Internet done to the Sri Lankan-Marketing-Industry

What has the Internet done to the Sri Lankan Marketing Industry?

As a Sri Lankan, I have spent more time on TV and radio during the civil war. If there is a program on a TV  for 30 minutes, 10-15 minutes would be allocated for advertisements, in other words, promoting brands and products. Sometimes, they used to attract me quite well, but then such ads interrupt my favorite TV or radio shows.  It was after the civil war I got introduced to the internet and social media. My gradual attraction to the internet made me realize that the brands I have seen on TV are more often seen over there too.  I couldn’t understand why I see this. And I wanted to know why, which made me read about it further. I learned that it is the new trend called Digital Marketing. Wait! If Digital Marketing in Sri Lanka is new, then what was the old pattern? I wanted to know it. What I found out as a result of my curiosity is presented below. 

Marketing trends in Sri Lanka

Marketers in Sri Lanka quite well understand how much their internet marketing techniques are dragging the users towards the brand. But the freshers don’t. Marketing and the Internet have got along more often these days than they have been in the earlier stages of digital marketing in Sri Lanka. The record of InternetLiveStats shows that the “internet penetration” rate was 8.8% in 2009 (the year the civil war ended). But, the stats drove up after 2010,  and the recent report announces that the penetration rate has reached 29.3%. This improvement puts Sri Lanka in 57th place among the 201 countries in 2015, according to the InternetLiveStats. Sri Lanka is still a developing in the field of e-commerce. But with the surge of internet penetration, the digital marketing ecosystem is growing too.

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What was marketing like during the Civil War?

Due to civil war, (before 2009) the internet access was pretty down. The locals used traditional marketing methods like printing and broadcasting about products and brands as their marketing strategies. Although it was costly(when compared to the cost of digital marketing now), they had to make use of it, while the world was developing in digital marketing.

Printed media was one of the primary source used for marketing and advertising. The marketers focused on commercializing their products and brands through newspaper advertising, magazines, and leaflets given randomly or during events like an exhibition. Also, to attract the travelers, marketing through huge banners on empty lands was another trend of the time in Marketing.

The next traditional method of marketing was broadcasting or telecasting the promotions. Here more frequently marketers used the celebrities, like cricket players and local cinema stars, to promote their new products or brand. The number of TV watchers and radio listeners were high at that time, at least to get know the conflict updates, which also helped the marketers in promotions to advertise their products.  

Remember when you had to fill up a coupon when you did quite a  big shopping at a shopping mall or supermarket? Mobile number and address are the details you had to fill in such coupon. Ever got promotion notifications from them later? Well, the shopping centers and supermarkets were handling it as another technique to send promotions to its customers. Marketers also dealt with cold calling to convince customers about the products.

Final method was that some companies employed sale representatives. While cold calling was an another way to promote beyond boundaries, sales rep of areas had to take samples of the brands to doorsteps of everyone in the particular range. And, these were all used as marketing methods before  Digital Marketing started to penetrate into Sri Lanka.

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What influence does digital marketing have in Sri Lanka?

The end of Civil War made several opportunities open to the marketers. As the statics above has shown about the internet penetration in Sri Lanka, marketers have started to take advantage of it. Online advertising started parallel to the advertising and marketing through the simplex mode. Some websites started rising, and marketers began to realize the worth of online marketing. Still, only a very few people engaged in that new pattern, maybe because it was the beginning of the era of digital marketing.

For the start, the companies have only been looking to posting ad banners on the websites. For them, it was like posting an advertisement on newspaper. But the actual substance started to click as they began to get to know more about it. Then the companies began to move on to other marketing platforms available on the internet. Also, this new marketing world provided new entrepreneurs an idea. Bang! It gave a few individuals an idea on starting a digital marketing agency.

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Why should the Marketers focus on it?

