The intensifying power of commerce: decoded by advertising mavens

The intensifying power of commerce: decoded by advertising mavens

Industry specialists chat about advertising networks focusing on the commerce function.


Mumbai: Commerce – both offline and online (e-commerce) - is one of the major contributors to India’s GDP. It also provides a slew of employment opportunities. And with most of the large advertising networks getting their respective commerce functions to India such as Havas Media Network's Havas Market, Publicis Groupe’s Publicis Commerce, and Wunderman Thompson’s WT Commerce – signifies that these agency networks had anticipated the bullish growth of commerce in the country.

With ONDC coming into the picture, the upward motion of commerce has only become more certain so as to foster open interchange and connections between shoppers, technology platforms, and retailers- thus, creating an inclusive ecosystem of e-commerce. spoke to advertising mavens in charge of their agency’s commerce function, to get an insight into the USP of their commerce functions, the climbing trajectory of commerce in India, and more.

Banking on the USP

With almost all large advertising networks launching their commerce practice, how are each of them going to look at and work on this function differently?

Publicis Commerce India managing partner Anshul Garg brings out that Publicis Commerce works with a range of clients across B2C, B2B and B2B2C businesses, delivering end-to-end Commerce solutions to activate the full potential of commerce & deliver on our clients’ growth needs. “It comprises of two major pillars – a) Foundation & Build, and b) Business & Growth. While Foundation & Build part works with organizations to lay the Commerce foundation and help them start their Commerce journey including setting the right direction, establish the business and operating model, build the fit-for-purpose platform and support with Go-to-market approach. The Business & Growth part helps organizations growing their businesses on various commerce channels including e-Marketplaces and D2C, with services across Paid, earned & owned media, customer experience management, operations, tech enhancements, data analytics etc.”

He adds, “Publicis Commerce team partners with clients at every step of the way of their Commerce journey including (however not limited to), D2C Platform, e-marketplaces, Omni-channel, traditional commerce etc. Publicis Groupe’s ‘Power of One’ model empowers Publicis Commerce team to bring together all the commerce capabilities across various parts of the firm and larger ecosystem of alliance partners, and provide integrated solution aligned with overall strategic objectives. It enables the clients to focus on the business outcomes and not on management of various stakeholders.

Globally Publicis has made the most significant acquisitions in order to further enhance the commerce capabilities – Sapient for tech, Epsilon for data, and Profitero and CitrusAd as Commerce products. Hence we have the new age skills required at scale, and we go in with not just a services offering, however, a product + service model which is required to succeed at scale.”

Havas Media India managing partner - digital services Rohan Chincholi explains, “At Havas Market, our close collaboration with clients aims to unlock the immense potential of digital-driven commerce through a comprehensive solution. Our primary goal is to empower consumers at every stage of their shopping journey, ensuring a meaningful and seamless experience that ultimately leads to increased sales for brands.

When it comes to customers, we believe that e-commerce should be frictionless, intuitive, and relevant. By partnering with Havas Market, brands gain a trusted ally in achieving meaningful growth in the e-commerce space. Our services range from strategic consulting to sales-focused execution, all conveniently accessible under one roof.”

He points out that to support their decision-making process, they utilize powerful tools that provide valuable insights. “With Havas Market Retail Insights, we can thoroughly understand a brand's e-commerce presence across 53 retailers worldwide, allowing us to monitor and optimize performance across various channels. Additionally, our Havas Market Forecast tool enables us to forecast sales growth on direct-to-consumer platforms, marketplaces, and social commerce channels.

Our comprehensive services encompass everything from launching and optimizing efficient direct-to-consumer websites to harnessing the potential of social commerce. Moreover, we establish seamless connections between online media and offline retail experiences, creating a holistic approach that maximizes brand visibility and customer engagement.”

Increasing focus on commerce in India by advertising networks

What is the increase in focus on commerce in India by advertising networks all about? Why is India suddenly the centre of attraction for commerce and where is it heading?

