Why It’s Time to Drop the ‘E’ in eCommerce

Why it's time to drop the "e" in eCommerce

The excitement has been building and it’s finally here… Cannes Lions 2021 and the world will be watching.

This year’s theme 'Creative Revolution' promises new thinking for a new beginning. Music to many ears, including my own. My eye will be firmly fixed on the brave new world of commerce – and the belief that it’s time to drop the “e” in ecommerce and evolve. 

Acceleration of ecommerce across the globe has been one of the side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as we all super charge to create new routes to markets for our clients.

No question, this has fuelled an inevitable upskilling for – and upselling of – ecommerce ideas and creativity across agencies and clients. But fresh from judging this year’s prestigious D&AD awards (and thank you for invitation!) I’m not so sure the story’s quite so simple or singular.  And here’s why….

Yes, digital commerce is on the rise. 

And yes, a growing number of brand owners are rightly demanding ever more creative and innovative digital commerce solutions.  

But when it comes to approaching this area, I firmly believe the way forward for our industry – in terms of acknowledging the best in creativity, awards bodies especially – is to drop the ‘e’ in ecommerce, fast.

In this year's inaugural ecommerce category at the D&AD Awards, there was some truly inspiring work. Work that we will be watching for at Cannes Lions this week. 

Nike Air Max Clouds’ airborne augmented reality ecommerce experience – which allowed people to buy new sneakers from thin air by transforming their windows into a shop window during lockdown – is one striking example. 

Another is the virtual replication of The Big Issue buying experience, done for the same pandemic-related reason by UK street magazine, but using LinkedIn.   

Genius work like this gave me that ‘I wish we’d done that’ tingle. But much in the category wasn’t ecommerce alone, at least not in my book.  Rather, commerce experiences that address the evolution and realities of how we buy today. 

My point is this. 

Ecommerce may be growing fast, but it’s not growing in isolation with commerce. Rather, it is growing hand in hand with it. The physical aspects of commerce still play an important role. 

I recently heard a client admit: “We don’t have an ecommerce problem, we will have a physical store problem and we’re going to lose shelf space if we don’t move to view commerce holistically across our organisation.”

Increasingly, purchases are made through a combination of digital and real-world activity and the lines that once separated the two have blurred. People now expect added benefit from transaction in the shape of experience. 

And as a result of all this, commerce is more than a transaction; it’s an interaction.

So rather than think of ecommerce and the digital creative executions that support it, or real-world commerce and the physical executions that support that, or hybrid digital and real-world creative executions separately, the time is right to think of all three as a single integrated entity: creative commerce. 

I’m talking about creativity that inspires conversion in the moment, regardless of channel. Creativity that reflects a permanent shift in how we live, work and connect. Human behaviour doesn’t differentiate between digital or physical. Nor should we.

Two examples demonstrate not only the best in creative commerce but, also, how hard each creative idea is to classify using traditional awards category criteria.

First, Mexican ice cream brand Elena’s launched Adíos Amor Adíos, a limited edition designed with heartbreak in mind. Elena’s (full-disclosure, a VMLY&R COMMERCE client) recognised that ice cream is the food we turn to for comfort after break-up  and turned traditional category communications on its head with a wonderful fusion of  innovation, conversion inspired creativity, with an experiential bonus.

Five flavours were layered in the ice-cream tub to match the emotional stages of grief (denial, anger, sadness, acceptance, hope). For anger, Matcha Tea which raises serotonin, GABA, and dopamine levels for relaxation; for sadness, Dark Chocolate, rich in amino acids helping the brain release endorphins to lower stress levels and trigger happiness.

QR codes embedded in the layers offered prizes to overcome heartache. Free shipping to send your ex’s clothes to charity shop (anger). A month’s gym membership to boost your mood (sadness). A free gold Tinder subscription to get back in the game (hope). People loved it. The limited edition sold out in a week and other flavors saw a big sales bump. 

Up next, 2019 Cannes Lions Grand Prix Winner Nike Graffiti Stores – a sensational story marrying tech, creativity and conversion. 

To launch the new Air Max lines in São Paulo, Nike partnered with Brazilian street-art collective InstaGraffiti. Their artists updated the feet of the city’s existing graffiti characters with the coveted Air Max models.

Fans bought the shoes by visiting the walls and unlocked purchase at Nike.com using geolocation. As an extra reward, an exclusive film brought the character wearing the shoes, to life. 

These incredible murals increased visits to Nike.com by 22%, had a social media reach of 80 million and connected fans with a wider urban culture. In my view, Air Max Graffiti Stores would have been a sure-fire Grand Prix in Creative Commerce Grand Prix.

As my global creative partner, Manuel Bordé comments: “For creative commerce, we need to think beyond the confines of celebrating the digital channel alone. True creative commerce reflects an omni and unified approach to conversion, with a beautiful interaction entwined into the work."

At a time when more and more brands and agencies are committing more and more resources to commerce, isn’t it time for them – and awards bodies – to think bigger from ecommerce to creative commerce? 

I say yes. Commerce as a space has been traditionally transactional, so let’s see it elevating to the definition and creation of emotional, engaging experience.

Commerce holds the most untapped creative potential to grow brands and people. Which is why I hope very much to see the emergence of Creative Commerce as both a mindset – and a new Cannes Lions category – very soon.

- Beth Ann Kaminkow is Global CEO at VMLYL&R COMMERCE

Originally published in LBB