Going Digital In 2020 Is a Must For Local Businesses in India

The Caronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, has proved going digital in 2020 is must for local business in India. The businesses which have stayed afloat are ‘essential services’ and ‘local online businesses’. India had already been introduced to digital-driven products and services from entertainment (Netflix and Spotify) to transportation (Uber and Ola) to home supplies (Flipkart and Amazon). In Mumbai city itself, Big Basket, Vedyam Organics and Naturals, Happy Healthy Me, Satvyk & Ardish Stores, Zomato, Swiggy, Shop for Change, Nutty Yogi, PharmEasy, Wellness Forever, Ramkrishna Bazaar, Dmart, and others continued to do business in the lockdown with online orders. Even traditional grocery stores ‘the banayas’ and pharmacies have adopted some form of digital marketing to bring value to their customers in this time of the corona pandemic. Having seen the important role digitalization is playing in the times of stay indoors and work-from-home, here we are going to explain why digital marketing is essential for a local business, what digital marketing strategy to adopt, and the various options available for a small local business to begin digital marketing in India in 2020.

The Digital Revolution In India

  • India’s, online economy is fast growing. In 2020, it is estimated the number of digital buyers will be close to 330 million.
  • In the financial year 2019, the digital advertising industry in India had a market size of around 160 billion Indian rupees and expected to reach 225 billion rupees in 2020,  and 539 billion rupees by 2024.
  •  Presently India’s e-commerce penetration is only 28 percent. This means there is ample scope for growth.

Why Digital Marketing for a Small Local Business

1. The Cost Fact

Traditional advertising like television, newspapers don’t come cheap. They were always beyond the reach of small local businesses. Digital marketing and digital advertising provide cost-effective solutions to reach the targeted audience at a fraction of the cost. From email marketing to Google My Business Listing, to podcasts and webinars, and paid ads, local businesses can reach out to an audience at a lesser price driving a decent Return-On-Investment (ROI). Depending on the goal, from generating leads, increasing sales, improving website traffic, to creating brand awareness and reach, the buyer can target the potential customers with the use of one or more types of cost-effective digital ad formats.

2. The Mobile Revolution

Digital marketing helps to generate more leads, conversions, and revenue. In December 2019, 502.2 million Indians were smartphone users (77% of Indians access wireless broadband through smartphones). With so many Indians, searching for a product/service, your product must show up on their mobile device. Worldwide internet statistics also show a shift from desktop users to mobile users.

3. Targeting Options

Today most online advertising strategies allow the digital advertiser to build the most effective digital advertising campaign to reach their goal by narrowing the target audience based on geographic location, demographic data, mobile or desktop device, income, interest, preferences. PPC or pay-per-click ads can give mileage to the ad budget. Some local businesses also include retargeting or remarketing, in their sales funnel which enables them to show their ads in front of customers who have already visited their website.

4. Exposure via SEO ranking

64% of local customers use Google to find local businesses, and 50% of them visit the local business on the same day. Local companies also optimize location-specific keywords for their specific brand/product. Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) with keywords not only improves website ranking but provides a better chance of the user clicking on your website.

5. Measurable Results

Ad campaign goals are achievable when they are – relevant, specific, attainable, time-based and measurable. The one thing that digital marketing and digital advertising offers is the measurability of these ad campaigns. Digital marketing analytic tools like Google Analytics allow any small local business owner to see which campaigns are working and which are not in real-time, allowing them to make adjustments to reduce unnecessary expenses.

5 essential digital marketing tips for small business owners

  1. Get a mobile-friendly website and optimize it for local search
  2. Include Full Address and Hours of Business
  3. Provide email address and a telephone number
  4. Have social media accounts and regularly post on them
  5. Get listed on few free internet directories          

The goal every small business owner should set

Every local business must have a clear marketing goal when it decides to go digital. It can be,

  • Local awareness
  • Increase website traffic                                                 
  • Improve market share
  • Intensify profitability by supplementing the brick-and-mortar ongoing business
  • Customer satisfaction

Depending on the business goal the local business will decide on its marketing strategy – Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to Social Media Marketing (SMM).

