John F Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”. As we move through 2021 and beyond, the unpredictability of life is the only thing that is certain. The pace of innovation and customer expectations for innovation has never been higher in the history of humanity. And we’re just getting started.
The evolution of commerce has witnessed a growth in importance to both people and to business – from physical stores to ecommerce, from multichannel to omnichannel, and the ability to buy grocery through social shopping as part of our everyday lives. As we look ahead, we move into a space where commerce is everywhere, where smartphones are the new showroom and where anything is possible. Creativity is becoming inextricably linked to commerce, and therefore to businesses’ overall commercial success.
This is a pivotal moment for the creative industries, rightfully recognised by the introduction of a commerce category in the D&AD awards in 2021. We have entered into an era powered by “creative commerce” where commerce has no beginning and no end from the real to the digital world. Thanks to technology, people no longer "go shopping" but are rather "always shopping" and brands will increasingly need solutions from acquisition all the way to post-purchase loyalty, and everything in between, in order to be successful in this new world.
This presents us with an unlimited creative canvas for businesses and brands to make themselves useful to people’s unmet needs. This creative canvas provides a never-before opportunity to make brands heard, known, and loved, as people shop.
We are seeing the reimagining of physical stores via digital technology, and an increase in mobile commerce where buying what you want, whenever and however you want is the norm. We are also seeing commerce services being boosted through a creative approach to loyalty, with more partnerships between retail and non-retail companies offering new intersectional connections that open up new possibilities. Creativity in commerce enables new business models and strategic approaches to fly, and truly demonstrates the power of ideas and innovation.
The new creative canvas is being supported by sophisticated intelligence, enabling us to create customer experiences and offerings that are specific and not generic at scale, with robots and automation simplifying tasks that don’t add to the emotional value of the experience.
China is a marketer’s playground for these creative new approaches. Mead Johnson created a baby nursing WeChat Mini Program with custom-built voice AI. The brand supports young parents with personalised Q&A content and baby raising advice that is one click away to purchase. KFC created a mobile “pocket store” that enabled its customers to open up their own virtual store for families, friends and contacts in return for vouchers. Pain relief brand Voltaren brought the product to a brand-new arena through eSports (currently with 440 million fans in China) by creating a psychological bridge between the in-game and out-of-game experience, successfully converting traffic to actual sales performance.
It’s on this extended canvas that we’re driving engagement through virtual and augmented realities, holograms and haptic technologies. Creative commerce architects a virtual environment for people to enjoy their real-life shopping rituals: browsing, chatting with people in the store, shopping together with friends. It is redefining what a ‘transaction’ with a brand looks and feels like to people.
Fundamental to this approach is the belief that availability to buy does not guarantee sales success – as a business it does not pull you out of the sea of sameness compared to other brands. This is where brand inspiration and transaction have never been closer together.
Fundamentally, businesses need to establish what brand value can be delivered at the point of transaction – sometimes that might simply be entertainment through Gaming , Content, or interaction with Social influencers or Virtual Idols.
Brands and businesses need to work across every touchpoint whilst elevating human experience to be meaningful in the entire journey. The impact of the expanded creative canvas demands that brands evolve and change the fundamental way they interact with people. The expanded creative canvas elevates the role of strategic design and how great design builds businesses - beautifully and effectively.
The measure of these experiences won’t be just ease and convenience, or aesthetics, but authentic human connection, and the result will be a thriving business that is sustainable.
1 December 2021
Prepared by leading strategists, creatives and technologists from across dentsu’s global creative offering – including experts from DentsuMB, Isobar, 360i and dentsu agencies – the report demonstrates a profound shift away from conventional centres of congregation, community and ownership towards new, decentralised and radically democratised models.