Digital was the dominant narrative across sectors in India in 2017. Backed by the government’s decision to push India into a digital first economy, there were a number of developments that tilted the scale in its favour.
If we talk about media, marketing and advertising; from increasing thrust on OTT content, rising spends in digital marketing and AI targeted advertising, the digital push has been redefining these sectors in many ways.
Rising Investments in Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
Digital marketing space has been evolving constantly over past few years and 2017 was no exception. Marketers continued to explore newer ways to use technology to get those elusive 30 seconds of attention of their target customer. According to Pavan Chandra, Senior Sales Director – CX Applications at Oracle, “Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics have played a significant role in helping organizations identify the right target customers and understand their needs. Here comes the personalization, which dominated the marketing space during the previous year. The entire branding process has changed because customers are expecting personalization as the bare minimum from the organizations. If a company is customizing, that means that it is responding to their customers’ ever growing needs and expectations. Organisations, which did not acknowledge this change, lost out on customers and thus market share.”
“With around 25-30 per cent of the total revenues coming just from digital, there are huge investments being made in data and AI and agencies are getting future ready. Media transparency has become more important ever since YouTube’s brand safety fiasco and Facebook’s measurement errors came into light. Many brands have been changing how they think about digital and stepping up standards and governance. Havas Group is a pioneer of meta programmatic solutions. Together with MFG Labs, Havas launched the industry’s very first Meta-DSP in 2014 and in 2017, launched Client Trading Solution (CTS,) a game-changing programmatic solution that gives clients complete visibility and control over their campaigns, allowing full programmatic transparency. As an industry, we are redoubling our efforts to deliver a quality advertising environment, meet advertiser demands and create value for users,” added Anita Nayyar, CEO India & South Asia, Havas Media Group.
Rise in Digital Content Consumption
The consumption of digital content witnessed considerable rise in 2017, right from popular TV shows, movies and music to original, digitally-led, personalized content relevant to the viewer’s specific interests and viewing preferences in the form of videos, web series and other digital programming options.
According to Manish Maheshwari, CEO, Network 18 Digital, “It has been a landmark year for the digital media sector, but if I had to choose three of the most impactful developments, it would be the increasing focus on the digital-first audience, the sector going a step closer to ‘mobile-only’ and the re-imagination of monetization models in the digital space. Brands were able to capture the profiles of their audiences more accurately than ever with effective tools at their disposal, leading to more accurate targeting and thereby better engagement. Secondly, the drastic reduction in mobile data pricing together with the rising affordability of smartphones bolstered the ongoing journey of ‘mobile first’ to ‘mobile-only,’ where content creators were propelled to create engaging content that is best consumed on the mobile device. Lastly, we saw an emerging pattern where monetization models were being revisited and re-imagined by going back to the one and only thumb rule of ‘content is king.’ Both in India and the world, publishers began going down the subscription and transaction route, adding to their existing yet dwindling revenue stream of advertising. The focus and investment on qualitative content is at an all time high as a result, as we embark on a new year.”
“The year 2017 has been positive at various levels and when it comes to the digital sector specifically, there have been a few significant developments worth highlighting. Digital publishers and content creators were in need of an effective measurement system that could lend uniformity to the sector. This demand was met by BARC India, when they launched their indigenous digital measurement tool – EKAM, bringing in the much-required transparency for every stakeholder in the industry. The most relatable and ever-evolving aspect in the digital space continued to be the trend of web-series, but the launch of several new ‘digital-first’ shows in the past year widened the opportunities for brands to reach out to their respective TGs with fresh perspectives. Owing to cheaper data plans coupled with the mass adoption of 4G, the country saw an unprecedented growth in digital content consumption. This aided the advertising spends on digital as compared to the previous year, which has been a boon to both the content creators and brands across categories,” says Deepak Lamba, CEO, Worldwide Media.
The rollout of 3G and 4G broadband services, inexpensive smartphones along with cheaper data tariffs, is driving digital content consumption in Tier I and Tier II cities.
The biggest contributor to the demand for online entertainment content, however, has been India’s young population that comprises of more than 65 per cent of Internet users which prefers watching content of their choice on their personal handheld devices.
Siddhartha Roy, CEO of Hungama.com, said, “Digital entertainment has witnessed a multifold increase in content consumption across both audio and video entertainment formats. This dramatic increase in the size of user community has been enabled by a rapidly expanding device and connectivity ecosystem. Video entertainment as a format has been a key consumption driver and Hungama Play’s extensive video content library, especially its selection of curated short format content, has been instrumental in driving high engagement rates on mobile devices. This has allowed brands to reach a sizeable and highly engaged audience that is tuned into their choice of entertainment on our digital platforms.”
Impact of Reliance Jio and Demonetization
If we look at digital on the whole, the disruption led by Reliance Jio in the data space combined with the after effects of demonetization, kept redefining India’s digital transformation. Reliance Jio has been the biggest game changer which has enabled millions to latch on to the digital wave at an affordable price. And the biggest beneficiary of this is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India campaign, which aims to spread internet literacy even in the remotest parts of the country. India adds 15,000 new internet users, everyday. ‘The Future of internet in India’ report the Nasscom prepared in association with Akamai Technologies Inc. says that 730 million internet users are expected in India by 2020 and 75 per cent of the new users will be from rural areas.
The e-commerce warfare
Another key development in the digital space in 2017 was the intense competition between e-commerce players. The merger talks between Snapdeal and Flipkart dominated headlines for quite some time and finally Snapdeal decided against the merger. Another significant development was the announcement by Reiance Jio of entering the e-commerce market. The company is already working with corner stores and consumer brands to create an operational model that will enable shoppers to buy at neighbourhood shops using digital coupons via its Jio Money platform. Even China based e-commerce giant Alibaba announced that it’s eyeing a pie of the growing e-commerce market in India.
According to a report by financial services firm Morgan Stanley, online retail in India is estimated to grow over 1,200 per cent to $200 billion by 2026, up from $15 billion in 2016. That will be 12 per cent of India's overall retail market. “The number of India's online shoppers has crossed the 90 million mark this year, a growth of over eight times from 2013, when online shopping began to take roots here,” says a BCG report.
Crackdown on Fake news
The U.S. elections brought 'fake news' into the mainstream and with it, an understanding that we can be easily manipulated as people. Several of the major tech companies have taken some steps to remedy the situation. Google has partnered with nonpartisan organization, the International Fact-Checking Network, and Facebook is establishing better controls around political ads and increasing the transparency of the advertisers behind them. These new measures to control the use of the platforms are challenging for the tech giants, as they are burdensome and not failure proof.
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