The Rural Consumer: Meaning and Characteristics

15/05/2020 1 By indiafreenotes

Rural consumers go to their nearest cities when they have to buy products like tractors, televisions, motorcycles, etc. For most villages, the nearest cities can be as far as 50 kms away. Most of these cities are district towns. Rural consumers go to the ‘local market’ which is normally around 5-10 km. from their villages to buy the daily household requirements like sugar, tea, vegetable oil, etc.

Some family member, more likely the eldest male member, may be going to this local market even daily and buying requirements of the family. Rural families buy their products as they get exhausted and do not buy all their requirements once a month or fortnight as urban consumers do. There is no scheduled, periodic purchasing of household requirements in rural markets.

A product is bought when it is required. So when a product is not available to a rural consumer when it is required, he will do without it and the company loses the sale of the product that the rural consumer would have consumed.

It is important that the products are available locally so that the rural consumer can buy them conveniently when need for them arises. It is not uncommon to send a youngster to buy tea, sugar and biscuits when a guest arrives. It is not even uncommon to rush a child to buy cooking oil when the lady of the house discovers that she has run out of cooking oil after she has put the vegetables in the frying pan.

These incidents are not embarrassing for rural consumers. They just postpone purchasing for as long as they can. To be able to cater to this sort of unpredictable but urgent demand, products have to be made available at the village level. It is not enough to make products available at the local market.

Most companies feel that it is not economically viable to have a retailer in each village. Interested companies will have to promote a common retailer in one village. The chosen retailer will stock practically everything that the rural consumer of the village may require. He will stock fast moving consumer goods, fertilizers, cement, diesel, products needed for marriage and other ceremonies, all types of food items, gas cylinders, etc.

The idea is that if all these products are sold by one retailer, it will have sufficient volumes and the retailer would be interested in making adequate investments. Running a rural retail operation is not very costly. The retailer is a resident of the village and his house is the shop. He need not build any extra space for the shop.

Since the shop is in the house, all the family members help in running the shop as and when they are available. The shop can be open for long hours without causing much stress to the retailer. And since the retailer is based in the village, he will not seek higher margins as he may be having some other means of income too. But the companies whose products will be sold will have to manage the back-end of the rural retail operations.

Rural retailing has so far failed because the rural retailer bought goods from the local market and sold them in the shop in his village. Therefore he had to sell the products at a price higher than what they were being sold in the local markets. And since the local market was easily accessible to the rural consumers, they preferred to buy from the local market than from the retailer in the village. This perception of the products sold at rural retail shop as being costly has to be removed.

The companies will have to combine their supplies and transport them in a common vehicle to a rural retailer and make him competitive in comparison to retailers in the local market. If companies co-operate among themselves to supply their items to the rural retailer efficiently, rural retailing will be economically viable and will be a very important tool to get rural consumers to buy more frequently, and more variety of products. Rural retailing is imperative if companies want to create a consumerist rural society.

There is an alternative to rural retailing. Door-to-door selling or some version of it can be employed. Retailers at the local market can employ door-to-door salespeople. These salespeople can move on bicycles and should agree to accept payment in grains. Door-to-door selling is very effective in overcoming consumers’ reluctance to buy. Consumers keep postponing going to a retail store because they do not want to spend money but when a door-to-door salesperson arrives, they are likely to succumb to his offerings.

Characteristics of rural consumer

  1. Reference Group

Typically, in a rural area the reference groups are primary health workers, doctors, teachers and panchayat members, the village trader or the grocer, commonly called ‘Baniya’ or ‘Mahajan’ are an important influencer in the decision making of rural customer. A marketer needs to be aware of these influences that can effect changes in the rural customer’s consumption patterns.

  1. Occupation

Consumption patterns differ according to income levels. Typically, in a rural area the principal occupation is farming, trading, crafts, plumbing, electric works, primary health workers and teachers.

Agriculture and related activities continue to be the main occupation for majority of the rural population. Land is the major source of income for about 77% of the population.

  1. Media Habits

Rural people are fond of music and folklore. In rural areas a popular form of entertainment is the ‘Tamasha’ and ‘Nautanki’. And then there are television, radio and video films.

  1. Rural Electrification

The main objective is to provide electricity for agricultural operations and for small industries in rural areas. About 5 lakh villages (77%) have electric supply and this has increased the demand for electric supply and this has increased the demand for electric motors, pumps and agricultural machinery.

  1. Other Variables

Culture, language, religion, caste and social customs are some other important variables for profiling a rural customer. Rural consumers have a lot of inhibitions and tend to be rigid in their behavior. A company has to take intense care while targeting them.