The Digital Marketing Strategy for a Local Business

To maximize the ROI, your local business marketing strategy must include: –

Image Credits: India Mart

1. High-quality content:  To improve the brand image, boost revenues and build trust with the user audience, you must provide high-quality content. The content can tell a story, touch an emotional chord or educate the potential buyer.

2. A great user experience: Today 57% of online traffic is accounted for by mobiles and 43% by desktops. Ensure your website whether on a mobile or a desktop, is easy to navigate for users to convert to customers.

3. Organic search results to reduce ad spending: It is proof that you can convert customers with social media shares, likes, and comments. Organic SEO though time consuming and difficult also helps to improve website ranking.

4. Webinars and podcasts:  Use tools like free webinars and podcasts to connect with the local audience through discussion and presentation of your product or service.

5. Regular monitoring:  From day one ensure you are monitoring the performance of your ad campaign or organic SEO efforts.

6. An objective: Whether it is the landing page or a call-to-action button, the objective of your business will help to determine and select the best ad format.

7. A strong email list: Email marketing converts leads to sales. An email generates the highest conversions and is 40 times more effective to get customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.

8. Lead generation: Create a form where customers can share their details which can provide one-on-one information.

9. Reviews from influencers: H&M brand of clothing is a classic example of how they owe their huge Instagram following to influencers like fashion bloggers, models, and fashionistas. Their reviews did count to build a brand image.

How to Grow your Local Business with Digital Marketing

Image Credits: Epic Media

There is no one-size-fits-all. Today if you run a local business you must also know the power of digital marketing to engage with your customers on various digital channels. The average cost of digital marketing for small businesses in India ranges from INR 25,000 to INR 150,000 per year. Here are a few ways to grow your local business with limited funds for digital marketing.

1. Own a Website

To market a product online the first step is to build your website. Today setting up a website on WordPress is easy and cheap. Use the common domain extension like .com while selecting a suitable and easy to remember web address.

2. Use Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) listing is a free tool that allows any local businesses to connect with customers through Google Search and Google Maps. It is like an online directory that helps a user find a product/service/business close to where he/she is located. A few of the most searched businesses on Google’s local searches are – restaurants (5 billion), hotels (3 billion), clothing shops (1 billion), hair and beauty salons (600 million and Coffee shops (5 million).

3. Create a Social Media Account

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is promote-local-business-online-on-social-media-IMAGE-BY-MARKETER-ASIA-1024x576.jpeg
Image Credits: Marketer Asia

Free promotion on social media does not mean you blast your followers with daily promotions. Instead use social media to provide valuable content to engage with the audience, build trust and brand loyalty. Ensure the business account is active and has visibility on multiple platforms.

4. Provide high-quality content

Image Credits: Neil Patel

Blogs, newsletters, e-books, webinars, and online courses are all different means of content marketing. Content marketing and content writing is the creation and promotion of quality content optimized for SEO. It is a long-term consistent process where you provide your target audience valuable information that converts to a lead and eventual to a profitable customer. Today 61% of consumers are influenced by custom content. So it’s best to have an experienced content writer to provide interesting and informative content for your users.   

5. Include Email Marketing

Email Marketing is a means to communicate with a customer through electronic mail. For local businesses, it is the cheapest, easiest and quickest way to keep their regular customers informed of local sales, events, new products, etc. Besides, email marketing is a good tool to contact the customers which have been generated as leads by your website. These leads are generated by including a free trial, or a discount coupon, or eBook on your website that the user downloads in exchange for their email address.

6. Sell products via FB marketplace

Image Credits: Hosting CT

Facebook Marketplace is a digital marketplace where users can buy/sell items within a limited locality or area. Over 800+ million people visit Facebook each month to buy and sell products. It is an ideal platform for local businesses that want to create brand awareness on a local level

7. Sell products via Instagram Shopping

Any local business can use Instagram shopping in tandem with Facebook marketplace to promote what they are selling. Instagram’s local business profiles include your website, contact address, telephone number, operating hours, and a “View Profile” link to your business’s Instagram account — all within the app. With over 500 million daily active users, Instagram also provides you potential local reach.