Chincholi feels that India's position in the current landscape can be attributed to three key factors. “Firstly, the country has experienced significant growth in internet penetration and smartphone usage, resulting in a substantial online consumer base. According to Kantar, Over the past three years, India has gained 125 million online shoppers and it is estimated that another 80 million will join by 2025, highlighting the scale of the opportunity. The median age of India's population is 28.2 years, further indicating the potential for online shopping growth (according to World Population Prospects).

Secondly, tier II and III cities in India have become significant contributors to the e-commerce market. These cities accounted for over 50 per cent of total orders, outpacing growth in tier I markets. Thirdly, India has made significant advancements in facilitating convenient online payments. The introduction of Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Pay-Later services has made online purchases easier and more accessible to a wider population.”

He goes on, “India's retail landscape is characterized by its diversity and dynamism, encompassing both established players and emerging startups. The government of India has also played a proactive role in promoting digitalization and e-commerce through initiatives like the "Digital India" campaign. These efforts have created a favourable environment for businesses operating in the digital space.

Looking ahead, the adoption of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and voice commerce is expected to reshape the Indian commerce landscape, further enhancing meaningful shopping experience.”

Garg presents some facts and figures. “Digital has become the #1 media channel which is estimated to be more than five billion dollars in 2023. With an expected 900 million active internet users in India by 2025, digital ad spend is expected to grow at a CAGR of >30 per cent. With the common belief, that every brand experience (including digital and omni-channel) could potentially be translated into a Commerce experience, Commerce becomes the core priority for the clients and for Publicis Groupe. This is also the complimentary and natural extension of the traditional work that advertising networks have been doing for decades.”

The ONDC angle

The ONDC network will change the way commerce is conducted in the country. How are advertising networks and their set of clients/brands looking forward to adapting to it? What kind of changes in strategy would it lead to?

Garg reveals that they have been quick off the blocks in understanding and helping their clients adopt ONDC. “In November last year itself,  Publicis in partnership with ONDC leadership, released a report on ‘Decoding ONDC – Perspective for Marketers’ which included key opportunities, critical success factors and implications while highlighting sector specific perspectives.

If ONDC roll-out unfolds as per the plan, e-Commerce in India is on the edge of getting revolutionized. We, at Publicis Commerce, recommend the clients to put a clear ONDC Strategy while evaluating the opportunity and associated risks. CPG has been one of most mature sectors in adopting e-Commerce in India and from ONDC perspective, CPG players are looking at three potential use cases – a) Direct participation as an Inventory Seller Node (ISN), b) Indirect participation through Marketplaces Seller Nodes (MSN) and c) As an extension to physical retail.”

He further adds, “Brands can potentially expedite the scale-up of their business because of being present on several buyer apps, leverage lower total cost of operations and build enriched consumer insights while leveraging transactional data and establishing the direct consumer connect leading to profitability. Businesses with traditional stores are also expected to benefit from physical proximity to consumers. On the other hand, non-participation might result in lost opportunity and share.”

Chincholi feels that the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) has the potential to significantly impact the way commerce is conducted in the country. “As a unified and interoperable digital commerce network, ONDC aims to streamline and democratize the e-commerce ecosystem in India.

ONDC enables seamless integration among various stakeholders, including sellers, buyers, logistics providers, and financial institutions. This open network approach fosters collaboration, innovation, and fair competition, thereby transforming the way commerce operates in the country.”

He wraps up, “Havas market aim to acts as true consultants. We know that ONDC aims to enhance consumer experience by facilitating a seamless and standardized shopping journey across multiple platforms.

We are committed to meeting consumers where they are and adapting our teams and tools to thrive in the open ecosystem of ONDC. Our approach involves planning marketing strategies that align with the ONDC framework. We recognize that there is still much ground to cover and significant scaling to achieve. We are actively taking equal strides in the right direction to make the most of this transformative opportunity.”