While bidding farewell to 2017, Google India came out with a comprehensive report titled, ‘Year in Search’ which throws light into the way Indian consumes content. Google’s annual report offers a unique perspective on India’s most significant trends, major events and local and topical interests that reflect the ever-changing psyche of India’s online millions.
As of 2017, India’s internet users were estimated a little north of 400 million. Today, that number is closer to 450 million. While that number constitutes less than 30% of our total population, it is the second largest online market after China – and it is only growing. By 2020, the Year in Search India report estimates more than 650 million Indians will be online. That’s double the population of the United States.
Every day, more and more Indians are discovering the internet and integrating it into their daily lives – to look for information, entertainment, answers and everything in between.
The report spans 11 verticals and delves into consumer behaviour to reveal what goes on in the minds of India’s next billion internet users and the implications this has for brands and marketers. Here are the top five emerging trends identified in the report.
Non-metros in India are quickly catching up with the major cities regarding internet usage. Voice, vernacular and video are three key pillars that are showing strong and steady growth. Search queries are growing at a faster rate in non-metros than metros. In fact, 2 in 3 queries are from non-metro cities. And given the growth of regional content online, Hindi is of course still the dominant language; other regional languages like Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Punjabi are swiftly gaining prominence online.
This only goes to show that brands would have to focus on Tier II and III cities and digital marketing strategies would have to focus on languages apart from English. This is the only way to reach the right target audience.
2017 saw digital undergo a major paradigm shift – from a support-marketing channel to a full-fledged business platform of its own. According to the digital marketing industry report that we recently released, 68% of brands leverage digital marketing to promote their products and services.
Sectors like auto, banking, finance and insurance (BFSI) showed a direct correlation between online research and offline purchase. A leading OEM’s sales were driven 20% by digital. Similarly, sectors like FMCG and banking saw entire transactions being carried out online. Consumers relied on Search to educate themselves and discover products before finally converting online. For instance, consumers not only searched for hair care tips online but also looked for products that would help them solve their hair problems. As per the report, the Internet will influence $45 billion of FMCG sales in India. This is further proof of how digital will revolutionise the FMCG sector.
Growth spurts in e-commerce, travel, finance and digital media have driven online consumer expenditure, which is expected to grow 2.5 times to $100 billion by 2020. Furthermore, the report projects that India’s online spender base will expand 2-3x its current volume to reach an astounding 180-200 million by 2020. There was a 70% growth in Telco-owned owned mobile wallets like Airtel Money, Vodafone mPesa, etc. All these figures point to a robust e-commerce ecosystem.
The online and offline are merging to create a holistic story. The lines between digital and physical consumer behaviours continue to blur. Take for example – a 50% increase in search volume for “stores near me” indicating that online searches for stores are an now an integral part of a consumer’s shopping experience. Similarly, the auto industry saw an astounding 79% of car buyers making purchases after watching a video online. These examples reinforce the fact that what happens online directly affects what happens next offline.
Newer technologies like AI and machine learning are upping the ante, leveraged as marketing and business solutions. Across categories, Google’s Year in Search shows several examples of a market primed to take on the benefits of AI and machine learning. India’s auto industry saw intending car buyers take favourably to 360-degree video and virtual reality, which could potentially replace test drives. Insurance players turned to AI-chatbots to efficiently answer user queries at scale. Concurrently, content consumption patterns on video viewing platforms continue to be influenced by machine learning.
As per the Google trends in India report, online searches related to the auto sector are on the rise. This is more so in non-metros where digital sales drove 20% of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) sales.
Two wheeler insurance saw a 100% increase in queries, while searches related to parts and accessories and servicing saw a 43% and 70% rise each.
The report also states that car buyers are now looking for a more omnichannel experience. This is evidenced by a 50% reduction in offline touch points during the buying process. Car buyers are relying more on the internet for videos regarding their vehicles and virtual test drives prior to finalising. In fact, 71% of consumers believe VR test drives and 360 videos could replace the conventional method of test-driving a vehicle. Videos are the simplest way of building your brand and utilising the video medium was one of the key digital marketing trends of 2017.
