New Delhi: India’s small towns and non-metros are trumping its big cities as far as online searches and activity are concerned. A new report from Google titled Year in Search: Insights for Brands Report released on Thursday says, with 350 million connected smartphone users, 400 million active Internet users and an average yearly addition of 40 million users, the Internet is getting embraced across India as consumers in non-metros use online services to search for information regarding insurance, beauty and travel more than the metros.

Over 70% of all smartphones-related searches come from small towns. 61% of all searches across BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) and 55% across auto are coming from non-metros with interest in destination discovery and international travel also much higher in these areas than tier one cities.

“The online space in India has never been more vibrant. India has become the fastest Internet consuming country in the world and the Internet has now become the bridge to Bharat’s aspirations," said Vikas Agnihotri, country director, Google India, in a statement. “The growing influence of online video, increase in usage of language and voice, along with a rise of ML (machine learning) and AI (artificial intelligence) are opportunities for brands and marketers. This enables brands to create relevant experiences to engage and retain customers on a platform that they spend considerable time on."

Everyday millions of users are using video to learn something new though one-third of all online video searches are still entertainment-related. Online video audience in India is expected to grow to 500 million by 2020. Watch time for science videos as well as hobby-related videos in India have more than tripled in 2018. YouTube has also become the new beauty advisor, as watch time for Beauty Tips videos in India has doubled YoY in 2018 and searches related to beauty have grown by 40% last year. Regional language support is enabling millions of women across India to look for beauty tips. Consumers are increasingly researching product ingredients to develop DIY (do-it-yourself) solutions for personal care.

Online video is shaping the way people make purchases, 80% of car buyers are using it as a research destination and more than 55% of shoppers say that they used online video while actually shopping in store.

The report says that Indian language Internet users are expected to account for nearly 75% of India’s Internet user base by 2021, and Google search trends show a significant move in this direction. Hindi is also gaining traction in the technology sector with Hindi queries related to laptops and PCs having doubled. Queries in categories like clothing, beauty and personal care are growing faster in Hindi than in English (178% growth in Hindi searches for clothing versus 33% in English).

The rise of the non-English user is reflected in the fact that the country has seen 270% growth year-on-year in voice searches and consumers are fast using this tool for seeking information and discovering content.

With the rise of omnichannel, a platform that allows consumers to shop online and offline seamlessly, the two experiences are coming together. Across big cities and small towns, food seems to be the ‘topic of interest’ and pizza has emerged as a hot favorite for Indians searching online. 50% of all organized retail is likely to be influenced by digital by 2020 and there are has been a 75% Y-o-Y growth in ‘near me’ queries.

According to the report, co-working spaces are the new way to work with 100% growth in co-working spaces in real estate searches. Meanwhile, dating searches are catching up with matrimony queries with a 40% increase in the former. There was a 37% increase in online dating brand queries versus 13% increase in interest for matrimony brands. The total volume of matrimony searches, however, continues to remain high, almost three times the number of queries around dating.

Retail digital payments continue to grow with 23% growth in credit and debit card transactions at point of sale.