ThrillnChill.com: Marketing the Adventure Sports Concept
Driven by young and adventurous Indians with high disposable incomes and increasing concern for family bonding and maintaining work-life balance, adventure sports has started to take off in India. This article describes a unique hypothetical website ‘ThrillnChill.com’ aimed at offering services to fulfil this need. Through Thrill ’n Chill, the authors wish to explore the challenges faced in identifying the target audience, appealing to them and marketing the idea. Some of the major challenges that have been tackled include understanding the psyche of the interested consumer and designing of brochures to meet the expectations of the varied audience.
Adventure sports in India never had it so good. Though there were always the die hard fans of mountain treks in Himalayas or of white river rafting in Hrishikesh, their numbers were not enough to support a commercially viable business model based on adventure sports in the past. But now, with the rise in disposable incomes and increased interest from the corporate world, there is actually a supply shortfall to the increased demand. Many new companies, albeit on a small scale, have come up in various parts of the country which offer such recreational services, but what is really missing is a one stop solution offering complete information and integrated services for adventure seekers. In this article, we aim to present a brief model of an online portal that can bridge the gap in the market.
Thrill ’n Chill.com would be a one of its kind online adventure sports portal. It would include in-depth information about various adventure sports activities and destinations. It would help organize trips tailor-made to the customers’ requirements, typically a weekend get-away, eliminating the need for them to bother about the nitty-gritty of their travel. The objective of the service is to become the single point of contact for any event involving adventure. We believe a service fulfilling these requirements would go a long way in filling an existing need-gap. However, before one can launch this service, it is absolutely essential to understand the expectations of the consumer. The purpose of this article is to outline some of the important tools that can aid understanding of the audience as well as to present some sample results.
Understanding Consumer Behaviour – The ACV and HVM Model
Any attempt at understanding the customer begins with the laddering technique and the Attribute-Consequence-Value (ACV) framework. The ACV interview is a technique used to understand the decision making process of a consumer. By asking probing ‘Why’ questions, the interviewee is made to think deep as to why they took or did not take a particular decision. Insights obtained from many such interviews can be used to identify the key attributes that the consumer expects from a service and what they value the most. Based on interviews conducted, the attributes were found to be the extent of information provided, accuracy of the information, unbiased information, safety of the trip, duration, facilities provided, and helpline services. The consequences were found to be: fun, quality, value for money, thrill, enjoyment, stress buster, time saving, and effort saving. The values identified using the laddering approach were: family bonding, self confidence, and peace.
Based on the analysis of the interview results, a Hierarchical Value Map (HVM) was produced, which depicts the various needs of the consumer. Those mentioned at the base of the pyramid (attributes) are those that the consumer openly expresses. These are the needs that the consumer expects from a product. Those at the top of the pyramid (values) are the needs that the consumer subconsciously expects from a product, but does not express explicitly. A product satisfying these needs is a good example of a successful product. The HVM depicted in Exhibit 1 shows that family bonding, peace of mind, and self confidence are the personal values that motivate customers towards adventure sports. Identification of the key values can help in better advertising to the target customers1.
Exhibit 1 Hierarchical Value Map for adventure sports industry
Decoding the Decision Making Process
The second important step is to understand the decision making process of the potential consumers. This can reveal the major influencers of the customer and their most trusted channels. This can be studied under the five broad steps as represented in Exhibit 2.
Exhibit 2 Decision Making Hierarchy
The problem recognition part deals with identifying the need for the existing service among the potential consumers and the issues faced by them. The consumers for such a service may broadly be divided into two segments: corporates and families. The need is latent in families because they do not recognize adventure sports as a recreational activity. The corporates on the other hand are more adventurous and would look at sports as a means of building team-spirit and self-confidence.
The search for information starts through word-of-mouth advertising by the people who have visited the adventure spots. The primary source of information is friends and colleagues. The secondary sources of information include search engines such as Google, websites of existing tour planners and online travel forums. Internet plays a major role in the decision making process and thus an online offering would be necessary for the success of the venture.
Alternative Evaluation and Purchase Decision
While families prefer mild sports like snorkelling, trekking, etc., corporate people are willing to explore more adventurous activities such as river rafting, hand gliding, parachuting, and even bungee jumping. Hence, the evaluation depends on individual preferences: for families, the major constraints were safety, convenience, and comfort, while for the corporate the main constraint is the budget that can be allocated. Adventure sports offer an unforgettable experience and it is the aim of the marketing communication to make this clear to the customer before and at the point of the purchase.
Post Purchase Behaviour
After completing the trip, people return with a lot of pleasant/unpleasant memories which they share with others and hence it is essential that the experience outweighs the expectations. These experiences are shared with others either directly or through the internet. It is also the critical factor that decides the repeat purchase of a particular service. Therefore, understanding the post purchase behavior of consumers is extremely important.
Developing Market Segmentation and Targeting Customers
In order to find out the market size for such a service offering, it is necessary to segment the population along different geographic and psychographic factors. The main geographic profiling points would be the size of the household, the annual income of the family, occupation, and age of the decision maker. The psychographic parameters are: liking for sports, the relative importance of health, liking for variety, and risk appetite. Based on a study of these, it is possible to identify four segments, the pen profiles of whom can be sketched as below.