Business and personal home loan queries saw a massive surge, as did searches related to banking solutions and information about mutual funds. BFSI brands have also seen a significant impact on driving consideration and overall digital acquisition as a result of using a “search bar” as a call to action. Businesses also began utilising machine learning for speech to text translations and sentiment predictions in their call centre transcripts, all of which have resulted in a seamless experience and improved efficiency for customers and businesses alike. All in all, leveraging digital marketing for the financial industry has proved beneficial.
2017 was a good year for the e-commerce sector. There was a 41% growth in shopping queries, most of these coming from non-metros. The most significant growth markets are Patna, Lucknow. By 2020, digital spending and women shoppers are expected to grow by 2.5x.
The largest e-commerce category is fashion with a 53% growth in fashion e-commerce queries. Other fast-growing sectors include baby care, growing at 36% and groceries showing an average growth rate of 65-70% between 2017 and 2020. The report evidences that online shopping is increasing beyond India’s metros; searches in Hindi and other regional languages have gone up by 61% with Hindi commanding the highest share.
Education is rapidly coming up online; it comes as no surprise that learning and education related searches grew by 2x, while education content on YouTube grew to 4x. Non-metros showed more than 100% growth, with maximum interest in courses that taught new technology, i.e. machine learning, cloud computing, artificial intelligence.
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Digital is spearheading business for the FMCG category, particularly the beauty industry. 2017 saw a 60% increase in beauty related searches and searches related to parenting and baby care buying decisions.
Much of this is also influenced by YouTube as there is a 4x growth in watch time for baby care videos. According to YouTube Brandcast 2018, more than 50% of women professionals watch YouTube videos for more information before purchasing in categories like beauty, real estate and automobiles.
Real estate, too, saw a 43% jump in search queries and a 49% growth in searches related to affordable housing.
Showcasing properties on digital platforms is one of the most effective ways for developers to sell their properties. With a multitude of techniques including advertising on various platforms, multilingual content and a strong search engine marketing, real estate developers can generate even a 190 crore in revenue using the digital media.
Regional content ruled all aspects of entertainment with a 100% growth in vernacular entertainment watch time on YouTube. There were high conversions and growth in watch time when viewers were exposed to a TV ad for a show online.
We have witnessed first-hand the power of regional content on YouTube. For the ‘Good Netizen Good Citizen’ Campaign by The Murugappa Group, we at Social Beat conceptualised for a video that would resonate with their audience base. Since The Murugappa Group is based out of Tamil Nadu, Tamil language content would be more natural for their audiences to understand and relate to.
These videos performed incredibly well on YouTube - one of them even received over 570,000 views. Users actively engaged with the video, commenting and sharing it on various social media platforms.
Providing shoppers with an omnichannel shopping experience is proving valuable for businesses. Shoppers Stop worked with Google to connect their offline sales with their digital marketing spends. This got them a 2.5x Return on Ad Spends (ROAS).
Our client Gehna, too, follows an omnichannel approach with a physical boutique and presence online, selling on Facebook, Amazon and on their website.
Indians in non-metros embraced India’s fast-growing internet penetration and used it to research before buying new gadgets, which resulted in a 45% growth in queries for consumer electronics. New and niche technologies also witnessed a boost in search queries to the tune of 3x more interest in smart home devices and 2x growth in both in smart homes, appliances and lighting, and smartwatches and fitness bands.
Business-related tech took off in a big way as well, with an increased interest in accounting software, website builders and HR and finance/payroll categories.
With the advent of 4G in India, most of our internet traffic this year came from outside India’s top eight cities. Consumption patterns fluctuated with searches for mobile data jumped to 70% for 4G and dropped to 30% for 2G and 3G.
With the top 4 telcos offering competitive prices, consumers took full advantage – searches for offers shot up by 141%. There was a substantial increase in payment bank searches – nearly 174% as consumers are now looking beyond cash and card payments.
India loves to travel, and by 2020, the Indian travel market is poised to hit $48 billion, with Tier 2 cities leading this growth. Voice and fast loading mobile experiences and brand awareness are emerging key factors in travel-related searches.
This report only proves that digital marketing is the most important medium to market your brand. Whether you are a real estate giant or an FMCG brand, if you have an ambitious project in mind, reach out to us.
For more information, insights and opportunities in your vertical, download the report here.