Digital Marketing Trends in India – A recap of 2014

written by hiveminds

on January 5, 2015

A year is a long time in the parlance of online world. Another action packed year where the digital marketing efforts went all guns blazing across industries. Digital footprint expanded exponentially in India and the evidence is there for all of us to see. From the old time shop keepers coming up with a website to the street smart businessmen selling stuff on whatsapp, we saw the roots of digital marketing going deeper and stronger. 2014 was a year where we saw digital marketing take a coaster ride. It was a game changing year with facebook stamping its foot down as a major advertising player. Retargeting, Location Specific Ads, Real Time Bidding, Display, Video Ads – everything saw their share of changes compared to 2013 and triggered an ignition for changes expected in 2015. Here is a quick recap for you of high impact changes in digital marketing for the year 2014 specific to India and its influence on businesses.

Offline still on the High

Offline marketing continued to rule the roost in the Indian Marketing scenario in spite of fast mobile and internet penetration. This is expected in a country where the internet penetration is still at only 19.19%  (source: Internetlivestats) and the majority of the audience are still offline. While the digital advertising spend was able to reach approx $1 billion, traditional advertising spend was still a humongous $5 billion industry. (Source: statistica) It’s a proven channel from what we had seen from the major giants who had penetrated the market with TV like makemytrip, jabong, flipkart and in 2014 brands continued to invest a lot in offline branding. Hike, WeChat, Bluestone, Lenskart, Yepme, Pepperfry, Zivame, Freecharge etc and many more entered TV & publishing media.

Think Global, Serve Local and Act Mobile

Mobile Advertising saw a rocket growth last year. With over 1 Billion in population and 65% of population under 35 years, India has unrivalled demography for Smartphone manufacturers. The stats from IDC suggests that the smartphone vs feature phone ratio grew at a rapid scale increasing the data accessibility on mobile. About 67% of the urban internet users had access to net on mobile while about 40% of the rural internet users had access to net on mobile. Focus on mobile stayed as a key marketing strategy to cover the width and depth of the market.

Content marketing – a shift in customer acquisition tactics

Content marketing was a buzzword for 2013. India still lags behind the adoption but in 2014 we saw the industry slowly embracing content marketing. Buying and research behavior of customers changed. It became very important to educate the customers about the value of what they purchase owing to the ever increasing smartness of online customer and the flexibility of the medium to allow thorough research before purchase. For many brands content marketing was no longer an accessory but occupied their core of branding and customer acquisition efforts. Think of the election campaigns of 2014, Urbanladder, Thrillophillia, Google Search [Bet the video ad is still vivid in memory]. Most of the brands expanded their content marketing strategies through Social platforms, videos, pics, infographics and blogs.

Social for business is emerging

2014 was the year that proved the influence of Social Media in business. Many Indian brands employed in-house social media teams which manage branding, online reputation management, marketing campaigns and constant user engagement. The constant reduction of organic reach on Facebook made their priorities very clear. One can easily see the shift of organic to advertisements on Facebook, social for business became very important for any business. Facebook’s announcement of “Facebook for work” launch and “product catalogue” advertisements had major influence in the online advertising industry. Even though Facebook was still the most dominant Social Media channel, we saw increasing influence of Twitter, Quora, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn on business throughout the year. Twitter adoption amongst users was under par in India, resulting in twitter advertisement itself not taking off, however brands continue to keep their handles active and are not ignoring it. At the same time penetration of internet and smartphones  made the real time reviews about the brands and products possible. Reputation Management was high on the social channels  and had an impact on business both positively and negatively; case in point was Flipkart’s ‘Billion Day Sale’

Amplification of Paid Ads

Online spending increased; Facebook’s importance towards paid, Twitter’s move towards “buy from feed” (sponsored tweet) and growth of shopping ads compared to search ads, was all but an exercise in increasing customer acquisition. It’s especially clear on Facebook where average organic reach for business page posts dropped to <6% from 12% in 2013. This made small business’s growth limited and forced them to increase paid activities. Of course, the quality of results were questionable.

Facebook ad revenue chart

Facebook’s ad revenue chart in 2014

 

Although Facebook became extremely critical for business, Google still had the upper hand by a huge margin. Google’s focus on India increased. Even though ‘India Get Online’ campaign of 2012 was a little too early, businesses today are widely adopting search & display ads through Google Adwords and Google is right with them with free support and campaign management.

SEO – fear of Panda, Penguin, Pigeon and the shifted focus on Local & ASO

Indian users still don’t distinguish between paid ads and organic results as much. Ad blockers were a fad only with tech aware audience. However focus on SEO as a product hack took focus instead of age old methods of just content and links which used to be an outstanding trend in India years ago. Google continued to clean up link networks and for good, SEO got cleaner and better for user. Local SEO focus which started towards end of 2013, impacted location specific businesses heavily in 2014. It was no longer important to rank up, but it was all the more important to rank up locally. Mobile SEO was important albeit with little difference in rankings between Desktop and Mobile websites. Indian websites were primarily non mobile friendly. In addition to rankings on mobile browser, optimizing app store ranking was captivating marketers with its growing importance.

Ecommerce: Battle of Brands

Perhaps no other industry witnessed the drama and action that E Commerce in India did. Increased investments, changing regulations, widened customer base, increased customer spend, consolidations through mergers and acquisitions; E Commerce in India saw it all. And for marketing it was a golden time as fund flow was humongous and scale was all that mattered! Marketing Spends on Digital  skyrocketed to upwards of 50 lakhs to 5 crores per month even in markets like local transportation , recharge, niche retail [vertical based] and education. Retail, Travel, Real Estate and Finance spent few crores to tens of crores monthly.  This shift resulted in heavy paid advertising, lesser attempts at creative guerilla marketing and even reduced focus on organic traffic for the major brands. All the major brands did expand spend on Paid and Social platforms. One step ahead, amazon hinted starting its own ad network (yet again).

Other Notable Trends

  • Programmatic buying did not see as high an adoption by marketers, though aggregators and tools are on the offer
  • Analytics for big players has moved away from Google Analytics to custom paid tools
  • Newer retargeting networks across display and social networks see a wide option – we have seen adroll, criteo, bizo being very active about East Asian Sales and there should be more.
  • Bing Ads did not see much growth as compared to adoption in US
  • Inventory on ad networks across mobile and desktop is still dispersed with many local ad networks but google continues to lead.

What to expect in 2015?

  • Mobile, Social and Content are going to be the focus points in digital marketing
  • Mobile App market will dominate the online shopping behavior of the customer
  • Local and Personalized advertising to take front seat both online and offline – we should see these through TV with highly targeted advertising through set up boxes.
  • Reputation building and real time reputation management will take higher importance
  • Brands investments on online advertising and Social going to be high
  • Multi-channel advertising and retargeting will see higher customizations

PS: This article was originally posted on Nextbigwhat, by same author.