Firstly, the Sri Lankan marketers would fall for its uniqueness: duplex. Digital Marketing helps the marketers analyze the effect their skills have on customers. This uniqueness helps them adapt according to the user experience. It also helps them to get real-time reviews from the product users, like Cinnamon Air for example, which would attract other customers towards their product.

[blockquote photo=”” author=”” ] Instead of one-way interruption, Web marketing is about delivering useful content at just the precise moment that a buyer needs it.- D.M. Scott, author New Rules of Marketing and PR [/blockquote]

Digital marketing is wide open; this is another possibility. How open is it? Digital marketing is wide open around the world. With the e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, imagine how one would be able to know about them, without marketing it online? Like you wouldn’t bother about getting to know it if such sites have been advertised or sold on the traditional method of marketing: through printed media or TV and radio. One-click check-ins have made it very easier and simple. This feature of digital marketing is quite supportive to the enterprises that are focusing on global market, attracting international customers.

Digital Marketing is quite cost effective. When compared to the cost of traditional marketing methods, online marketing is pretty cheap. This online marketing would more likely replace some of the traditional methods like cold calling, advertising on television and radio. Although there is still some attention to the simplex mode of marketing, the number has reduced when compared to the ‘during the war’ stats.

Traditional marketing Vs Digital Marketing

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What type of Digital Marketing trends do the local companies handle?

Although there are several methods like the website, social media marketing, PPC, video marketing, email marketing, remarketing, the local marketers only managed to catch up with a few. Mainly, the website, social media marketing, PPC, and SMS marketing.

There are around 20 digital marketing companies in Sri Lanka which delivers Search, Social, Local and complete e-Commerce strategies to the global brands through an online platform, which includes Prime One Global LLC, Loops Solutions, Orix marketing and others. And according to Mike Berry has foreseen in 2012, the marketing trends in the year 2016 in the digital commercialization of Sri Lanka has grown.

The objective of the content and PPC marketing is to rank the company’s site on the top, or near the top lists while been searched. Since the company’s site would be quite new, or haven’t been in the required state for the search engine to display it while being searched, the digital marketing companies would polish it up for it to be ranked. According to the ranks, the company’s brand and the product get promoted. Also, PPC is another method where the companies ‘buy visits’ through the advertisements on search engines and on other sites.

While these two techniques are on the top in digital marketing environment of Sri Lanka, there is another big world for marketers waiting — the world quite big and equal to the Internet — social media. With the landing of smartphones, Sri Lankans spend more time on the social media (and the internet). Readme and Loop Solution conducted a survey in 2013, in which 58% of respondents access Facebook and Twitter through mobile. Almost 71% of the local respondents answered that the marketing done through social media has been quite effective than the traditional media marketing. Also, 49% of the respondents said that they watch TV less than one hour daily, while only 28% of them read the newspaper daily.


The survey on Social Media Marketing conducted by Readme and Loops solutions. Source:”


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 Also, according to the survey 85% of them answered that they have been following local brands. Also, marketing through Facebook has influenced 79% of the users to purchase the products. This force has made marketers focus more on social media marketing than on the other methods available.

The latest trend the marketers are focusing on is SMS Marketing. Since the number of mobile phones users is quite high, rather than cold calling, dropping a text about their product or brand is getting trendy these days. And, most of the companies focus on making much out of this growing style of marketing in Sri Lanka.

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How has social media marketing influenced the users of Sri Lanka on the local brand?

The Sri Lankan brands that has got more attraction through Facebook

The local brands that has got more audience through Facebook. Source: Social

Fastest-growing-brands-in-Sr Lanka

The local brands that are growing fast on Facebook. Source: Social

The Sri Lankan brands that have largest audience on Twitter

The brands that have the largest audience on Twitter. Source: Social

The Sri Lankan brands that are attracting more audience on Twitter.

The brands that are attracting more audience on Twitter. Source: Social

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What should the Marketers focus on for the future?

