Choosing Change: The Future Is Bright with Creative Commerce

Winter coats hanging on a rack

I am inherently an optimist and believe that out of adversity springs real opportunity for innovation and creativity. History is littered with instances. The Roaring Twenties is one – following swiftly on the heels of World War One.

Fast forward and business today is facing heavy headwinds; rising raw material costs, disrupted supply chains, pressure to improve social and environmental footprints and the incessant threat of lockdown. Combine this with a rapid change in shopping behaviour where people no longer distinguish between digital and physical, and the proliferation of new start-up brands means increased competition. The need to secure sales and find growth which is no easy task. 

Yet along comes genuine opportunity as we see this perfect storm bringing the space of commerce into sharp focus for many companies.

We’ve long believed that commerce holds massive untapped potential for creativity in its broadest sense, from campaign and activation ideas to new business models and routes to market. The reason is simple, commerce is at the sharp end of influencing buying behaviour with conversion at its heart.

Our campaign for Boots Bootiques is a great example – data-driven pop-up and ecommerce stores that re-imagined the buying experience, now recognised at big shows worldwide, including Cannes Lions, for creative innovation, ingenuity and effectiveness.

We call this Creative Commerce. A new canvas for creativity, brands and talent.

Intriguingly, the disruptive creative power in commerce channels has just been validated by Cannes Lion’s launch of the new  2022 category – Creative Commerce Lions - celebrating the innovative and creative approach to commercial commerce, payment solutions and transactional journeys.

And that alone is a case for creative optimism.

With all of this in mind, for 2022 I see three big trends to open the door to extraordinary creative and commercial growth.

The physical store fights back

And not before time.

When Covid hit, many companies were caught out with no online presence. Stores closed. And ecommerce accelerated to 30% of sales breaking all expectations

Meanwhile, the ONS reports that people are returning to stores at similar pre-pandemic levels, showing clearly that we all crave the things that only physical environments can provide - a sensorial experience and real human contact.

And here’s the opportunity: physical stores must continue to improve their experience and find creative ways to entice shoppers - ecommerce is not standing still. The growth of live streaming continues. According to Kantar, it was the second biggest sales platform on Singles Day. In the US, retailers like Walmart are bringing this to the grocery sector.

Brands and retailers could learn from the fantastic Ikea ‘Buy with Time’ activation from Dubai which drove a heady 32% uplift in traffic to store by recognising the simple fact that the barrier to visit was often about distance to store. Ikea faced this head-on by converting shoppers’ travel distance into a payment currency used in-store. Creativity driving commerce!

Digital commerce evolution

Consider creative innovation in the digital space.

D2C was a massive trend in 2020/2021 with many retailers finding that simply having products available online was enough. Here’s a watch out: as normality returns, consumer expectations of the value D2C needs to deliver will increase massively.

We can learn from the winning brands successfully merging together both product and service to offer enhanced value that simply can’t be replicated in other spaces. Peloton is a great example – providing premium hardware that facilitates home exercise, combining this with world-class content from fitness instructors and software allowing people to be part of a community, during and beyond exercise.

Forward-thinking marketers are experimenting in the Metaverse too - to see how brands can be realised. Iconic brands such as adidas originals are looking to commercialise their products in the virtual world and re-imagining the concept of ownership.

The Metaverse alone holds boundless opportunities for creativity for years to come.

Communication for conscious consumerism

Are we doing enough to communicate to the conscious consumer? I wonder…

Forbes’ 2020 sustainability study showed 65% of consumers actively seek products that tangibly help them live more sustainable lives with 56% willing to change shopping habits to reduce environmental impact. Yet, a Deloitte survey reports that lack of information is stopping a whopping 34% of people from choosing brands that have ethical practices.

Communication needs to improve. And be where and how people shop.

Innovations are emerging such as Gander in Northern Ireland, an app inviting people to locate food near sell-by date, buy at discount, and prevent food from going to waste.

Yet, as an industry we need to step up – and make it easier for people to take a decision in the ‘seconds’ they are choosing products at shelf when price and convenience pressures overwhelm intentions.

My final take? Far from adversity, if the creative industry looks to commerce we will find boundless opportunities for creativity, innovation and growth. And there is the case for creative optimism.

- Tom Moore is Head of Retail at VMLY&R COMMERCE UK

Originally published in Creative Brief