital EMI in India, offering products that not just drive affordability, but those that add value to the customers. We are one of the few brands that cater to everyone, particularly to those who have been outside the ambit of traditional financial institutions for decades. Therefore, the game is never over in the true sense for those who use us to upgrade themselves. Our consumers can spread out costs with EMI offerings, which makes for smart financial planning. We guarantee a 100% digital and transparent, low-cost EMI, and a seamless shopping experience across our wide merchant network of over 85,000 stores. While we continue to fuel the aspirations of India, transparency, convenience, and consumer obsession will remain the core of our brand.
Any metrics that you are looking to achieve through your communications?
Although it has grown in recent years, digital finance and EMI are still fairly in the early stages in the Indian ecosystem. So, definitely, consumer acquisition will be one of the metrics that we are targeting through our marketing communications. Having said that, it is not a blind consumer acquisition.
Secondly, we are also targeting to increase customer awareness and loyalty since customers are only happy when they find genuine value in any products. We are building a brand that adds value to the customers. As a player who is always on the right side of the regulations, building consumer trust has always been our core principle. So, we want to build that awareness that we are the most trusted brand. This is something we have been continuously working on and have some exciting things lined up.
Thirdly, I strongly believe that repeat customers significantly increase the value of your business. Hence, we are focusing our efforts more on retaining existing customers, turning them into loyal customers, and increasing lifetime business value.
Of course, all of this is tied back to ensuring customers have the best experience with the product and offerings.
ZestMoney introduced a brand mascot. What is the insight behind the mascot ZeeGee?
Mascots have been bringing brands closer to consumers for many years by establishing a strong connection and going beyond the transactional nature of the relationship; that was the basic thought behind introducing our mascot.
As for ZeeGee, ZestMoney’s power girl, the banking and finance sector has been predominantly a man’s world in India. Women in the banking industry have been breaking glass ceilings way before we saw that happening in global financial markets. At Zest, we have always broken the stereotypes. We have strong and independent leaders, who are women, at the helm. Hence we introduced our power girl, ZeeGee, who embodies what we stand for.
We launched our campaign with a gamification-based ad film. If you look at games, like Super Mario, at the end of the adventure, it is game over. We, however, wanted to creatively convey that the adventure may end, but it is only for leveling up and that the game is never over.
The campaign is a 360-degree one and ZeeGee has already come alive in several cities across India. More initiatives including Out of Home (OOH) campaigns and others are also in pipeline. You may also get to play the real ZeeGee game as we are working to engage with our customers creatively on our app.
How are you keeping your communications aligned with your proposition of digital EMIs?
We have tailored our communication to the consumer’s tone and voice as different consumers look for different products. Even though the impact of creating and owning a new category on a company and the broader industry can be immediately quantified, category creation plays an important role in keeping our marketing communication aligned. At the end of the day it is about what money can buy and what money can buy is different for different people.
We at ZestMoney believe in empowering our customers with knowledge. We continue to take the vernacular communication route for this. We also collaborate with our merchant partners to run our communication in various languages. Zest is also a completely digital platform, and we communicate with our customers through the app and other platforms to keep them engaged.
While digital EMIs in India are growing significantly, financial education still remains a challenge. How are you dealing with this issue in particular in terms of communication?
ZestMoney is the most configurable and customizable product, which is essential in a complex and heterogeneous market like India, where we give customers a specific credit limit not just based on their credit score but by factoring in 1,000+ data points. We never issue a large credit ticket line at once. We begin with a small loan and gradually increase it as they begin to make timely repayments. In essence, we will reward only good repayment behaviour.
We are very transparent when it comes to our business. We strongly believe in empowering customers with knowledge. An empowered customer is not just good for us but for the entire ecosystem. Transparency is absolutely at the core of our business and products. We strongly believe EMI is a smart way to make a purchase instead of making the entire payment upfront. Customers can split the costs into 3,6,9 and up to 24 months (in the case of some merchants) at no extra cost. In case there is any interest, we clearly communicate the terms and conditions.