There are many other digital marketing activities which our marketers need to focus. Digital Marketing trends like Remarketing, Google Tag Manager, email marketing and so on are not very actively used among the local marketers. Since the industry is still developing one, we could expect the marketers to get into this trend in future.  Within the short period, Sri Lanka has got adapted to the digital marketing world. There is a long way to go because this digital world is changing day by day. If focused on the newly turning up digital marketing environment as well, the prospect of the domestic market to be a part of the global market would be rising. If the marketers are already focusing on the global market, it is advisable to concentrate on the broad range of social media. Social media doesn’t stop with Facebook and Twitter but extends to Snapchat, Instagram and so on. So focus on the rest of the available global platforms that would attract the global users. 

There would be constant updates about the growth of Sri Lanka’s digital marketing, so don’t forget to keep an eye on our blog. Also, feel free to catch us in a comment about the digital marketing in Sri Lanka.


  1. Yadu
    Aug 23, 2016

    Wow, you are up to a great start 🙂
    Keep it going, little girl!

  2. Aug 23, 2016

    Hi Yathusha,

    Congrats on your first post 🙂 Talking about digital marketing growth in Sri Lanka is always an interesting topic for me! You’ve already shared lot’s of valuable insight about Sri Lanka’s Digital marketing growth and Marketing Penetration. But, in my humble opinion when you say digital marketing our Local marketers will assume like it’s about Promoting on social media and hosting workshop! Yes obviously (:

    I’ve couple of questions to understand how you are defining Digital marketing in terms of Sri Lankan marketers perspective! Hope you don’t mind elongating below questions.

    1) Why Sri Lankan brands ( Especially FMCG) paying great attention for the traditional marketing rather than Digital marketing strategies ?
    2) As you mentioned Dialog, Sampath Bank are fastest growing Brands on social media! How legit is the data metrics ?
    3) I can see the Government and politicians clearly understand the potential about the digital marketing, But, are they really encouraging the Sri Lankan startup’s and Brands to step in with proper Digital marketing process?

    Sorry about multiple questions, Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Aug 23, 2016

      Hi, Sharanyan. 🙂
      Thank you for taking your time to read and comment on the post.
      Unmistakably, local marketers think that digital marketing means social media marketing, while it is not.

      Remember the proverb: “old is gold”? I think most of the FMCG companies are still holding to that and are quite scared to adapt to the change. Thoughts and myths like ‘no other competing companies are onto this industry’ prevent the local marketers from focusing more on digital marketing. Also, there is a question on how much do such enterprises know about the statics on the change.

      FB page likes and followers have determined the statistics provided above. Mobile service providers like Dialog are more into technology and are willing to compete in the global market. Therefore such companies, focus on ‘where to catch customers’.

      The politicians and the government seem to encourage the startups to make use of digital marketing. You know there have been so many digital marketing promotions during the election campaigns, a year back, and the result of it has become quite a motivation for the brands to attract customers through the virtual world. Although the government has taken not many direct steps in motivating the brands in digital marketing, indirect motivations have always been a key. Still, they small companies or the companies that are reluctant to see the vastness of the digital world, still hold on to traditional marketing methods that seem to attract a few customers.

      Hope my replies have cleared your doubts.

  3. Bee
    Aug 23, 2016

    Very good for a start 🙂 But for me the article appears to be too long and too much of contents which make the reading process pretty exhausting. A suggestion might be to break these contents separated by headings down to several articles and publish in different intervals. And there are few typos and repetitions etc which would’ve been avoided by proper scrutiny after finishing the write-up.

    • Aug 23, 2016

      Hi. 🙂

      Thank you for taking your time to read the post and comment. I realize that I need to change my style of writing. And, I will look to the suggestions as well. 🙂

  4. miller
    Aug 23, 2016

    Good Going Yathusa… great start.
    keep it up.

  5. Thusyanthan
    Aug 23, 2016

    An interesting perspective on Digital marketing & traditional marketing. Good illustration & rich content article.

