Is marketing crippling the story of e-commerce growth?

By Shweta Singh

The unprecedented growth of e-commerce in India hardly needs a proposal. It’s a very fast-paced, evolving context that has changed not only the way businesses operate, but also how brands are perceived and positioned. Intuitively, a similar effect should be visible on the existing marketing framework that supports this ecommerce growth. But the reality so far has been one of increasing change rather than transformation. We’re still playing catch-up game. So, the big question marketers on both the brand and the agency side should ask today ‘Are we still at the tipping point to start a big jolt?’

Large-scale changes in the business environment mimic a trajectory similar to any major socio-cultural change. A simple life cycle is – mushrooming ‘The New’ in a small pocket, then following the temporary, unorganized, silent ways to bring ‘The New’ to life Combining different pockets to make New more acceptable and scalable. See how digital marketing has emerged as an outsider and has taken years to become mainstream. Or how many years ago social media management would sit with the PR team instead of the brand marketing team.

Similarly, commerce marketing is on its way to maturity right now. This is further complicated by the fact that commerce marketing goes beyond the field of media marketing to market and business management. There is no templated, universally accepted way of working in both brand and agency. Different marketing models are seen, primarily indicated by the stage and scale of a brand.

Brand ecommerce method Brand stage Brand challenges and requirements Ecommerce marketing model
I know it all Nascent D2C brand High level of control
Limited budget
Lower funnel technique
100% in-house model
Performance marketing from technology and platform management
I know it, but you can supplement me Medium-sized D2C / eCom first brand Decreasing revenue through performance marketing
Scale up fast
Mixed model
Hold eCommerce strategies, activities, and the rest of the core functions within the house. Agencies also often have open castings that you can attend to get selected
I don’t know, you do it Ecommerce is new to emerging brands Limited understanding and resources for in-house set-up
Lack of ability to deal directly with the marketplace
100% outsourced model
E-commerce is a sole proprietorship from GTM to a small ecommerce agency in the media
I know something, more than one specialist is needed Established, traditional brand Big marketing set-up, not necessarily ready to move to ecommerce
The eCommerce function may or may not merge with the brand marketing team
Lack of one stop ecommerce solutions with most large agencies
Mixed model
Multiple specialist agencies are working on a variety of ecom requirements from content to analysis. Some key functions are in-house.

And so far, meeting the demand for eCommerce of this diverse brand is an equally diverse supply direction:

  1. Smaller independent firms are managing end-to-end ecommerce management for SMBs
  2. Specialist players with limited access to content or proprietary technology and equipment only
  3. Digital creative agency for brand communication
  4. Media companies for performance and brand marketing
  5. Marketplace B2C model that claims to eliminate the need for an agency

Like a typical chicken and egg story, both sides argue about why the ecommerce marketing model is still at an immature stage. Brands aren’t demanding much either, nor are companies creating enough value and a sense of urgency. “The New” is happening in the pocket, but not big enough for the seismic shift. Over the past few years, major eCommerce initiatives have been announced by several large agencies, including GroupM, aiming at consolidation and overall offerings. At Motivator, we are one of the first integrated media agencies in India to offer ecommerce solutions ranging from complete funnel, onboarding, content and ecom strategy to operations management and commerce media management. With our packaged solutions, we’ve been able to capture the size of several ecommerce first brands in the industry, such as health and hygiene, packaged foods, automotive, and more.

That said, the scale of change is not yet large and is fast enough to keep pace with dynamic ecommerce ecosystems. The emergence of an integrated ecommerce marketing model requires the integration of various existing pockets in the industry. And that requires restructuring at a basic level.

  1. Narrative reconstruction – “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This phrase is very true for ecommerce marketing. This is all that can be achieved if content, audit, business strategy and media practices sit separately. Ecommerce has a wide interplay between media and non-media functions to achieve business goals. Narrative agencies take brands so go beyond that – we’ll market your performance, or we’ll do your A + content. Instead a results driven approach is needed.
  1. Integrating the value of integration – for any brand to make a leap, all its marketing channels should ideally work together. Yet, most brands still view the ecommerce channel in silo, without real integration with brand marketing. Therefore, the responsibility of educating and demonstrating the value of coordination rests with the agencies. Now is the time to set the standard for cross-channel integration and consequently efficiency, not just in ACOS and ROAS.
  1. Brand Trajectory Reconstruction – The world today is divided between D2C brands that want to scale and established brands to attract ecommerce. Both parties work with very different, fixed perspectives on marketing, which makes the difference in demand from the agency. This unity is possible only if they learn from each other. While established brands need to learn to use data and agility from digital first brands, D2C brands need to learn the importance of brand building.

The clock is ticking. It’s time to dump her and move on. The time has come to transform our existing marketing models to maintain the unprecedented ecommerce growth we are witnessing.

Author Chief Digital Officer, Motivator, GroupM

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