Adventure Seeker: A young man of 25 years, who is single but has a partner, earns a handsome salary and has a similar friend circle He is enthusiastic about trying out different kinds of adventure sports, owns a car, and lives in a rented apartment in a posh colony of the metropolitan city.
Variety Seeker: A married family man of 45 years whose activities revolve around his family. He owns a four wheeler, a two wheeler and has a house of his own. His means of entertainment generally consists of watching television at home, going for family outings and picnics or get-togethers and parties with family and corporate friends.
Health Conscious: A 50 year old man who has recently had a major illness and is recommended by his doctors to spend some time in a clean and quiet place. He owns a four wheeler and a house of his own and has been saving for a trip or tour later in his life
Latent Consumers: A 30 year old house-wife who has young children. Her family owns an economy class car and a house of its own, through a bank loan. She is usually apprehensive about outdoor trips and tours because of concerns about the availability of food, safe drinking water, and sanitary facilities.
The aim of such a profiling is to help map the consumers, through interviews based on their preferences, into different levels of adventure sport products. This can ensure that the product is targeted at the consumer who is most likely to go for it.
The positioning of this service should be to sell the experience of a wholesome trip to people who are too busy to plan out all the details of an outing with their family or friends, but are ready to pay a marginal premium for the convenience of deriving the maximum benefit from a customer-friendly platform for booking one’s trip. The consumers in the target segment range from young adults to middle aged people with families to companies looking to arrange team building activities. Industry best practices such as packaged tours, ease of contact, and affordability need to be replicated (Points of Parity). However, to migrate customer away from competition, the service will need to be differentiated (Points of Difference) along the lines of reliability of the information and the thoroughness in the planning it provides.
A typical statement of positioning would be of the form - “Adventure sports as an excuse for quality time with yourself and your loved ones”, such that it emphasizes how the services can be used to bond with others.
Marketing and Sales Channels
In terms of the channels through which the service needs to be offered, the internet is the primary means for conducting business and for contacting customers. This makes the design of the website a critical factor. The design needs to be clutter-free, but also ensure that it has at least features to customize trips and a contact number. A sample design can be seen in Exhibit 3. The online service needs to be supplemented with call centers to rope in those customers who are more comfortable conducting business over the phone. Also, a central brick and mortar facility will cater to customers seeking face-to-face interactions.
Exhibit 3 Homepage of ThrillnChill
Thrill ‘n Chill is catering to a huge range of customers, with varied appetites for risk, but from necessarily similar social and economic backgrounds. We are targeting the people from Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities who are looking for an opportunity to spend time with friends or family. Word-of-mouth will be the most influential driver for bringing in new customers. The various options available to us include the internet, print and broadcast media, and direct marketing.
Due to the psychographic nature of segmentation, Thrill ‘n Chill needs to pursue different promotion strategies for the different segments. Each promotional campaign must ensure that the segment receives the appropriate message. Cross-selling may create confusion in the minds of the consumer. The media used for the advertising also becomes critical. Health consciousness consumers need to be targeted through health magazines and websites whereas adventure seekers can be targeted through reaching out to informal groups of adventure enthusiasts. Samples of the communication material can be seen in Exhibits 4 and 5.
Exhibit 4 Brochure for the Variety Seekers segment
Exhibit 5 Brochure for the Adventure Seekers segment
As the adventure seeker segment mostly has youngsters who are tech-savvy, the internet can also be used as a major medium of communication. Demos and promotions can also be used to catch their attention. Direct marketing, print and broadcasting on television and radio can be used to create interest in the services amongst the Value Seeker segment. For the Health Conscious the message would focus on how adventure sport is a two-in-one solution for adventure and health and direct marketing and advertising in health and fitness magazines can be used to cater to this segment. To rope in the Latent Customers, the main strategy will be to stress on the reliability and safety factors of the service. Hence, direct face-to-face meetings along with offering rebates will get this segment interested in our offerings.
Adventure sports in a new concept in India. However, adventure has never been associated with family bonding and this makes it difficult for any service in this industry to succeed without effectively understand the requirements of their consumer and ensuring that they are able to tweak their services accordingly. Though the approach in this article has been customized to the adventure sports industry, some of the techniques can be used across industries to understand the needs of the customer before any new service is launched. These tools can help increase the probability of success as one aspect - ‘meeting customer needs’- can be guaranteed.
Seema Gupta is an Assistant Professor in the Marketing Area at IIM Bangalore. She has done her Ph.D. from M.L. Sukhadia University, Udaipur and M.B.A. from R.A. Podar Institute of Management, Jaipur (1993). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anup Anurag Soren (PGP 2008-10) holds a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and can be reached at email@example.com
Arun Manohar (PGP 2008-10) holds a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Arun Sagar O (PGP 2008-10) holds a B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Surathkal and can be reached at email@example.com
Asmita Kachhap (PGP 2008-10) holds a B.E. in Biotechnology from the Birla Institute of Technology (BIT) Mesra and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jiten Poojara (PGP 2008-10) holds a B.Tech in Civil Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras and can be reached at email@example.com
Lifestyle, Marketing, ACV Framework, Hierarchical Value Map, Adventure Sports, Segmenting, Consumer Behavior, Decision Making Process
Tania Modesto Veludo-de-Oliviera, Ana Akemi Ikeda and Marcos Cortez Campomar, 2006,“Discussing Laddering Application by the Means-End Chain Theory”, The Qualitative Report Vol. 11 No. 4 pp 626 - 642