#Throwback2020: OTT, WhatsApp marketing, social commerce defined growth of digital

2021 will be one of the best years simply because of what 2020 has been like.

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: It is needless to say that digital was somewhat less impacted than any other medium in 2020. The pandemic, in fact, propelled the adoption of digital across industries because of its sheer acceptance and obvious advantages. Though we expected digital to grow at the rate of 27 per cent in 2020, as highlighted by a dentsu International report that was launched before the Covid outbreak, it is now speculated that the industry growth will be around 13-16 per cent over 2019. Having said that, digital is by far the only medium to see positive double-digit growth in this period. 

This can be contributed to all the facets within the digital industry experiencing a significant boost – be that social, content, search or streaming. However, OTT platforms were by far the most popular source of entertainment during the lockdown, with 70 per cent of respondents saying so, according to the OTT report by Dentsu Marketing Cloud - Dentsu International. With new users joining social media platforms every day and even more so during the pandemic, its popularity is ever on the rise. 

WATConsult’s report ‘Digital, Diverse & Multilingual India’ states that just three social media apps – Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – are responsible for a whopping 76 per cent usage by the people. With increasing internet adoption and penetration, we saw brands altering their content too, to maximise their reach. Also, in terms of brands' expenditure, spends on social media, online videos and paid search are among the highest in the digital sphere. 

Another big trend that got into the limelight this year was Whatsapp marketing. As small-scale stores, kirana shops, local businesses, etc took a huge hit during the nationwide lockdown, they utilised the platform quite skilfully in order to stay digitally connected to their consumers and promote their products and services. 

Social commerce too gained more traction because of similar reasons. Home deliveries increased significantly, and not just by the big brands and e-commerce platforms, but rather by local businesses and new entrants in the fashion and apparel industry, who were seen offering delivery options for a convenient and safe environment for consumers. 

Programmatic advertising was also on a disruptive ride with new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, voice search and digital OOH attracting most advertisers. The rapid increase in mobile usage and internet penetration has led to more than 70 per cent of digital media spends being directed towards mobile devices. Voice assistants have increasingly gained much traction on smartphones, in fact, 60 per cent of people use them to give voice commands, as per WATConsult’s report, ‘Voice technology in India: Now and Future’. So, if one has to see the spends on these platforms, online video and social media on mobile devices are speculated to register an encouraging growth, amongst others, in 2020. In the past few years, India has witnessed a rapid technological boom which has indeed, led to reformations and emergence of voice technology in the country. 

Also, according to the aforementioned report, speech and voice recognition technology market stood at Rs 149.95 crore by the end of 2019. It played a crucial part in the functioning of several industries, like voice-bots answering queries and helping to build better customer relations in the BFSI sector; educational institutes and educators employing voice-enabled technology as a promising tool, for example, Google’s ‘Bolo’ application; 49 per cent consumers making purchases with the aid of a voice assistant in the consumer product and retail industry. Furthermore, we expect it to grow at 40.83 per cent CAGR to reach a market size of Rs 417.51 crore by 2022, witnessing a growth of 2.8X.

I expect 2021 will be one of the best years for the digital industry, simply because of what 2020 has been like. This year tremendously pushed the advancement of digital, as both marketers and consumers gravitated towards it as the much-needed alternative for the traditional means in light of the pandemic. This led digital to reach the masses on a newer and much deeper level and allowed people to appreciate the multitude of benefits it has to offer. The pandemic also changed people’s view of digital from being a luxury to a necessity, hence making it a much more significant fixture in the daily lives of millions of people. 

(Heeru Dingra is the CEO of WATConsult. This is an excerpt from a conversation she had with’s Mansi Sharma.) 

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