  6. saruban
    Aug 23, 2016

    Firstly I thank you for spreading social and digital marketing live stats in Sri Lanka.
    Your article will help you to people who are starting a startup in digital marketing industry.
    Still, in Sri Lanka, traditional marketing has potential and companies like dialog and HNB are recruit (traditional) marketing guys more than other HR. In future, I hope you write more about converting from traditional marketing to digital marketing by inbound marketing strategies.

    • Aug 23, 2016

      Hi, Saruban. 🙂
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is true that there is the parallel implementation of marketing techniques. Our country is still a developing one in the digital world too. I think the locals recruit HR more in marketing because there is a need to take the companies to digitally inverted places. I believe that their decision on hiring more HR for marketing is because they’re focusing on competing with the global market as well. As always, marketing needs more creativity, which is what such companies are willing to achieve through a huge number of marketers. Also, digital marketing came into light for Local marketers a few years ago. It means that they still have difficulties in giving up the traditional method of marketing totally.

      Should the local marketers give up on the traditional marketing pattern and switch totally to the digital marketing world, is an interesting topic to argue on. 😉 Hope I write a post on that too. 🙂

  7. Thebeyanhan
    Aug 24, 2016

    Hi, happy to see your first article. You have done total justice to your first attempt. My view on digital marketing is, there is lot to be developed in Sri Lanka on this scope. Digital marketing is something which is established to help out people. But here in Sri Lanka it is considered as an annoying thing rather an advantageous thing. You will get a sms during a busy schedule, you will get a pop out when going through internet. These things annoy people, because i used to face these situations. There are many ways to do digital marketing. So i would much appreciate if you could elaborate on negative sides and how to overcome those negative sides in your upcoming articles. Both good and bad should be elaborated. This is totally my view. Sorry if i am wrong. But a great attempt. Long way to go. Keep going 🙂 (Y)

    • Aug 24, 2016

      Hi. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts about digital marketing. Sometimes continuous popping up message can be a bad practice in marketing too. You have mentioned that there are many ways to do digital marketing. What are your suggestions? Maybe that would help such marketers to correct themselves. As a customer, your suggestions would get more value. 🙂
      Feel free to give your suggestions. Thank you.

  8. Kugaa
    Aug 24, 2016

    Good Start
    Keep Going forward …

  9. Anita Sharma
    Sep 7, 2016

    Great post Yathusha! Your post describes the whole scenario of Sri Lankan Marketing pattern. I agree with you that Digital Marketing has taken over Traditional Marketing not only in Sri Lanka but also all over the Globe. I would really like to know about the current Marketing Scenario of India. Please do some post on the current state of Digital Marketing in India..

    • Hi, Anita. Thank you very much for taking your time to read the post.
      The speed of the digital marketing penetration is high in the world when compared to the growth rate in Sri Lanka.

      I will be sure focusing on the digital marketing scenario in India. Meantime, can I have your thoughts on it from a user/ consumer perspective?

  10. Alan
    Oct 14, 2016

    Yathursha interesting article. I run a similar business for the travel industry in Sri Lanka and Maldives. This was before I moved to the UK. Their is much more business in the UK and the one tip I can give you is SEO is a global business so customers can come from anywhere in the world, Don’t just target you home country.

  11. Leshan Fernando
    Nov 18, 2016

    Very thoughtful.
    Firstly I thank you for spreading social and digital marketing live stats in Sri Lanka.
    Your article will help you to people who are starting a startup in digital marketing industry.
    Still, in Sri Lanka. As a Student in University of kelaniya, I would lovve to inform that we are organizing a SEO Workshop on 21st Nov in University premises.
    Thank You

  12. Sep 24, 2022

    We need digital marketing/ seo / social media campaign above website

    • Oct 28, 2022

      Hi Charith,

      Thanks for reaching out and our sales team will get back to you shortly.


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