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Adapting digitally to Iran: Rethink the approach

Mobile in Iran

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Adapting digitally to Iran: Rethink the approach

Kantar TNS’ latest study identifies how Iranian consumers differ from the rest of MEA and what this means for digital strategy by Satish Dave, senior director, Kantar TNS Middle East

The latest study on Iran by Kantar TNS has unearthed some very interesting digital behaviors that provide deep insights for marketers and can help them mold their strategy as per the demands of the unconventional Iranian digital ecosystem.

Marketers need to be conscious that Iran is a very different market when it comes to culture, consumer attitude and consumer behavior, and their digital needs and current digital outlook. With significant reliance on local digital and social media platforms rather than the global, such as WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube, reaching out to the Iranian consumer is an entirely new ballgame that GCC marketers will have to learn if they want their presence felt in the newly opened arena.

As part of a global TNS Connected Life study, conducted across 58 countries and 70,000+ online consumers, Kantar TNS got a glimpse into Iran and the opportunity to tap into the 68 million online users in Iranian market. The study lists a few key areas that can help marketers navigate within the Iranian market. A good starting point would be to identify common digital behaviors between Iran and other Middle Eastern countries.

Some themes common with other ME markets are:

  • Iran is multi-device but mobile-centric, which means marketers need to devise a mobile-first strategy while considering that Iranians access content on tablets and laptops too, unlike African markets, which are purely mobile-driven.
  • A majority (64 percent) of the time is spent on digital media compared to traditional media among online users. Connecting with consumers in the moment becomes easier, since this access is mainly through mobile devices.

Marketers also need to have a better understanding of the alternative tools of digital and social media that make Iran conspicuous among other ME countries, which will serve their purpose and help write a success story in Iran despite several limitations. Moreover, certain scenarios – such as minimum use of ad-blockers – can actually help marketers turn things around in their favor.

What is different about Iran from other countries?

  • When it comes to TV and online video content, more Iranians are watching TV and, on an average per day, spending more time on TV compared to online videos. Both instances of watching and average time spent per day are much lower for online videos. Iranian video sharing service Aparat is more popular than other video-sharing platforms.
  • Instant messaging is almost universal and the key driver for this is Telegram; Whatsapp is not yet popular in Iran. Telegram usage varies, from connecting with friends and family to being part of and following communities/clubs/common interest groups.
  • As of now, ad-blocker usage in Iran is negligible compared to other ME markets (roughly ten percent) and globally (roughly 18 percent). Iranians are open to tailored online brand campaigns, which means if brands execute an online strategy well, it can have a good impact.
  • Uploading videos, photos and music is prevalent to a slightly higher extent compared to MEA.
  • E-commerce levels are understandably very low in Iran, but there is high interest. With the development of the right infrastructure, access and payment methods, there is potential for e-commerce in Iran to grow.

Overall, marketers need to use traditional ATL media such as TV and outdoor, but quickly look to connect with consumers using digital and social media. Iran is very different in terms of the digital and social media used and the reasons for that usage. There is also a need for localization of content from a culture and language perspective.

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