8. Connect with customers on WhatsApp

In India, WhatsApp is the fastest means of communication and more popular than Facebook. Small businesses use WhatsApp to announce new offers, to send festival and birthday greetings to their customers, and also to provide quick customer support. A lot of local restaurants are now offering their users an option to order food using a WhatsApp message service.Even local pharmacies are accepting an image of the prescription on WhatsApp to deliver medicines.

9. Market products via eCommerce giants

India’s leading e-commerce giants like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, eBay do have a Marketplace Model also where you can promote your products on their websites. It helps to get a large amount of traffic but after that, you will have to handle the order, shipping, return, etc. by yourself.

10. Advertise on Facebook

Two million small to medium-sized businesses advertise on Facebook as it is an inexpensive and effective way to market a product, service, and brand. Creating Facebook ads is very simple. Facebook Ad Manager allows you to target a specific audience based on location, interests, age, sex, online behavior, and many other factors. Here’s how to set up an advertisement on Facebook.

11. Place Google Ads

Today 86% of consumers browse the net for information on local businesses. Besides Google receives more than 40,000 searches per second. It is easy to set up an ad campaign on Google with Google Adwords. Search Ads, Google Display Network and YouTube Ads formats can be used depending on your business goal. However, it is advisable, to begin with lower bids and on-page SEO to maximize the returns. This can help you to know more.

12. Try Instagram Ads

In January 2020, Instagram users in India stood at a whopping 80,590,000 accounting for 5.8% of the population. So, if you are in the local business of fashion, food, retail, etc. you can include Instagram ads in your advertising campaign. Influencers on Instagram also help to build an active audience for the brand.

13. Set up an App

Apps are often used by doctors who want to offer virtual consultancy via Apps. It helps to monitor the patients’ health without a visit. Today digital apps like MFine, Medlife, UCare offer online medicines, consultation, and preventive healthcare. Telemedicine is also growing in the remote areas of India since doctor-patient virtual consultancy is now a reality.

Digital Marketing Trends 2020 for Local Business

There will always be trends in digital marketing. Some of those that effect local businesses are –

1. Social Media Marketing: The need for social media marketing (SMM) has arisen with users spending an average of 135 minutes every day on social media platforms. People search these platforms to research products, watch reviews, ask questions to customer service and view influencers promote a brand. 70% of small businesses are today using Facebook marketing tools to promote their business.

2. Voice Search: Today 81% of people are using voice search on their smartphones. This means your local business will need a voice search strategy to optimize the content with keywords used in a voice search including long-tail keywords and questions. Alexa and Google Home voice assistants also are voice-enabled searches.

3. Videos: The two most used video platforms by digital marketers are YouTube (85%) and Facebook (79%). In September 2019, 93% of digital video viewers in India (approx 271.9 million) were YouTube viewers. So, video advertising is a great way to engage with your audience. Local businesses can use various widely free video sharing sites such as YouTube, Facebook, IGTV, Vimeo and TikTok to create appealing videos containing information about their product or service

4. Content Marketing: Content is King and continues to rule every marketing strategy. While SEO content continues, there is also a growing amount of interactive content including polls, quizzes, online voting and the newest ‘expiring content’ as seen in Snapchat which adds an element of urgency and exclusivity for the product.

5. Online Reviews: Most young customers between 18 and 34 years of age say they always read a review of a local business before opting for its product/service. 91% say online reviews are the closest to referrals. Because online ratings and reviews are highly valuable their impact will continue on local marketing.


The small business sector is an important contributor in achieving India’s goal of becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2025. From digital bookkeeping to digital Supply Chain Management (SCM) small local businesses are adopting new processes for new profit channels. One of the reasons why the people of Maharashtra are able to cope with this Caronavirus (COVID-19) days of lockdown, is only because many of the digitally-enabled local businesses came forward to help. These small businesses not only helped us to stay indoors by allowing us to order every essential item online but also by delivering to our doorsteps. Small local businesses are set to triumph even in the global economic slowdown. Having understood how digital marketing can help local businesses, it is time to embrace the change.

Go Carona Go, Go Digital Small Business Go!