MUMBAI: India's ecommerce firms are starting to shift their advertising approach away from an emphasis on pricing to one that involves a greater element of brand building.

Livemint highlighted the development of efforts aimed at building an emotional connection to consumers rather than a basic transactional one.

Santosh Kanekar, former marketing head at drinks giant Diageo India, outlined a three-stage progression in advertising.

First, said Kanekar, come discounts; then, marketers seek to attract consumers via persuasion with a more rational proposition; and, finally, they reach the brand-led approach favoured by the likes of Coca-Cola and Apple.

Ecommerce companies, he said, were largely stuck at the first of these stages and "haven't done much in the next two phases" as yet.

"If you really want to become a top consumer brand, you need to do these two things," he explained. "With these ads, you build real loyalty and become aspirational."

The firms themselves agreed they were moving in this direction. "We've seen a great response to our 'Dil ki deal' campaign which shows the connection we've built with customers," said Idimadakala Srinivas Murthy, svp/marketing at Snapdeal.

"At the same time, we will continue to do periodic sales-driven advertising," he added.

Over at rival Flipkart, Shoumyan Biswas, its head of offline marketing, was equally defensive. "We want to build [a] strong emotional connect[ion] with our customers, both existing and new ones," he said. "Our 'har wish hogi poori' [Now every wish will be fulfilled] goes a long way toward communicating this."

Livemint compared the ad wars raging between Indian ecommerce businesses to previous ones between soft drinks companies and soap manufacturers, but noted how the time-scales involved have changed in the digital age.

"Earlier, you had yearly marketing plans; now you have to do real-time marketing and innovate on the go," said Dheeraj Sinha, chief strategy officer (South and South East Asia), at advertising agency Grey India.

"All large ad plans now have a containment strategy [to respond to rivals' ads]. 'How do you get back the attention?' is part of the thinking now."

Data sourced from Live Mint; additional content by Warc staff