Top Digital Marketing Trends Predicted for 2020 in Sri Lanka

At the beginning of every new year, experts around the world are publishing their list of “Digital Marketing Trends for 2020” etc as a customary exercise. Most of these lists are based on the past trends in developed markets like USA and Europe, and very rarely those predictions become a reality in a market like ours. 

With my experience of working with Sri Lankan brands in digital media platforms for nearly 10 years, and working as a trainer in many digital marketing courses in Sri Lanka for the same amount of time,  I have come to realize that our clock is almost 3 to 5 years behind the curve compared to the USA and other developed markets. In some cases, the trends which apply to the USA, are not relevant at all for our market. 

For example, Snapchat and Pinterest were in the top positions of future trends for many years in the West, but in Sri Lanka, neither of these platforms became a notable trend. However, TikTok which hit us from the East became an overnight sensation among the Sri Lankan youth, whereas now only the Social Media experts in the West are talking about TikTok as a future trend.

Considering all these factors, I managed to put together a list of predictions for 2020 as the “Most Notable Digital and Social Media Trends to Watch in Sri Lanka in 2020”.

Here are my predictions in no particular order.

1. Brands Will Invest in Developing Social And Digital Content Assets

Even though Sri Lanka has nearly a 35% internet penetration, most of the users never move beyond the Facebook newsfeed. However, as the internet users becoming more experienced and matured about using the internet, they will start exploring more platforms beyond just Facebook. 

Youtube, for example, reached its tipping point in Sri Lanka in 2019. At the end of 2018, we had closer to about 3 million Youtube viewers every month, and within the year 2019, it has crossed the 4.5 million mark. 

As users move beyond their comfort zones on Facebook and YouTube, they will start interacting more often with websites and mobile apps. 

This will create opportunities for brands to create their content platforms aiming at different niches. Instead of placing banner ads on 3rd party content websites or publishing sponsored articles on those sites, we will start to notice brands building their long-term content assets or buy over existing content platforms. 

Brands will realize that the consumers are now becoming advertising-proof on the internet, and hence they will try to tap them through utility apps and content websites. 

2. Crowdsourcing Brand Content

When brands pay more attention to building their content assets, the next challenge they will face is “where to find the right content?”. As a solution, brands will turn to consumers! 
Brand Managers will finally accept the fact that your social media content cannot be in the same format as your press ads, and they will make their minds to compromise some of their “brand guidelines”, to get socially viral branded content created by consumers themselves. For example, brands in the food & beverages category will make their mind to go beyond professional food photography and allow some smartphone shot images collected from their fans on social media profiles of the brand. 

3. Rise of Entertaining and Funny Content

We’ve seen how successful brands like Maliban, Clogard, Preethi and Seylan Bank (Block & Dino content) had been in 2019 with their somewhat witty and funny content, and in 2020 there will be more brands in Sri Lanka who would want to ride this trend.
Almost 70% of Sri Lanka’s YouTube trending list is dominated by funny and witty content. (Balance, is dominated by gossip, sex, and cheap teledramas). Edutainment has very little chances in Sri Lanka for going viral, so the easy way out for brands will be humor and wit.
However, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be any chances for educational content. Depending on the category you are in, educational content can play a role. 
For example, the internet users in Sri Lanka are becoming older and matured, they will demand content on topics such as parenting, housekeeping, gardening, cooking, construction, entrepreneurship etc. If your brand is in any of the categories relevant to these topics, it will open an opportunity for you to create educational content assets in these areas.

4. Digital Only Video Ads (Beginning of the death of TVC)

No. TV commercials will not die in 2020. But this will be the beginning of the slow death of TV commercials. 

For the past many years, brands rarely paid attention to creating video ads specifically developed for Facebook and Youtube (Note. I am not talking about branded viral videos running for 3 minutes or longer). 

Instead, brands focused on creating a 30 seconds TV commercial and later adapt it for Facebook and Youtube video ads. 

In 2020, brands will start investing in creating original 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds or 30 seconds video ads specifically for Facebook and Youtube. Some of these ads may or may not get scheduled on traditional TV media plans. 

We’ve already seen some companies doing this since 2015, but those were only at an experimental level, without a sizable enough media budget to support the campaign. In 2020, we will see brands investing sizable enough budgets to get more reach & frequency on Facebook and Youtube for their video ads.

5. eCommerce will Hit the Tipping Point (and small players will thrive!)

Even though eCommerce is one of the oldest digital marketing tactics in the world, in Sri Lanka this has never picked up to the levels we would have expected. 
There were many barriers to the growth of eCommerce in Sri Lanka, including payment gateways, low credit card penetration, poor delivery infrastructure, trust issues created by early eCommerce sites etc.

However, in 2020 more Sri Lankans will start buying stuff online. Interestingly enough, most of these purchases will not happen on established big eCommerce sites. Instead, people will buy stuff on small niche eCommerce platforms. There will be a rising demand for eCommerce sites selling fashion accessories, kitchen items, baby care goods, beauty care products, and many more low-cost items. These small start-up e-commerce ventures will have the operating cost advantage, over the big guys, making it commercially viable for them to earn a good margin even by selling low priced items online. In the long run, this will create a ripple effect, when the people who got used to buying stuff online through smaller sites begin to buy high cost, high involvement items on bigger eCommerce sites. 

6. Serious Focus on Search Marketing

Search Engine Marketing is not a future trend in most parts of the world. It’s the past. But in Sri Lanka, this remained an under-utilized marketing channel for may brands.

The reason for this was, most brands in Sri Lanka adopted digital by going on Social Media first. Many brands in Sri Lanka has over 100,000 fans on their Facebook page, but they don’t have a website for the brand. Quite obviously, without a website for the brand, you cannot do serious search engine marketing.

Brands will start to realize the value of being visible on Search Engines, and they will start investing in Search Engine friendly websites for their brands and investing in buying sponsored ads on Google. Finally, some brands will truly move beyond Facebook! 

What will not happen in 2020 in Sri Lanka?

Despite possible sensationalization by self-proclaimed “futurists” and digital gurus, none of the following things will gain any ground in Sri Lanka, even in the upcoming year. 
These concepts will remain at an experimental level only for big-budget brands just as another ticking in a box to impress their big bosses. In other words, following is a list of buzzwords to be expected in most Sri Lankan boardrooms in 2020, but will never get actioned upon.

  1. Big Data in Marketing / Data-Driven Marketing
  2. Artificial Intelligence
  3. (Truly) Programmatic Media Buying
  4. Programmatic Content Personalization
  5. Micro and nano-influencers 
  6. Marketing Automation
  7. Location-Based Personalization 

That’s it! You’ve heard my list of Digital Marketing Predictions for 2020 in Sri Lanka. What do you think? Do you think the list makes sense, or do you have more trends to add?
Leave your thoughts as a comment!


  1. Thanks for the article Amitha. A very thorough insight! :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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