Why Creative Is Important in Ecommerce
What follows are some thoughts about the creative process and how it relates to, and works alongside, growing an ecommerce brand. I've used real-life examples to illustrate my ideas, to demonstrate how I think creative can be deployed effectively.
1. There Are Two Sides To The Ecommerce Coin
A) Data and algorithms, and B) creative
Creative is undervalued in many digital marketing conversations. Often the perception is that data and algorithms are the answer to solving a retailer's sales and marketing issues. In fact the data is only one side of the coin. The other is, of course, creativity, which forms a two way conversation with the person sat on the other side of the screen, who at times can be forgotten. I think that as an industry, we can forget about the actual human being we should be communicating with - I think that’s quite neglectful, and can undermine our efforts.
2. Creative Analogy A: The Menu
Algorithms on platforms like Instagram is the menu - serving up the options for consumers to select or ignore, depending on their preference. But menu items alone don't have any sense of desire. There is no taste, smell or visual appeal. The job of the creative is to create the desire (or clicks!).
3. Creative Analogy B: Speed Dating
Creative only has seconds to impress its audience, which is where my second analogy comes into play: it's very much like speed dating. You have a very brief moment to convince someone that you're the one for them and to hold their interest. However, those few seconds are the culmination of a lots of preparation before the moment...
4. 'Thinking Time' Is Our Best Weapon
Taking adequate time to think and prepare, ahead of the 'speed dating' moment is our best weapon, and where your money is best invested in creative. That doesn’t mean weeks spent procrastinating, it can be just a few hours - especially if we know the brand, and most importantly, their customers well.
5. Plan Ahead
Talking of 'thinking time', we always recommend planning a content calendar well ahead of time - for the coming 12 months, ideally. Think about industry events, seasonal dates, new products or ranges you're launching, and put them all into a calendar. Then start thinking of ideas for your creative and marketing campaigns that tie in with those key dates. The next stage is backwards planning, so if you're launching a new product in October, you can understand that perhaps the first steps need to be happening in April, enabling you to plan out everything you need to do to be ready for that launch. This way you can plan your campaigns in advance so they're ready to go when you need them. It's no good starting to plan your Christmas marketing campaign on November 19th!
6. More Effective = More Cost Effective
You'll find that following this methodology will be more cost effective and efficient too. It works out cheaper to do all the thinking at once, before grouping the production requirements into sprints; maybe 3 months at a time.
7. New Tech And Ease of Communication is a Blessing and a Curse
I often think that 'content' is one of the best and worst things to happen in our industry. It’s great because there are so many new and varied ways to communicate with people, but the speed and ease with which we can post on platforms now has given rise to a last minute approach.
Content is often the last thing that brands consider, and when they do it can be rushed and not thought through properly.
As a whole, platforms have been populated with poor communication - essentially the menu options mentioned earlier are easily ignored, because the brands themselves don’t consider them important enough to properly consider.
Major events should be planned ahead, starting with the creative first - it’s your ad, after all!
8...But This Is Changing
There is evidence of a sea change in the way creative is taking more of a centre stage. A great example is the way Nike used Instagram stories during the Women’s World Cup: every day it featured broadcast level work - ads basically, things that had been thought through in advance - not content; creative. And they killed it as a result.
9. The New York Public Library
Here is another great example - I love NYPL who are slowly releasing key publications as Insta stories chapter by chapter. You could actually read a complete Charles Dickens novel through Insta stories, along with uniquely commissioned illustrations. One of the best ways I've ever seen to encourage users to interact with your social output.
Who knew Insta stories could be so big, right? I’m not sure I'd ever given The NYPL a moment's thought before that - but now I know they’re one of the best public libraries in the world. While this isn't transactional, it’s certainly significant in terms of brand awareness.
10. Why Whisper When You Can Shout?
There's a saying I love (I can’t remember whether I coined it or not), which is ‘Why Whisper When You Can Shout?’. That’s the approach brands should be taking with their digital communication. If you’ve got something to say, shout it. If you want people to associate your brand with a certain thing, shout it.
11. ...And Shout Quickly
You need to convey your point before people scroll or swipe. It's a challenge we as creatives should be embracing, not bemoaning. This is not a concept that has come about with the rise of digital: think of an old picture of Piccadilly Circus with hundreds of billboards and hoardings vying for attention as busy London rolls by. The challenge for communication has never been the platform itself: the challenge has always been connecting with the person standing on Piccadilly Circus looking for a break in traffic or scrolling through Insta.
The challenge is to produce something good enough to get their attention, something they actually like and want to engage with.
12. You're Not Buying Ad Space, You're Buying Someone's Time
When you pay for a sponsored post, you’re not booking a space on Instagram or x amount of impressions. You’re buying the audience: the people, their time and a tiny space in their mind.
That’s why it’s important to try and understand the audience as much as the algorithm. And ultimately why it's imperatvie to create something good, relevant and engaging - something they will like.
13. A Joined-Up Approach
It’s one of the key reasons I joined Eastside Co. As an agency we can deliver both sides of the coin. We can bring to life the creative that gets noticed and entices people into a click or swipe, but we’re much more. Collaborating with the marketing team we can also create the menu and ensure our client brands are served up. We can ensure their hard work and skill pays off by engaging the person on the other side of the screen.
In the past year we've been busy establishing Eastside Co’s Creative Content offer and in-house photography studios.
Our Brand Pillar platform is a strategic approach to digital marketing where we steer clients from just posting, to communicating with purpose - a pretty important distinction in my opinion (and a pitfall so many brands fall into nowadays).
If you'd like to find out how our creative team can help your brand, get in touch and we'll have a chat.