To overcome the challenges in financial education, we take up the regional language route to educate customers. We actively take up financial literacy campaigns in Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi, Kannada and others. These assets are made available to everyone to make sure they feel empowered even if they are not our customers.
With digital EMIs becoming increasingly popular, how are firms adapting to this change?
Competition is good in business as it broadens the horizons and keeps us on our toes. Creating a meaningful moat is important, especially in financial services, because successful players over time have managed to build a great moat and strengthened it over time. For example, our first successful moat for Zest is that we have excellent relationships with our entire network of merchants and lenders. We are the largest omnichannel digital EMI/pay-later platform in India, with by far the most acceptance.
Our second competitive advantage is that we are one of the few fintechs that can underwrite and approve NTC (new-to-credit) applicants. We take a thorough approach to customer selection that is based on advanced machine learning algorithms and is true AI-driven onboarding and underwriting. We examine over 1,000 data points to determine a customer’s creditworthiness. As a result, our approval rates are higher and our at-risk rate is lower. These two are something we have been continuously working on.
So, essentially, those who have a meaningful moat and work on them continuously will be the winners.
Higher visibility at merchant partners is something that has worked for us and we will double down our efforts here.
What is your core TG?
Our primary target audience is millennials, who are digital natives most of whom belong to the 23 – 28 age group. In the course of our business, we have noticed that millennials are super smart about their financials, but are also concerned about, spending, and saving habits. They also don’t like credit cards. They want a product that they can use anywhere and at any time and also want a bang for their buck.
While we built our product to expand the market and even get new to credit (NTC) customers get access to credit through our proprietary Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning-driven underwriting models, over the last year we have seen an increased demand from the prime and superprime customers (high CIBIL score) as well.
So, in India, EMI/pay-later is as much an affordability product as it is a convenience product.
Any upcoming marketing initiatives in the pipeline that you would like to share?
We will continue to be sensible about marketing initiatives at ZestMoney. For us, marketing encompasses not only social media and digital platforms but also activities that occur in the middle and bottom of the funnel including our in-store and point-of-sale (POS), along with the hotspot catchments around the retail zones. And in the moment of truth, present ZestMoney as the checkout option that helps serves their purpose (upgrade) in real-time.
We are also finding smarter ways to market and we are doubling down on our merchant marketing initiatives. Considering merchants are the strong pillar of our business and considering that it is merchants who take forward the marketing once customers enter the stores, we will drive a lot of our marketing efforts to engage with customers through our merchant channels, both online and offline. This also includes training our merchant partners. We are also engaging strongly with the D2C (Direct to consumer) brand community by helping them get access to a wider user base and increasing their AOV.
We’ll also be focusing more on cohort-specific OOH (Out of home) brand campaigns, and we’ll be releasing a new brand face for our upcoming campaign in the near future.
Going ahead, how do you see things panning out in terms of growth and expansion for Zest?
From a marketing construct, we work to continue to strengthen our funnel. So if we are speaking to say 20 people, we want to not just ensure that there is maximum conversion through the funnel but also that they remain a loyal cohort for the business.
The number of new customers we add each quarter has currently increased at a rate of more than 100% quarter on quarter, and this trend is expected to continue as we ramp up our smart marketing efforts even as we continue to offer our customers the best and most innovative products at the lowest possible costs.
From a business standpoint, we are also positive about partnerships, and we are constantly adding new merchants to create a massive and omnichannel merchant ecosystem. While our most popular pay in 3 months EMI with no cost offer remains available, we’re seeing a lot of interest in 6, 9, and 12 months tenures using which customers will be spending more in the coming years.
We are also obsessed with revenue and profitability since they are critical to building a sustainable business. We expect to reach $100 million in annualized revenue run rate in the next few months and $300 million by March 2023.